Hamelia patens
Common Name: scarlet bush 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Rubiaceae
Native Range: South America
Zone: 9 to 10
Height: 1.00 to 3.00 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 2.00 feet
Bloom Time: June to September
Bloom Description: Orange-red to red
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Annual
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Good Fall
Attracts: Birds, Hummingbirds, Butterflies


Winter hardy to USDA Zones 9-10. In St. Louis, it is usually grown as an annual. Easily grown in average, medium, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Good soil drainage is important for this plant. When grown as an annual, this plant may be sited directly in the soil or in containers that can be overwintered indoors. Although somewhat drought-tolerant once established as a perennial in southern areas, it prefers regular moisture when grown as an annual. Best flowering is in full sun conditions. Thrives in high heat.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Hamelia patens, commonly called scarlet bush or Texas firebush, is native to Southern Florida, Mexico, Central and South America. It is also commonly known as Mexican firecracker or firecracker shrub because of the similarity of its flowers to firecrackers. Where this shrub may be grown as a perennial, it is evergreen, will rise to as much as 10-15’ tall and will bloom year-round. As an annual in the St. Louis area, it typically rises to 2-3’ tall in a growing season and blooms in summer and early fall. Tubular orange-red to red flowers appear in terminal clusters (cymes) in summer and fall. Whorls of pointed, oval, gray-green leaves (to 6” long) with pinkish veins. Leaves turn red in fall. Reddish stems and leafstalks. Flowers give way to small dark fruits. Butterflies and hummingbirds are reportedly attracted to the flowers, and birds enjoy the fruits.

Genus name honors Henri Louis du Hamel du Monceau (1700-1781), celebrated French writer on trees and shrubs.

Specific epithet means spreading.


No serious insect or disease problems.


As a perennial, it grows well in hedges, borders and as an accent plant. As an annual, it may be grown in borders, cottage gardens or containers. Interesting plant for butterfly and bird gardens.