Hamelia is a genus of evergreen shrubs and small trees from the family of Ixora, and like Ixora it makes an flowering bush for gardens and landscapes. The genus is perhaps best represented by Hamelia patens, which is widely grown in hedges, borders and as an accent plant.
It is an easily grown bush that produces evergreen foliage and beautiful red or scarlet flowers almost all through the year – thus justifying it common name, Firebush. Hemalia patens grows quite quickly in tropical and sub-tropical climates and grows up to 3 or 4 feet tall with some woody growth. It grows well under full sun or partial shade and requires moderate but regular watering (though mature plants can withstand some drought). Firebush is best known for its flowers which are rich in nectar and attract a lot of butterflies. Flowering is followed by formation of small berries which are favorite food of birds especially hummingbird.
Hamelia patens, the Firebush, Image by Mary Keim
Grown as annual flowering bush, Firebush should be pruned regularly to keep the plant in proper shape. When allowed to grow on its own, Firebush tends to form large mounds with dense growth of evergreen foliage and small red flowers.
Besides its horticultural value, Firebush has been used by indigenous people of south and Central America for its medicinal benefits. The extract of the leaves and stems of Firebush is believed to have antibacterial and antifungal properties, that is why, it has long been used a good remedy for all kinds of skin diseases including rashes, skin fungus, sores and insect stings. The extract is also used today for the treatment of headache, rheumatism, fever, and dysentery.