Richard Bogren, Kirk-Ballard, Heather
LSU AgCenter Horticulturist
Need something else to heat up your summer garden this year? The LSU AgCenter has selected Lime Sizzler firebush (Hamelia patens Grelmsiz) as one of the 2019 Louisiana Super Plants and Louisiana certified selections. This beautiful tropical, perennial shrub is root hardy in zone 8 and is hardy in USDA zones 8B to 11. It can be used as a summer annual in colder regions.
Firebush is a native from south Florida to Central and South America but was actually discovered at a nursery in south Texas where the plant was then patented, propagated and sold. It has been favored by landscapers and home gardeners from Texas to Florida ever since.
Lime Sizzler firebush sports flashy foliage of variegated chartreuse yellow and lime green with red veining in a whorled arrangement of four leaves that are 4 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide with a smooth texture.
The blooms are arranged in clusters of beautiful red-orange tubular shaped flowers that are 1 1/2 to 2 inches long. You could spot this spectacular plant from miles away. The blooms are favored by hummingbirds and butterflies alike because they provide a sweet nectar from spring through summer on into late fall. In addition, the plant produces small, round, blue-black fruit that are also edible by birds.
The colors of the plant are most brilliant in a full-sun location. However, partial-shade plantings will display a darker green coloring in the leaves, and the shrub will be less dense, causing the plant to have leggy growth.
One of the outstanding features of Lime Sizzler firebush is its vigorous, compact growth habit. This makes it a perfect selection to be used in smaller landscape areas as an accent piece or as a striking mass planting for larger areas. It will also perform well in a containers on sunny areas on the patio. Another great use for this plant is as a hedge planting or to create screening. Be sure that the spacing is set 3 to 4 feet apart to be used as a hedge. Otherwise, the suggested spacing is 4 to 5 feet apart.
This tough tropical holds up to the hot and humid summers of Louisiana and has a good drought tolerance once it is well established. In addition, it is fairly resistant to deer as well as most other pests with no real problems with insects aside from some aphids, spider mites and scales that are easily controlled with a minimal insecticidal spray. It grows in a wide variety of well-drained soils in a pH range of 5.5 to 7.5 but favors a more neutral pH of 6.6 to 7.3.
This shrub can be pruned to shape, but flowering will be greatly reduced if pruned in the summertime. Prune before blooming in late winter or early spring to shape if the plant survived a warm winter and did not die back. It has no special fertilizer needs, and a slow-release balanced fertilizer like 10-10-10 would be sufficient for spring fertilization.
This sun-loving, compact tropical shrub is a great addition to sunny landscapes, providing a real pop of vibrant color and wow factor that is sure to catch anyone’s eye. Pair it with lemon sedum, and you’re sure to have a winning combination. It can also be paired with other tropical or native plants to greatly enhance a pollinator garden.
The Louisiana Super Plant program is an LSU AgCenter educational and marketing campaign that highlights tough and beautiful plants that perform well throughout Louisiana. Each spring and fall, AgCenter horticulturists announce the Louisiana Super Plants selections for that year. Louisiana Super Plants have a proven track record with many years of reliable performance in Louisiana landscapes or have gone through several years of university evaluations and observations. Look for these plants at local nurseries.
Lime Sizzler firebush tropical, perennial shrub that is root hardy in zone 8 and is hardy in USDA zones 8B to 11. It can be used as a summer annual in colder regions. Photo by Jeb Fields/LSU AgCenter
Lime Sizzler firebush features orange-red tubular flower clusters above variegated chartreuse yellow and lime green foliage. Photo by Jeb Fields/LSU AgCenter