Flame Acanthus is a small to medium spreading shrub, 3’ – 5’ tall, found naturally in the southern part
of the Edwards Plateau (Uvalde County) and west Texas (Brewster County). In the wild it occurs in dry rocky soils in the floodplains of streams and other shrublands. Very heat and drought tolerant, it begins blooming in late spring or early summer and continues on into the fall with red to orange tubular flowers that are favorites of hummingbirds. Like many xeric plants, occasional rains increase the number of blooms. In addition to feeding hummingbirds, it is a host plant for the attractive Crimson Patch butterfly.
Flame Acanthus is an attractive ornamental that will readily take to a sunny, exposed site with poor soil. However, it is tolerant of a wide range of conditions, and will thrive in clay soil if it is well drained.
It will also grow in light shade, but flowering will be reduced. Its drought tolerance makes it a good patio pot plant. When given favorable conditions, it can reseed aggressively. It is cold tolerant but may die back somewhat in a cold winter. Late winter pruning will eliminate dead branches and will also create a bushier plant with increased blooms. Flame Acanthus can be started from fresh seed or cuttings. It is available in nurseries specializing in native plants, and is reportedly deer resistant.
Text by John Siemssen, Photos by Joseph A. Marcus, Wildflower Center and aprairiehaven.com