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Milberger's Nursery and Landscaping
3920 North Loop 1604 E.
San Antonio, TX 78247

Open 9 to 6 Mon. through Sat.
and 10 to 5 on Sun.

Three exits east of 281, inside of 1604
Next to the Diamond Shamrock station
Please click map for more detailed map and driving directions.

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People want to grow persistent plants which will provide a prolonged flower display. Because of the harsh environmental adversities which occur in Texas, the normally expected bloom cycle of annuals is often shortened. For instance, most flowering annuals which provide a magnificent bloom display for 6 months or more in cooler climates endure less than half that expected bloom cycle in Texas before unsightliness and/or absence of bloom dictate their removal. The obvious solution for Texas gardeners who want to prolong the bloom cycle is to choose flowering plants which customarily bloom and endure for a longer period. An everblooming perennial flowering plant would be the answer. Rather than planting a weaker, limited-time-of-bloom annual, Texans should chose a Texas-tough, long-blooming perennial. Firebush (Hamelia patens) is just such a long blooming perennial which can be substituted for short-lived annuals in hot, sunny locations.

Firebush is a natural selection to substitute for flowering annuals. It blooms more profusely and more continuously than most other perennials. Firebush is actually a native Mexican shrub or small tree but never reaches its potential height of 13 feet because the plant is frozen to the ground annually in most parts of Texas. Even though Firebush is a root-hardy perennial (meaning it will resprout from the roots every year) in many parts of Texas, initiation of these new sprouts require the warm soil temperatures of summer. Most gardeners will not tolerate the barren, early spring appearance of the slow?sprouting, root-hardy Firebush. Therefore, to prolong the blooming period of Firebush, fresh transplants should be planted twelve inches apart every spring into the sunny ornamental flower bed or container. Because Firebush native to such a harsh climate, soil preparation is not as critical as it is with the more commonly grown annuals. Fertilization should be sparingly applied every three weeks to keep plants actively growing. Over-fertilization should be avoided to prevent excessive growth and to ensure that fall color will be enhanced. However, the planting bed must drain well since Firebush is accustomed to drought conditions and, most importantly, the planting MUST be in a full sun location since Firebush will not bloom if grown in a shady or semi-shaded area -- plants will live and grow but blooms will be sparse.

As mentioned earlier, Firebush is a Mexican native shrub or small tree which, when well established and protected from freezing temperatures, can attain a height of 6 to 13 feet. However, when Firebush is transplanted twelve inches apart in early spring, plants will rarely attain a height greater than 24-30 inches before the first killing freeze of winter. This is a comparable size to such common summer annuals as periwinkle (vinca), copper plant and salvia. The advantage Firebush has when compared to a plant such as vinca or salvia is that the more mature the Firebush transplant are and the hotter and drier the weather becomes, the better the Firebush looks -- this plant thrives on the adversities which destroy the beauty or kill other plants. The ability of Firebush to tolerate -- actually thrive -- in hot, dry conditions make it an ideal plant for containers to be located in sunny locations and susceptible to severe heat and drought.

Firebush is blessed with "knocks-your-socks-off" blooming which begins soon after establishment and continues all the way through summer until late fall. The fiery red blooms are tubular in shape and are the ultimate hummingbird attractants and feeders. In fact, some folks dispose of their hummingbird feeders when they plant Firebush as this plant provides a constantly replenished supply of an all?natural hummingbird nectar. The plant continually grooms itself by aborting old blooms. This characteristic enables Firebush to maintain an attractive appearance and "freshly groomed" look throughout the growing season. When grown in a full sun location, plants flower with such a profusion of red blooms that one registers the visual impression that the bush is literally ablaze -- thus the derivation of the common name Firebush.

It would seem that the characteristics of constant blooming, hummingbird and butterfly attraction, heat tolerance and drought resistance would be enough attributes for Firebush but the best gets even better. In the cooler temperatures of fall the profusion of Firebush bloom diminishes as the color of the foliage takes center stage. Firebush foliage becomes rusty red when touched by cool autumn temperatures.

For those who worry about poisonous plants in the landscape, the nontoxic nature of Firebush will come as a welcome relief. In fact, a syrup derived from the fruit of Firebush is used as a remedy for diarrhea in the West Indies.

So it would seem that people who want long-lived flowering plants which will provide a prolonged flower display in the hottest, driest locations with only a minimum of planting bed preparation should consider Firebush transplants rather than the more commonplace annuals. Firebush is a perennial which is best utilized as, and in the place of, annual flowering plants. It is the first introduction into a category of plants being dubbed "per-annuals" (a perennial used as an annual). The Firebush per-annual makes continuous beauty in adverse growing conditions easy and feasible. Try it for yourself! For more information about Firebush, see: