Growing Hamelia Cuprea: How To Care For The Bahama Firebush

Bahama Firebush is the common name for Hamelia cuprea (ham-EE-lee-uh KUP-ray-uh)) but it is a misleading common name.

This tender perennial does not come from the Bahamas. Instead, it originates in the Cayman Islands, Haiti, Cuba, and Jamaica. 

Blooms of the Bahamian FirebushPin
The cuprea Hamelia aka Bahama Firebush | image Freund Flowering Trees

This is a very ornamental, compact version of the Firebush (Hamelia patens) and a member of the Rubiaceae (coffee) family. There are many iterations of this type of plant. Some are actually native to the state of Florida, while others hail from South America, the tropics, and even Africa.

Hamelia Cuprea Care

Size & Growth

This compact shrub or small tree grows to be between 6 ‘and 8′ feet high and needs spacing between 4′ and 6’ feet.

The lance-shaped leaves are glossy and tinged with red or coppery tones. The veins and stems of the yellow fire bush are also deep red. The coppery tones deepen in the autumn to provide interesting fall color.

Flowering & Fragrance

Bloom time begins in late spring and persists through mid-summer. 

The buds are yellow, and the flowers are yellow/orange and bell-shaped. They are about 1 1/4″ inches long and approximately 3/4″ of an inch wide. 

After pollination, the flowers become a deep reddish-orange in color. Each flower bears 6 thin, red, lengthwise stripes on 6 reflexed lobes.

Light & Temperature

Bahama Firebush is happiest in full sun and is winter hardy in USDA zones 8 through 11.

The plant can tolerate light shade, but will produce leggy growth and will not bloom as abundantly.

Watering & Feeding

Water well until the plant becomes established. Keep the soil evenly moist, and avoid overwatering. Once established, Bahama Firebush is very drought tolerant.

Soil & Transplanting

Hamelia in general tolerates a wide variety of soil conditions. As with most plants, well-draining soil is preferred, but clay, loam, sand, and other potentially negative conditions can be tolerated. Additionally, any pH level is acceptable.

Grooming & Maintenance

Little or no maintenance is required. Prune lightly to control the size and encourage bushier growth and more flowers.

How To Propagate Bahamian Firebush Cuprea

Bahama Firebush self sows freely and can easily be grown by sowing seed directly into prepared soil in the autumn.

Hamelia Cuprea Pests or Diseases

Spider mites and plant scale may be problematic, and new growth can attract aphids in the early springtime. Sphinx moth caterpillars also like to eat the leaves. 

Generally speaking, an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) system that includes encouraging beneficial insects will keep all of these pests under control. [1]

Is Cuprea Considered Poisonous To Toxic?

All varieties of Firebush are non-toxic. The fruit is edible and can be used to make wine or syrups. The leaves and flowers have many medicinal uses in folk medicine.

Is Cuprea Considered Invasive?

Bahama Firebush is often presented as being a native Floridian plant, but this is not the case.

Because it has all of the same care requirements as the native Hamelia patens, it can easily overtake this native plants’ natural habitat.

Additionally, Hamelia cuprea may hybridize with Hamelia patens producing a cross that bears smaller, slimmer flowers.

Suggested Hamelia Cuprea Uses

This pretty plant with its bright bell-shaped yellow flowers is a welcome addition to the smaller garden. Because of its more compact size, it’s easy to keep it pruned to a height below 7′ feet. This is the ideal size to provide privacy while not overrunning the entire garden. 

Additionally, bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and other pollinators find the flowers extremely attractive.

This plant makes an excellent border, barrier, screen or background planting. 

Because it grows in a bush form or as a small tree rather than a climbing form, it can also make an excellent specimen plant all on its own. It does well as a container plant in full sun on a patio or deck.

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