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Plant preferences

July 11 2017 at 2:22 PM

Nathan  (Login nmotz06)
Hummingbird lover 2013

I see threads on here from time to time in which people try to assign ratings to their plants based on the hummingbirds' preference for them. Here's what I've got for my yard in west central Louisiana so far. Keep in mind I've only been keeping track of this for 3 weeks or so!

1. Shrimp plant (J. brandegeeana) - of course it helps that this plant is going nuts right now. By the way, if you don't already, I highly recommend buying plants from the nursery that are NOT currently in bloom. What I've found is that the stress that occurs during transplant usually brings blooming to a halt whereas if the plant is not blooming during transplant it will likely bloom beautifully in a couple weeks time. That's exactly what I did with my Shrimp plant and the birds adore it.

2. Uruguayan King's Crown (Dicliptera suberecta) - barely blooming for the time being but it's still the second most visited plant. I've got mine in a clay pot. My only complaint is that it's pretty finicky here in Louisiana. It craves sun but wilts terribly in the heat, and the leaves turn yellow or have burnt tips if I water too often. I've had to move it around a bit to find the right mix of sun and shade.

3. Salvia 'Heatwave Blaze' - this plant is really easy to find right now as many big box stores (Lowe's, Home Depot, etc) sell it. If you wait a few weeks, they'll put whatever doesn't sell on the sale rack for like $2 for a quart sized pot. My birds really like the magenta blooms.

4. Fire Bush (H. Patens) - I've never had great luck with this plant for some reason but decided to get one going and I'm glad I did. Mine's still fairly small but the birds visit it everyday.

5. Salvia 'Hot Lips' - Mine had a bout with aphids recently but once it started blooming again the birds started visiting, but only sporadically.

6. Flame Acanthus (A. quadrifidus var wrightii) - I only have 1 in bloom right now and it gets visited everyday, but it's never the first plant chosen. Honestly, this is the first garden I've ever had in which the birds didn't prioritize this plant above all the others.

7. Turk's Cap (M. Drummondi) - This one has come on slowly and has only bloomed on and off. When it is in bloom it is regularly visited but other plants are simply offering more blooms so this guy is not prioritized so much yet.

8. M. Cordifolia - just started blooming last week and I finally saw a bird use it this morning

9. Mexican Honeysuckle (J. spicigera) - blooms really well here and absolutely adores the blazing hot sun. Grows really well in a large pot with cactus potting soil to increase drainage. The birds pass it up everytime though. It is in between blooming phases right now but is about to really put on a show and I'm hoping the birds will test this one out more often.

10. Cuphea 'David Verity' - not blooming well enough yet to really be that enticing. Aphids! Tons of new growth filling in towards the base of the plant though and in a month or two I think this one will be moving higher up the list.

Nathan Motz
Deridder, Louisiana

 
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Ward Dasey
(Login WardDas)
Hummingbird Moderator 2005

Re: Plant preferences

July 11 2017, 3:03 PM 

What is the old advertising phrase - your results may vary? It will be interesting to see if your do over time. Having a whole new garden visited by new species must be fun for you.

One thing I have noticed over the years is preferences not only change with the season but they markedly change depending on the time of day.

In early morning it is Amistad. Towards evening the top plant becomes Cuphea David Verity. The fact that both are the most abundant hummingbird plants in the home garden probably play into their selection but by evening I suspect many other favorite plants have had their nectar exhausted.

In late April and May it is Coral Honeysuckle and all the various cultivars of Salvia greggii and microphylla.

Now that they have come into bloom Nicotiana mutabilis is very popular and so are the Salvia guaranitica types.

The western Agastaches are just getting rolling and they get pounded pretty hard in late summer in the park gardens. However because of regular rains and somewhat moderate temperatures they are up against greggii and microphylla that are still blooming quite heavily and they get the bulk of attention. In a drought year that changes.

Normally by late July Cardinal Climber would come into bloom but it wasn't planted this year, plus Cypress Vine has been pulled out as much as possible - too weedy. Both are highly favored here. Once the Mina lobata starts blooming it will receive regular use.

Other stuff like hybrid Coral Bean and Canna are being used but it appears the recently fledge Ruby-throated are having some trouble figuring out how to feed on them.

What isn't being used much this summer so far is Salvia coccinea. Most years this is pretty popular, at least in the morning before the flower shrivel.

 
 
Indy Steve
(Login SteveWnindy)
Hummingbird lover 2007

Re: Plant preferences

July 11 2017, 6:42 PM 

First of all let me say that every plant that I have in bloom I have seen hummers use. As for plant favorites another thought comes to mind. I read somewhere that depending on time of day usually early a hummer seems to know if a plants nectar is ready and if not will not take it but will remember to come back later to retrieve it. Is that true, I dont know but it is a fun thought to throw around in your head. I would like to think its true.
Steve
Martinsville In.
Zone 6

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Nathan
(Login nmotz06)
Hummingbird lover 2013

Re: Plant preferences

July 11 2017, 6:53 PM 

Ward,

Yeah it's good to be back in the land of the Rubies! I lived in Austin, TX a long time ago and would regularly see Ruby-throated hummingbirds during migration. We normally had Black-chinneds during the breeding season.

