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Gardening Q&A: What plants, shrubs could attract hummingbirds?

Posted: July 16, 2017 - 12:23am
Consider yourself lucky if you get to see the flash of red from an adult male ruby-throated hummingbird.
Consider yourself lucky if you get to see the flash of red from an adult male ruby-throated hummingbird.

What are some shrubs and flowers to attract hummingbirds?

A: Hummingbirds are especially attracted to red and tubular flowers. They will feed at flowers of all colors, but red seems to get their attention first, so include red ones in your garden. Aim to have blooms over a long period. The more hummer favorites you have, the better your chances of attracting them.

Every hummingbird garden should include one or more salvias. Texas sage (sage is another name for salvia), also known as tropical sage (Salvia coccinea), is an annual that blooms all summer. The most popular variety is Lady in Red. Anise-scented salvia (Salvia guaranitica) is a perennial, but unlike most perennials, blooms all summer. Although its flowers are a deep blue, hummingbirds adore it. It is one of the best flowers for a hummingbird garden. Pineapple sage (Salvia rutilans) blooms in fall and is valuable for late migrating hummers. A few other good salvias are autumn sage (Salvia greggii), Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha) and small-leaved sage (Salvia microphylla).

Other hummingbird favorites include firecracker vine (Manettia cordifolia), coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens), monarda, red-hot poker, Eastern columbine, cardinal flower, impatiens, red buckeye (Aesculus pavia), nicotiana, scarlet hibiscus (Hibiscus coccineus), plumleaf azalea (Rhododendron prunifolium) and other native azaleas, garden phlox (Phlox paniculata), abelia, single tuberose, canna, pickerelweed (for ponds and wet areas), hosta, shrub althea (single, non-seeding ones such as Minerva, Helena and Aphrodite), copper iris (Iris fulva), cigar plant (Cuphea ignea) and candy corn plant/giant Mexican cigar plant (Cuphea micropetala).

Bidwill's coral bean (Erythrina x bidwillii) and flame anisacanthus (Anisacanthus wrightii) are two hummingbird magnets that are only available from specialty nurseries or catalogs. Flame anisacanthus is a Southwest native with orange flowers. It can look a little rangy at times. Bidwill's coral bean dies to the ground in winter but comes back to form a large shrub with bright red flowers. Our native spotted jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) is an ideal hummingbird plant. It thrives in moist areas but is rarely available for sale. Other favorites that may be harder to find from regular commercial sources are red calamint (Clinopodium coccineum), spigelia, manfreda, fire pink (Silene virginica) and Turk's cap mallow (Malvaviscus arboreus).

Although they are not tubular, Mexican sunflower/tithonia and single varieties of red zinnia are frequented by hummers. Their flowers may act as billboards to lure hummers to other flowers or to your feeder. Hummingbirds love trumpet creeper (Campsis radicans). However, it sends up dozens of suckers that can cause havoc. If you plant it, put it where these can be kept under control such as on a fence bordering a lawn or pasture or at the edge of the woods where it can climb up a pine tree and its flowers can act like lighthouse beacons for hummers. Another vine that attracts hummers is cypress vine (Ipomoea quamoclit). It will take over and also invade your neighbors' yards. Do not plant it. You may also want to consider some evergreen trees and shrubs to provide cover and protection. Do not use pesticides on hummingbird plants as hummers eat small insects, and the chemicals can also sicken or kill the birds.

Q: Is it safe to use rusted canned foods?

A: Heavily rusted cans should be discarded because they may have tiny holes in them that allow bacteria to enter. Surface rust can be removed by rubbing or cleaning is not serious. If you open the can and there is rust inside, do not eat the food.

Q: What are some good tomato varieties to plant for a late crop?

A: Almost any variety will do. Varieties with disease resistance are a good idea if you have had problems in the past. Some people choose varieties that are good for storing through the winter such as Longkeeper or one of the plum tomatoes such as Roma or Viva Italia.

Q: Can hostas be grown in pots?

A: Definitely. Depending on the size of your hosta and the size of your container, hostas can be grown as a single subject in a pot or part of a combination container with perhaps an upright plant and a trailing plant.

Container culture is a good option for the miniature hostas that may be overwhelmed by other plants or weeds in a garden. Some of these miniatures may have leaves smaller than a fingernail. The varieties with very large leaves such as Sum and Substance are probably better planted in the ground unless you have large enough containers that will not look overwhelmed by the huge leaves. These large varieties will also require much more attention to watering as they will dry out more quickly than smaller varieties.

Growing in pots is a good option if you have a slug or snail problem. Snails and slugs are more easily controlled in pots than in the open garden. Also, if deer are turning your hosta bed into a salad bar, raising some potted hostas on a deck or porch where deer are less likely to venture may be a way for you to enjoy hostas.

As with all container plantings, the plants will need more frequent watering than those planted in the ground.

Q: What is the orange daylily I see growing wild along roadsides? It blooms in May and June.

A: You are probably seeing the tawny daylily. Some people mistakenly refer to it as a native wildflower. It is not, but it is easy to think so by seeing how it thrives without any apparent human intervention or cultivation.

The variety of tawny daylily that you see forming patches along roadsides, in ditches and at abandoned home sites does not have the ability to form seeds. It overcomes this by being a vigorous spreader with a hearty constitution. Every patch of these tawny daylilies you see blooming was originally planted by someone either for beauty or perhaps to control erosion on an embankment. Because it spreads readily, it is often shared as a pass-along plant from person to person. Although common in the landscape, it is not commonly sold.

Because of its aggressive spreading habit, some people consider it an invasive species. If you are thinking of planting tawny daylily where it will overwhelm other plants or where you will not be monitoring its growth, choose another daylily or another flower. Other daylilies are more refined in color and form. The color of the tawny daylily is muddied and dull compared to the pure yellows, vibrant scarlets and subtle peachy pinks of newer varieties. And the ruffled, reflexed petals and enormous blooms of modern daylilies may make the old tawny look scrawny. Or you may want to plant the tawny where it cannot spread beyond its boundaries such as islands in a parking lot or in sidewalk planting strips.

 

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