Sometimes known as the hummingbird shrub, the Hummingbird Bush (Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii) is a highly ornamental, deciduous shrub hummingbirds love for its colorful, nectar-rich flowers.
Native to the United States, it makes a great addition to your garden, and you can easily find it in nurseries under names such as ‘Flame Acanthus’, ‘Mexican hummingbird plant’, ‘Mexican Fire’ or ‘Texas Firecracker’.
Hummingbird Bush care guide
Here’s what you’ll need to provide your Hummingbird Bush with.
This shrub doesn’t ask for much when it comes to soil and can thrive in nutrient-poor, rocky, sandy, and calcareous soil beds. Hummingbird bush prefers neutral soils and can tolerate a pH ranging from 6.0 to 8.0.
It can even grow in clay-heavy soils, however, it does require proper drainage. The main thing to remember is that the shrub is native to dry, arid regions, where water drains through the soil very quickly.
When planting Hummingbird Bush in your garden, pick a spot where it has plenty of room to spread out. This plant can grow up to 3 feet (90 cm) tall and 4 feet (120 cm) wide. It is also deer resistant, making it perfect for borders or hedges, and even xeriscaping.
The Hummingbird Bush needs lots of light to grow to its full potential. Although it tolerates partial shade, full sun is recommended if you want to grow a thick shrub, with deep colored leaves and lots of blooms. If your garden has a southern or southwestern exposure, it will be perfect for growing this resilient shrub.
The unpretentious nature of the Hummingbird Bush means that it needs very little water. It is highly tolerant to drought, and you don’t have to worry about watering it at all. The plant will get all the water it needs from rain. However, if you live in very hot, arid areas, occasional watering will help, especially during the blooming season, from late summer until mid-autumn. This will also encourage the shrub to produce more of its iconic, fiery flowers, ideal for a red Hummingbird Bush.
Young Hummingbird Bush, or shrubs newly planted in your garden, will require more water than established plants. Give the soil a deep soak on the first day, to allow the roots to settle. Then, check the moisture every week, and only water if the top 2 inches (6 cm) of the soil feel dry to the touch. Continue watering once a month if it hasn’t rained, and cut back on watering in mid-autumn.
Plants that are older than 1 year do not need extra watering except before the start of the blooming season, and only if there has been no rain for more than 1 week. Water your Hummingbird Bush in the evening, especially during very hot days. This way, you avoid the risk of shocking the plant, as well as losing too much water due to evaporation.
The Hummingbird Bush has a very high tolerance to heat and can thrive in temperatures soaring as high as 95°F (35°C). It is also frost hardy and can tolerate temperatures as low as 5°F (-15°C). This shrub is deciduous, and it will start shedding its leaves towards the end of autumn.
Even if you live in areas that are likely to get frosty in winter, the roots of your Hummingbird Bush can survive the frost. The plant will bounce back in spring, yet it will require hard pruning to encourage new growth the following year.
The Hummingbird Bush doesn’t need any fertilizer for healthy growth. This plant actually enjoys soils that are poor in nutrients, similar to those of its native habitat. For mature plants, you can add a thin, 1 inch (3 cm) layer of mulch each year in spring, after any chance of frost has passed.
Supplementing your Hummingbird Bush with regular fertilizer applications is not recommended. On one hand, this can trigger more leaf growth and not enough flowers. In some cases, it can even be fatal to the plant, causing the leaves to wilt.
Unlike many flowering plants that need feeding in order to bloom, the Hummingbird Bush is a xeric plant, which means that the start of the blooming season is triggered by watering. See the section above on how often you need to water your Hummingbird Bush.
– Common pests and problems
Hummingbird bush is remarkably tough, and it has no pest or insect problems. This low maintenance plant has only one nemesis: overwatering. It cannot stand having ‘wet feet’, which is why providing it with well-draining soil is essential. Also, avoid watering altogether except during periods of extreme drought. This way, you can prevent the risk of root rot, which will cause the plant to wilt and die.
Pruning and maintenance
The Hummingbird Bush thrives on neglect. Plant it in well-draining soil, in a warm and sunny part of your garden, and provide light watering when or if needed. The shrub will look after itself in the meantime.
Early spring is the best time to start pruning your Hummingbird Bush to encourage young, new growth. Using gardening scissors or hedge trimmers for larger plants, give it a hard prune by cutting the shrub down to at least 6 inches (18 cm). This way, you can control the shape and spread of the shrub, as well as allow it to produce new stems and abundant flowers in the following months.
The Hummingbird Bush is a ‘late bloomer’, so don’t worry if you don’t start seeing any new growth at the beginning of spring. This plant often takes its time, and will only start blooming around mid-summer (July).
Why is my Hummingbird Bush not flowering?
There are several reasons why your Hummingbird Bush is not producing any flowers. Plants grown in too little sun will produce abundant leaves, but very few flower spikes, sometimes none. Providing your plant with too much fertilizer (especially nitrogen rich types) also has the same effect, which is why it’s best not to feed the Hummingbird Bush at all.
Depending on where you live, late frost snaps can also affect flowering by killing the buds. Sadly, the plant will not produce another flush that year if the buds have been frost damaged.
Is Hummingbird Bush invasive?
All species of Acanthus are at least mildly invasive, including the Hummingbird Bush. This shrub is very hardy and adaptable, and if it escapes cultivation, it can easily become a pest, encroaching on other plants.
To prevent your Hummingbird Bush from taking over your garden, regularly cut down any young shoots that are growing off the main plant. The flowers produce many small seeds that sow easily, so make sure to check for and manually remove any unwanted seedlings.
How do you attract hummingbirds to your garden?
The best way to attract hummingbirds to your garden is to provide them with plenty of feeding options. A nectar feeder hanging from a tree is a good start. However, hummingbirds don’t survive off sugar water alone, which is why planting the right flowers is essential in giving them a varied, natural diet. This will also encourage them to return to your garden year after year.
Plants that hummingbirds love
Hummingbirds are attracted to two main features in flowers: the color and the shape. They love the colors red, orange, and purple, which is why the fiery blooms of the red and orange Hummingbird Bush are so appealing to them. These birds feed by hovering next to flowers, using their long tongues to drink the nectar. They will be drawn to tubular flowers, which make feeding easier.
If you already have a Hummingbird Bush in your garden, you’re already one step closer to attracting these birds.
Here are a couple of similar shrubs to consider.
– Hummingbird Plant (Dicliptera suberecta)
– Dwarf Hummingbird Bush (Hamelia patens ‘Compacta’)
Other plants that hummingbirds love include trumpet vine, beebalm, columbine, foxglove, lupine, verbena, and honeysuckle. When designing your hummingbird-friendly garden, aim to provide these birds with a varied selection of nectar sources, and consider native plants rather than exotic ones.
Hummingbird Bushes are a fantastic addition to any garden. Their vibrant flowers will not only brighten up your yard but will also attract hummingbirds to your garden.
If you’re planning to add them to your garden, here are the main things to remember:
- Hummingbird Bush is a very low-maintenance plant, basically thriving off neglect.
- Plant in well-draining soil, in full sun, and only water during periods of severe drought.
- Avoid fertilizers and planting in too much shade, as this can prevent the plant from flowering.
- Hard prune the Hummingbird Bush in early spring to encourage flowering and new growth.
- Hummingbirds love this plant’s bright, tubular flowers, so planting it is a great way to attract them to your garden.
Easy to grow and maintain, and stunningly beautiful, now all you need to do is plant your Hummingbird Bush and admire the results.