Flame Acanthus

Want a plant to attract all the hummingbirds in the neighborhood to your garden? Look no further!

Flame acanthus is a tough, Texas native perennial with bright green foliage and hot red-orange tubular flowers. It’s no surprise that a common name for this shrub is hummingbird bush because it is a hummingbird magnet! If you are trying to attract hummingbirds to your garden, this is a must-have plant for you.

I planted hummingbird bush on a berm, in full sun, and it’s thriving with no supplemental water. It does spread so if you don’t want that effect, make sure you contain it with a border. Like I said, it will spread on its own, but if you want it to spread even faster, like I did, then take a few longer stems once your plant is established and place them on the ground and cover them with a rock. This method of plant propagation is called layering. The soil contact will encourage rooting and create a brand new plant – for free! You can leave it where it is, or sever the “umbilical cord” with a shovel in the fall as you dig up the new plants’ root ball and plant it somewhere else in the yard.

I love this bright little shrub and it may be the best $2 I’ve ever spent. I purchased it in a 4-inch pot about 3 years ago, and now it’s about 3 feet tall and 7 feet wide. I planted it on a garden berm and encouraged it to spread in order to hold the slope and attract wildlife to my garden and look beautiful at the same time.

Key Facts:

  • Light requirement – Full Sun to Part Shade
  • Water requirement – Dry to moist
  • Soil requirement – most all, but prefers well drained soil. Very adaptable.
  • Drought tolerant – YES
  • Cold tolerant – yes
  • Mature Size – approx. 3’ tall by 6’ plus wide.
  • Spacing – 3 to 5 feet on center
  • Deer resistant – yes
  • Wildlife – attracts hummingbirds, butterflies and other pollinators

When to plant:

Here in South Central Texas, it is always best to plant this plant in the fall after the heat breaks. However, because this shrub is so tough, I have seen it planted in winter and spring with great success. I would never recommend planting in the summer.

Where to plant:

For the most blooms and the healthiest plant, plant in full sun or light shade, in well-drained soil. Flame acanthus is a wonderful plant to include in your rain garden/monarch waystation design!

Design significance:

Hummingbird bush works in an informal Wildscape yet is versatile enough to work in a semi-formal Texas garden when paired with structural plants like yucca and agave. It may die to the ground in a very cold winter, but it makes up for it with blooms all summer long! I love this plant in Mediterranean gardens with Mediterranean style houses with orangy red tile roofs – it really makes them pop! Looks spectacular!


Prune lightly for shape and to control size as needed. Pruning in early spring will encourage more growth and more blooms. If this plant dies to the ground in an especially cold winter, prune it just above the ground in early spring, and don’t worry – it will come back!

Picture of Heather Ginsburg
Heather Ginsburg
Heather is a Texas tradeswoman through and through! With three state water licenses under her belt, she brings a unique perspective, background and expertise to the SAWS Education team. Heather’s deep understanding of and passion for sharing water knowledge makes her perfectly suited for coordinating and leading SAWS’ education tours. Prior to joining the SAWS family, Heather worked in the private sector as a landscape designer where she spent countless hours helping homeowners create beautiful, water-saving landscapes. Heather, along with her husband Brett and their two children, all strive daily to be kind humans who give back to Mother Earth.
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