Chilean Firebush:
Zone 8 Hummingbird Magnet

by Eric Shalit | May 14th, 2010

Embothriuum coccineum (Chilean Firebush) with Anna's Hummingbird right outside my window.

I’m writing this just a few minutes after taking the above photo out my office window. It’s mid-May here in Seattle. Zone 8 if you believe in zones. The Chilean Firebush (Embothriuum coccineum) is in its full glory, thick with the most vibrant flowers of anything in the garden. Photos hardly do it justice.

It hails from the temperate forests of Chile and Argentina. It’s a member of the family Proteaceae, which includes Protea, Banksia, Embothrium, Grevillea, Hakea, Dryandra and Macadamia. We are extraordinarily lucky to be able to grow this small hardy tree here in Seattle. Hummingbirds think so too. It is an absolute hummingbird magnet.

My cats on roof next to Embothrium.

This is the most exciting thing happening in the landscape right now. It will begin to drop its flowers in about 3 weeks. I’ve been encouraging garden fanatic friends to visit before it’s glory passes. It’s semi-evergreen and narrow — perfect for any garden. My tree is about 15 years old and 20 feet tall. I grew it from a 6-inch start with 4 leaves. It barely grew the first 3 years, but took off after I threatened to compost it.

Another Proteaceae we grow in the garden is the silver-leaved Grevillea victoriae. It hails from New Zealand and blooms in winter here in Seattle. It is also an excellent hummingbird attractant at a time when there is a scarcity of plants in bloom. I just planted one outside my front window so that my family and our cats can enjoy watching hummingbirds in winter. As with most of the rare and interesting plants I’ve bought, I am not afraid to buy small plants and wait several years or more for them to strut their stuff. A wide variety of unusual plants are available from mail-order nurseries like Colvos Creek. Small plants cost less, travel well, and are less susceptible to stress and shock than larger specimens.

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No Responses to “Chilean Firebush:
Zone 8 Hummingbird Magnet”

  1. Regina in Olympia says:

    These are stunning plants, and that is a great photo! I’m sure your garden is a hummingbird oasis.

    I just saw one of these trees in full bloom in Tacoma, a real traffic-stopper. They must be pretty hardy, this one made it through last winter with no apparent damage.

  2. Banana Joe says:

    Love the Embothrium. We grow them here on Salt Spring Island and they are in bloom at this time as well. I once gave my friend seeds for that plant many years ago. He now has a beautiful blooming specimen in his garden. Cheers, Banana Joe

  3. Eric Shalit says:

    Hi Joe:

    Nice to hear from you. This is eric from west seattle, now of Box Turtle Oasis. I’m hoping to get up your way on my bicycle this summer and see your garden. I need to get my passport renewed first.


  4. Thanks to this post, I couldn’t resist and just purchased a tree from Mike at Colvos Creek Nursery on Vashon. There is a Firebush in bloom at the country stove where his nursery is located and it was abuzz with hummingbird activity. Kept me entertained for quite a while.

  5. Eric Shalit says:

    I just got 2 plants from Colvos for friends. There are too many boring plants and trees around. I hope to see you next time I’m on vashon!