Hanging a hummingbird feeder is often enough to attract those tiny flying jewels. You can also plant their favorite flowers which have tubular blossoms making it easy for them to gather nectar with their elongated tongues. If those flowers are red, their favorite color, your garden will be hummingbird heaven. Herb lovers like myself always like to add a few herbs to any garden that we create. Here are three favorites that should be in every hummingbird garden.
Foxgloves (Digitalis spp) were once considered a medicinal herb. They were grown for their digitalis which is used in the treatment of heart disease. It’s nearly impossible to get an exact strength and dosage of digitalis from the plants, so it’s better these days to stick with laboratory produced medicinals. Foxgloves are now grown for their beautiful flowers, blooming in the late spring and early summer after the spring ephemerals have finished. They are shade lovers adding color to otherwise monochromatic areas. Foxgloves are hardy in zones 5 – 8. Hummingbirds love their stalks of tubular flowers which come in purples, whites and yellows. There are no true reds so if you are planting a garden of red flowers, try Strawberry Foxgloves (Digitalis x mertonensis). They are more of a salmon color than strawberry.
Bee Balm (Monarda spp)is a favorite of both bees and hummingbirds, not surprising because it is a native plant. It was valued by the Oswego Indians for its medicinal properties. They brewed a tea from its leaves. The early settlers drank the tea when black tea was scarce or too expensive, calling it Oswego Tea. The native plant comes in red (Monarda didyma) and my personal favorite, lavender (Monarda fistulosa). Both varieties are tough perennials hardy in zones 4 – 9. They do best in sun but can tolerate some shade. Blossom time is midsummer. For your red hummingbird garden choose the cultivar, Jacob Cline. It is the best red and more resistant to mildew than its cousins.
Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans) is a must-have in every hummingbird garden. Its spectacular red blossoms, beloved by hummingbirds, seem to burst into your garden in September as everything else is reaching the end of their blooming season. In September, hummingbirds have begun their annual migration back to their winter homes in Central America. The pineapple sage in your garden is a welcome rest stop for them on their long journey. The leaves of pineapple sage live up to their name and have a refreshing pineapple scent. They are a native of Mexico, a tender perennial in zones 7 – 10. Dying with the first frost, most of us grow them as an annual. There is another variety with yellow leaves instead of the usual green leaves. Covered with red flowers, the plants glow in the fall sunlight.
When planning your hummingbird garden, look for plants with tubular blossoms, preferably red and don’t forget to include a few herbs!
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