Plant This: Dwarf firebush ignites the fall garden


I’m trying a dwarf variety of the popular firebush (Hamelia patens ‘Compacta’ or ‘Glabra’) in a mostly sunny spot in my neighbor’s garden that I help tend, and it’s performed beautifully all summer and into fall, requiring little water once established and blooming its head off through the dog days. At about 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide, dwarf firebush is perfect for a tight spot, compared to the standard firebush at 3 to 5 feet tall and wide.


The long, narrow leaves have a slight blush along the edges, echoing the orange-red stems, and are pretty even when the plant is not in bloom.


The tubular flowers glow golden, orange, and red and attract hummingbirds.


Since it’s considered a tender perennial in Austin, plant dwarf firebush in the spring so it can become established before winter. Add a few purple-flowering salvias around it (try Salvia leucantha), and you’ll have a stunning summer and fall combination.

Note: My Plant This posts are written primarily for gardeners in central Texas. The plants I recommend are ones I’ve grown myself and have direct experience with. I wish I could provide more information about how these plants might perform in other parts of the country, but gardening knowledge is local. Consider checking your local online gardening forums to see if a particular plant might work in your region.

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All material © 2006-2012 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

5 Responses

  1. What a gorgeous plant, Pam! Stunning photos and I love its tidy dimensions. Next stop? A little research to see if it would grow in my Zone 9 garden…

    Thanks, Rebecca, but let’s be honest. Is there anything that won’t grow in your Bay Area climate and with your mad gardening skills? ;-) —Pam

  2. Laura says:

    Saw this on Pinterest. I’m in Zone 9, also. I’ll be looking for this plant at the nurseries this weekend! Love the way it stands out next to the purple. Love all your great ideas, Pam. I find myself pinning them over and over! :)

    Thanks for following me on Pinterest, Laura, and for your kind words. Here in Austin I’ve found dwarf firebush at The Natural Gardener. I hope you’re able to find it where you live as well. —Pam

  3. Jo Oanne says:

    Is it deer resistant?

    Yes, it is. At least, the numerous deer in our neighborhood haven’t been interested in it. No guarantees, of course! —Pam

  4. Randy Hyden says:

    Pam, I planted a couple together last year. They are really a neat plant and have matured much larger(a good thing) than I expected. I planted a full size version this year, I like the rounded habit of the mature ones I`ve seen.

    It’s really a lovely plant. I’m glad you’ve had good luck with it too, Randy. —Pam

  5. jen says:

    love the color combo! I think I’d be pushing my luck to try it up here in Durham, NC though. Sigh!

    It might be worth growing as a spring-through-fall annual though, Jen — a lot of bang for the buck. —Pam

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