July 12, 2011

11 recommended summer flowers for hummingbirds


My brother's gardens are in full bloom.  Every time I visit he has added new plants - ornamentals and edibles - so it is no surprise he has plans to expand them.  One of his latest additions is Heuchera sanguinea or coral bells.  It is growing among hostas in one of his shade gardens.  I told him that H. sanguinea is one of the summer flowering plants recommended for hummingbirds, according to the list compiled by Constance Casey in essay for the July 2011 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

Image: Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris), Biltmore Estate, Asheville, NC by Dick Daniels (source)
Casey surveyed ornithologists who study hummingbirds and found that the factors to consider when selecting plants to attract hummingbirds are: (1) shape - trumpet or bell shaped plants are ideal; (2) petal form - ones that fold back and ones that are tubular deter bee landing and extraction; (3) color - shape is more important; and (4) fragrance - most birds have a poor sense of smell.

In addition to H. sanguinea, the other "summer flowers with form and food tailored for the little birds" are:

Asclepias tuberosa* (butterfly milkweed is highly rated over Buddleia)
Agastache (hummingbird mint
Campsis radicans (trumpet vine)
Fuchsia
Impatiens capensis (jewelweed)
Lobelia cardinalis (cardinal flower)
Lonicera sempervirens (honeysuckle)
Monardia didyma (bergamot or bee balm)
Penstemon (P. parryi and P. barbatus)
Salvia (sages such as S. elegans, S. guarantica, S. clevelandii are highly rated)

Image: Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus) caterpillar on A. tuberosa by Derek Ramsey (source)

* A. tuberosa is also preferred by butterfliesIt is a larval host plant for Grey Hairstreak, Monarch, Queen and is threatened and endangered in several Northeastern states.

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