What’s in a Name? Actually, a LOT!

July 30th, 2014 Posted in botany, hummingbirds, native plants, perennials, wildlife

Hummingbird bush. Can we even count how many plants have that name? Well, here’s one: Dicliptera suberecta. Indeed, its summer flowers do attract hummingbirds.

dicliptera suberecta with dianella central texas gardener

Dicliptera is also called Mexican honeysuckle. Ah, and SO is Justicia spicigera.

mexican honeysuckle Justicia spicigera flower

Neither are honeysuckle vines; perhaps the name comes from the sweet flower nectar that attracts hummingbirds.

Flame acanthus (in the Acanthus family) is yet another called “hummingbird bush.” Its botanical name, Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii, is such a mouthful that it’s no wonder that someone gave it a nickname. And yes, my hummingbirds are all over it.

flame acanthus central texas gardener

flame acanthus flower central texas gardener

My head is starting to hurt, but here’s another “hummingbird bush.” This one is Hamelia patens. And it’s also called “firebush.” I don’t even want to think about how many plants have “fire” in their name.

Hamelia patens hummingbird bush

Honestly, hummingbirds could give a flying fig about what a plant is called. What DOES matter to us is that we can really mess up if we go by common name alone.

In common, though, these “hummingbird bushes” all have orange tubular flowers shaped for you know who. Beyond that, they are quite different.

dicliptera suberecta hummingbird fave central texas gardener

Dicliptera suberecta is an herbaceous plant to about 2’ tall. Wonderful silvery leaves. Sometimes it dies back in super cold winters but always returns. Accepts part sun to part shade. Perfect low-water companion for succulents like my Agave celsii.

Dicliptera suberecta with Agave celsii

Joining it here: Dianella and Salvia coccinea, a friend to butterflies and bees, too.

dicliptera suberecta, dianella, salvia coccinea garden design drought

Mexican honeysuckle (Justicia spicigera) is another herbaceous plant to about 2-3’ tall. In warm winters or protected microclimates, it can remain evergreen. Usually, it freezes back, but returns. It’s a good one for part shade, though I’ve also seen it in lots of sun. More confusion!

mexican honeysuckle Justicia spicigera Central Texas Gardener

Flame acanthus (Anisacanthus wrightii) is a deciduous shrub about 2-3’ tall and almost as wide. It wants as much sun as you can give it, though in my garden it gets shade part of the day. It freezes back in winter. Cut it all the way to the ground.

flame acanthus, lantana wildlife plants

Hamelia patens is a sun-loving shrub, too, though it can take a little shade. It really performs best in sun. I’ve seen them almost 4’ tall but it’s in the 3’ range. It too, dies back in winter, so cut it straight to the ground. Joining it in Lucinda Hutson’s enchanting garden is Salvia leucantha, commonly called Mexican bush sage, a dynamic duo for wildlife in late summer and fall!

hamelia patens salvia leucantha in Lucinda Hutson's garden

All are drought tough and grow in diverse soils, including my Blackland Prairie heavy soil. Plant a few and you’ll have lots of drop-by customers!

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Until next time, Linda

  1. 4 Responses to “What’s in a Name? Actually, a LOT!”

  2. By Nicole on Jul 30, 2014


    I have a spot that only gets a couple of hours of sun a day (right overhead, so probably about mid-day). What’s my best bet to entice some hummingbirds? You mention in this blog that so many of them prefer full sun. Are there any options?

    I currently have Duehlenberg salvia there but it just isn’t getting enough sun. Blooms okay in early spring before some of my trees get their leaves…have not had many blooms as the trees leaf out, despite getting supplemental water. Thinking it might be time to replant.



    Linda reply on August 1st, 2014 3:03 pm:

    Hi, Nicole! Turks cap would be a great option for you. And the Mexican honeysuckle, too. I’ll look up some others for you.


  3. By Larry on Jul 30, 2014

    Thanks Linda for a very informative article on plants favored by hummingbirds that are adapted to Texas or which are Texas natives. I’m currently trialing the Dicliptera suberecta in my Colorado garden; wish I could obtain more of those you illustrate to trial.


    Linda reply on August 1st, 2014 3:01 pm:

    Hi, Larry! Thanks for writing. I bet you can grow some of the others too, perhaps the Hamelia? Happy hummingbirds to you!


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