Plant of the month: Firebush is feast for birds, butterflies

It's hot as blazes out, so September's plant of the month is the appropriately named firebush, also known as Hamelia patens.

This semi-showy shrub blooms all year long, producing tubular, orange-red flowers beloved by butterflies and hummingbirds as a nectar source. The plant's edible oval fruit, which continuously ripens from green to yellow to red and finally black, is relished by birds.

Firebush thrives in full sun or part shade, with red woody stems and evergreen leaves that grow 4 to 8 inches long, turning red in the fall.

Use the shrub as a background plant as it can grow to 12 feet and likes to spread 5 to 8 feet.

Hamelia patens
Origin:
Native
Family:
Rubiaceae
Foliage:
Large, oval, pointed, green leaves
Growth rate:
Fast
Nutritional requirements:
Low
Soil requirements:
Wide range of soil types
Salt tolerance:
Poor
Drought tolerance:
Moderate
Light requirements:
Full sun, part shade
Pests:
Aphids
More info:
SunSentinel.com/Firebush
Find it:
Firebush is available at most South Florida garden centers.

September garden checklist

September is still blistering hot, but relief is on the horizon. October will bring cooler temperatures and that long-awaited start to South Florida's growing season. Start planning winter gardens now.

Pests: Lawn pests like chinch bug, sod webworms and armyworm are munching away on turf, causing large brown patches. Responsibly manage the bugs with tips from "The Florida Yards & Neighborhoods Handbook," a free guide from the University of Florida/IFAS Extension Service and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Download it at SunSentinel.com/FloridaYards.

Seeds: Start vegetable and herb seeds now so you'll be ready to plant your veggie garden as soon as the weather cools.

Remembering McLean: Make a reservation for Cooper City's 22nd annual Tree & Plant Care Workshop, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday in the City Hall auditorium, 9090 SW 50th Place. The event will honor the late David McLean, a native plant expert and longtime Broward College teacher who operated the Trinity Churchside Garden nursery in Fort Lauderdale. McLean, who died June 4, was a frequent speaker at the event. Info: 954-434-2300, CooperCityfl.org.

Going native: Learn about "Gardening With Ornamental Native Wildflowers" at 10:30 a.m. Sept. 28 at Mounts Botanical Garden, 531 N. Military Trail, West Palm Beach. The event will feature Rufino Osorio, author of "A Gardener's Guide to Florida's Native Plants," who will offer tips on using wildflowers in beds, as perennial borders and ground covers. Cost: $25 for members, $35 for nonmembers (includes garden admission). Info: 561-233-1757, Mounts.org.