Fredericksburg Chapter

Flame Acanthus – a N.I.C.E. plant for a hot summer

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.

Though it is called hummingbird bush, flame acanthus is also loved by all butterflies and other pollinators. It is actually a favorite nectar plant of the Monarch butterfly, and is often one of the few nectar sources available in the worst of our summer heat.

It is considered a small shrub, growing only 3-4 feet high, and will take full sun or part shade, in almost any soil. Its water needs are extremely low. It may need a bit of watering for the first year, but once it is established, it rarely needs more. Its tiny flame-like blooms festoon the branches like tiny candles all summer long. It is freeze-hardy and deciduous (loses its leaves in winter) and leafs out in early spring. Also, it reseeds prolifically. You might begin with a group of three plants, spaced 3-4 feet apart, but you will soon have many more. If you don’t want the volunteers, they are quite easily pulled up in spring and moved to another spot, or shared with friends.

It is also VERY deer resistant! So it can be planted anywhere in your landscape.
As for maintenance, there is none required – but you may shape it lightly if it grows unevenly – or to control its size as needed. Pruning it now and then will encourage more growth and more blooms.

Our local N.I.C.E. nurseries have happily agreed to stock up on our Plant of the Season in order to have it available to the public. These independent nurseries carry only the best plants for our area, as well as high-quality soil amendments and gardening supplies. Look for the “N.I.C.E. Plant of the Season” sign stake at these nurseries and growers in Fredericksburg, Medina, Kerrville, and Comfort:

* Friendly Natives, 1107 N. Llano Street, Fredericksburg, 830-997-6288* Medina Garden Nursery, 13417 Tx. Highway 16, Medina, 830-589-2771
* Natives of Texas, 4256 Medina Highway, Kerrville, 830-896-2169
* Plant Haus 2, 604 Jefferson Street, Kerrville, 830-792-4444
* The Gardens at The Ridge, 13439 S. Ranch Road 783 (Harper Rd.), Kerrville, 830-896-0430

*The Garden Haus, 109 Farm to Market Rd. 473, Comfort, 830-995-5610


Cindy Anderson is a member of the Native Plant Society of Texas (Kerrville Chapter) and the Hill Country Master Gardeners. An enthusiastic (though often frustrated) gardener, she has learned first-hand the value of native plants, and gladly shares reviews of her favorites in this quarterly seasonal column.

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About the Region

New Braunfels, the location of our Fall 2024 Symposium, straddles both the Edwards Plateau Ecoregion and the Blackland Prairie ecoregion. Interstate 35 divides the city of New Braunfels; its path through the city closely parallels the boundary of these two ecoregions, with the Edwards Plateau on the west side and the Blackland Prairies region to the east. The Edwards Plateau area is also called the Hill Country; however, this general term covers a much larger area extending farther north. Spring-fed creeks are found throughout the region; deep limestone canyons, rivers, and lakes (reservoirs) are common. Ashe juniper is perhaps the most common woody species found throughout the region. Additional woody species include various species of oak, with live oak (Quercus fusiformis) being the most common. Sycamores (Platanus occidentalis) and bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) border waterways. This area is well known for its spring wildflower displays, though they may be viewed in spring, late summer, and fall, as well. According to Texas Parks and Wildlife, average annual rainfall in the Edwards Plateau ranges from 15 to 34 inches.

The Blackland Prairie extends from the Red River south to San Antonio, bordered on the west by the Edwards Plateau and the Cross Timbers, and on the east by the Post Oak Savannah. Annual rainfall averages 30 to 40 inches, with higher averages to the east. This region is dominated by prairie species. The most common grass species include little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) and Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans) in the uplands and switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) in the riparian areas and drainages. Common herbaceous flowering plants include salvias, penstemons, and silphiums. This area has suffered greatly from overgrazing and agricultural use. Few intact areas remain, though many of the plants can be found along county roadsides throughout the region.

Our four host chapters (New Braunfels, Lindheimer, Guadalupe, and the Hill Country chapters) are located in one or both of the ecoregions above. However, the eastern portion of Guadalupe County also falls within the Post Oak Savanna ecoregion. Annual rainfall averages 35 to 45 inches, with higher averages to the east. A wide variety of hardwood trees are found, including several species of oaks, elms, and in the Bastrop area, loblolly pine (Pinus taeda). Grasses and forbs dominate in the open savannas, with most common grass being little bluestem. Ranching, agriculture, and fire suppression have allowed woody species to encroach on the once-open savannas.

Source: Wildflowers of Texas by Michael Eason