Texas Native Plants | Wildflower and Pollinator Garden Tips

Hummingbird Bush (Flame Acanthus): A Texas Native

It’s that time of year when hummingbirds start their migration through Texas. I’ve had a black chinned hummingbird visiting my feeder multiple times a day. While feeders are great, native nectar plants are even better. Adding Hummingbird Bush (also called Flame Acanthus) is the perfect hummingbird magnet, especially for year-round residents and the fall migration.

Hummingbird bush (flame acanthus) with butterfly/
Hummingbird bush is a butterfly and hummingbird magnet!

Are you looking to add more native plants to your yard such as the Hummingbird Bush? Then I hope you’ll join me for my Native Backyard Challenge starting May 1st. It is a free four-week email course with the ultimate goal of having you incorporate two native plants in your yard. Sign up here and get all the details at the end of this post!

Names for Hummingbird Bush

Scientific Name

Aniscanthus quadrificlus var. wrightii is the scientifc (Latin) name for the Hummingbird Bush I am referring to. That is certainly a mouthful, and I’m not sure I can even pronounce it correctly! However, that is the name you’ll want to look for on the plant label at the nursery to ensure you’re getting the native plant.

It is especially important because there are several other non-native plants with the common name Hummingbird Bush such as these. Here are their scientific names:

  • Dicliptera suberecta
  • Hamelia patens
  • Grevillea thelemanniana

Common Names

Each plant variety has only one scientific name but can have several common names. In addition to Hummingbird Bush, one of the most common names for Aniscanthus quadrificlus var. wrightii is Flame Acanthus.

I like to use Hummingbird Bush because I think it will encourage more people to plant it! Who doesn’t like hummingbirds?!

Where is Hummingbird Bush (Flame Acanthus) Native To?

This plant is a true Texan! This particular variety (Aniscanthus quadrificlus var. wrightii) is found in West and South Central Texas. However it is particularly associated with the Hill Country and the Edwards Plateau region around San Antonio where I live.

Hummingbird Bush (Flame Acanthus) Flower

This plant is known for its profuse blooms of orange-red flowers. The flowers are trumpet shaped and upright, making them the perfect drinking vessel for hummingbirds and butterflies. It you want a Hummingbird Bush covered in flowers from summer through fall, place it in full sun. It can grow ok in part sun, but will produce fewer blooms.

Unlike bees which can’t see the color red, hummingbirds are drawn to the bright red flowers.

Hummingbird bush flower
The trumpet shaped flowers are perfect for a butterfly’s proboscis.

Make a Hummingbird Garden

Hummingbirds migrate through Texas every spring and fall, and some stay year-round. Hummingbird bush will be in full bloom for their fall migration. Pair this plant with other Texas natives such as Turk’s Cap and Autumn Sage to create a garden that attracts hummingbirds. These perennial shrubs also have red tubular shaped flowers that hummingbirds and butterflies can’t resist.

If you include these plants and add a hummingbird feeder (this is the one I use), you’ll have a hummer paradise in your yard!

Turk's Cap and Autumn Sage - two Texas native plants that attract hummingbirds
Turk’s Cap and Autumn Sage are two other great Texas natives to add to a hummingbird garden.

5 Reasons to Grow Hummingbird Bush (Flame Acanthus)

1. It is profuse bloomer

It can be hard to find plants with long bloom periods, especially in the heat of the Texas summer. However, Flame Acanthus produces abundant blooms from mid summer until frost. For the most blooms, be sure to grow it in full sun where it will thrive.

2. It is heat and drought tolerant

If you’re looking for a low-maintenance plant this is the one for you. Hummingbird Bush loves the heat and requires very little watering once established.

It is even cold tolerant. In terms of hardiness zones, it will stay root hardy through Zone 7. Here in San Antonio, the plant even survived the mega freeze of February 2021! It is a deciduous plant (it will lose its leaves during the winter). However if you cut back the dead branches by 2/3 in the spring it will regrow from its roots. This will help produce a denser, fuller shrub.

3. It is not picky about its location

As long as Hummingbird Bush has well drained soil, it is not picky about the type of soil. It is also not super picky about sun conditions. It prefers full sun, but can grow in dappled to part sun as well. However, I would not recommend it for full shade areas.

4. It is a butterfly host plant

In addition to feeding butterflies with its nectar, it also feeds butterfly’s caterpillars as a host plant. Anytime I can add a butterfly or moth host plant to my garden it is a win. Read more about why having host plants in our yard is so important for the ecosystem.

Flame Acanthus is the host plant for two butterflies:

5. It is easy to grow in containers

I love incorporating native plants into my container pots on my patio along with annuals. While some native perennials can get too large for a pot, Flame Acanthus is just the right size. It grows to about 3-4″ tall and wide, making it a good candidate for a large pot.

How Do You Prune Hummingbird Bush?

Maintaining hummingbird bush is easy. Just cut back by about 2/3 in February. You are removing the dead branches to encourage new growth from the base and create a more fuller, rounder plant. Leaving the dead foliage on the plant through winter helps provide habitat for insects and birds.

How to prune Hummingbird Plant (Flame Acanthus)
Use garden shears to cut Hummingbird Bush back by 2/3 at the end of winter.

Join the Native Backyard Challenge!

Sign up now for my Native Backyard Challenge starting May 1st! Each week in May, I will send you an email with a mini challenge to help you get to know your yard and find opportunities to make it more environmentally friendly with native plants like Hummingbird Bush.

The goal of the challenge is a simple one: at the end of four weeks, I want you to incorporate two new native plants into your yard!

Weekly email challenges include:

  • 1st week: Identify the plants in your yard
  • 2nd week: Find two spots to swap in new plants
  • 3rd week: Identify native plants in your area that are great for the environment
  • 4th week: Get planting and pat yourself on the back!

I hope you’ll join me in the Backyard Challenge as we work together to help the environment from our own yards! Even if you’re not ready to dive in, sign up for the emails so you are prepared for when the time is right. Sign up here:

Hummingbird Bush (Flame Acanthus): Plant Care Printable

Butterfly on hummingbird bush (Flame Acanthus)

Scientific Name:

Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii

Native to:

South Central and West Texas

Mature Height and Width:

3-4' tall and wide

Sun Conditions:

Full sun to part sun

Water Needs:

Requires minimal watering once established. Likes well drained soil.

Wildlife Benefits:

Flowers provide nectar for hummingbirds and butterflies. Serves as host plant to Texan Crescentspot and Crimson Patch butterflies.

Instructions

Watering

Water 2x a week until established, then minimal watering. Likes well drained soil.

Pruning

Cut back by 2/3 in February. Plant will regrow from the ground.

Propagating

Plant can be propagated by seeds or soft wood cuttings in the spring. Apply a rooting hormone to the cutting will help with propagation.

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2 Comments

  1. I had a very small fame acanthus in a pot along with some cannas—actually I think it may have planted itself there—anyway, it is coming back after the freeze!! I am so excited because when it gets a bit bigger, I am going to plant it in the ground in my new pollinator garden!!!

    1. How exciting Martha! I planted my first flame acanthus in the ground this spring after admiring it at the AAMN Demo Garden. It looks very healthy and I’m excited to see it in bloom!

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