By Lori Freed
Hamelia patens (Hummingbird Bush) is a soft-wood shrub native to tropical and subtropical America. It grows prolifically around the ancient pyramids in Veracruz and the Yucatan. A Texas Superstar Plant highly recommended by Texas A&M AgriLife, it is drought-tolerant, pest-resistant, disease-resistant, non-invasive, and low maintenance.
This 3-5 ft. mounding perennial thrives from early summer to late fall and loves the harsh Texas sun and humidity. Occasional shearing will promote blooming and a denser plant with nicely spaced bloom clusters. Hamelia tolerates some shade, but remember – more sun equals more blooms.
Its tubular orange-red and yellow flowers attract hummingbirds, bees and butterflies. One study I’ve read states the hummingbirds will claim the top blossoms of the shrub, leaving the lower blossoms for the butterflies. During midday, the bees move in, and the hummingbirds let them have their space. That information intrigues me and makes me want to buy a couple of hamelias just to see if it’s true.
The evergreen leaves include beautiful shades of burgundy when mature. The dark, oval fruit is small, attracts a variety of birds and is suited for human consumption. That information makes me want to sample a fruit persuade a coworker to sample a fruit. Heh heh.
Hamelia’s top growth may freeze back during a harsh winter. Trim it after the last frost, and it will bounce back in spring.
The most important things to remember when planting hamelia are:
Provide good drainage in a sunny spot. Do not plant in a boggy area. Hamelia is well-suited for xeriscaping, so lots of water will not make it happy.
Take care not to overwater, and do not pair it with plants that require lots of water.
Plant in raised beds or in a container with drainage holes and loose potting mix.
Incorporate organic matter (compost, peat moss, etc.) into the soil.
If you want to attract hummingbirds, butterflies and bees, use only organic fertilizers and treatments.
Water Stick your finger in the soil. If dry, water. If moist, DON’T. 😉
Size 3-5 ft by 3-5 ft
Spacing 36-60 inches
Bloom time Early summer to late fall