Every population of birds is different and of course we're all looking for the best-of-the-best species of plants to attract them. I think the fact that their feeding habits change with the time of day and the seasons is really interesting. I do notice that my birds almost never visit the flowers in the evening but prefer them over the feeders in the early morning hours. In between they go back and forth between feeders and flowers. They're a smart bunch, knowing when to exploit the plants for nectar.
Nathan Motz
Deridder, Louisiana

 
 

Nathan
(Login nmotz06)
Hummingbird lover 2013

Re: Plant preferences

July 11 2017, 6:59 PM 

Steve,

I know it's strange, but when I was in California, my population of birds out there was pretty picky. They wouldn't just feed from any old plant. They turned their noses up at Red Hot Poker, Gartenmeister Fuchsia, Lions Ears, Agastache Rupestris, and even my Chuparosa wasn't all that enticing to them.

They loved my Zauschnerias and Salvia Hot Lips, Flame Acanthus, and Red Yucca. They also liked Lucifer Crocosmia and Salvia Guaranitica, but not Salvia Elegans (Pineapple Sage). Cardinal Flower was also hugely successful. I've always noted that certain populations of hummingbirds really do seem to favor some plants over others despite that plants reputation elsewhere. Very interesting to me, and why I like trying every type of plant I can get to grow in my yard!
Nathan Motz
Deridder, Louisiana

 
 
Ward Dasey
(Login WardDas)
Hummingbird Moderator 2005

Re: Plant preferences

July 12 2017, 9:40 AM 

I have wondered how long on average it takes a newly fledged hummingbird to figure out what they should be feeding on and when. And just because some of their choices seem dumb doesn't mean they are dumb, that like beauty may be in the eye of the beholder.

I should have mentioned that Nicotiana mutabilis is very much an evening plant, one of the best for that time of day. One of the plants grown from seed this spring is about 6 feet tall and wide and something young birds understand right away. Have you considered Tree Tobacco? Nan says it is great in her yard.

 
 

Nathan
(Login nmotz06)
Hummingbird lover 2013

Re: Plant preferences

July 12 2017, 10:27 AM 

Yeah, N. Mutabilis is commonly called "Four O'Clocks" right? My grandma used to have a large patch of that in her backyard that would attract hummingbirds and spinx moths in the evening.

You know I should have remembered Nicotiana Glauca, but for some reason I thought it might not do so well in a wet climate. But if it works for Nancy then I'm sure it'll work for me. I really need some trees too. My neighborhood is only about 10 years old and most of the trees were cut away. I'm lucky to have a small patch of trees in the yard adjacent to mine, but no trees of my own. My father-in-law is going to buy us a tree at some point, and I'll probably add another 1-2 shortly thereafter. I do have a Red Buckeye but it's very young and won't be a "tree" for a long time.
Nathan Motz
Deridder, Louisiana

 
 
Ward Dasey
(Login WardDas)
Hummingbird Moderator 2005

Re: Plant preferences

July 12 2017, 11:26 AM 

Actually, Nicotiana mutabilis is not Four O'clock. Watch out for those because the volunteer like crazy. Not that the various tobaccos don't, but for me Four O'clock did nothing nectar use wise and took a number of years to remove completely.

 
 
Nancy Newfield
(Login humband1)
Hummingbird Member 2005

Re: Plant preferences

July 12 2017, 1:38 PM 

Nathan, 4 o'clock is Mirabilis jalapa. It has a lovely fragrance and hummers do use it, but because the flowers only start opening in late afternoon it takes up valuable garden space that is not providing nectar all day long. It is also invasive and has a huge root that is difficult to dig up. I do not grow it anymore.

I love Tree Tobacco Nicotiana glauca but do not currently have any. It only lives 3 to 5 years in our climate and soil. Nevertheless, this reminds me that someone was starting some seeds for me and I need to check on the progress. Recently, I noticed that a seedling has come up in the stucco on the front porch. It cannot be allowed to remain there for any length of time, but I will wait until it flowers before pulling it out.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Nancy L Newfield
Casa Colibrí
Metairie, LA USA
nancy@casacolibri.net
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This message has been edited by humband1 on Jul 12, 2017 2:45 PM


 
 
Joni
(Login Yodlei44)
Hummingbirder 2008

Re: Plant preferences

July 12 2017, 3:53 PM 

I think we have all found there are many differences in what each person's Hummers choose to eat from at any given point. Of your top ten, 'Hot Lips', the Heatwaves & Cuphea 'David Verity' are used quite often in my yard. I've had all the other plants you list except Manietta cordifolia & never saw any use so they were weeded out except for Justicia spicigera which I like for the color alone whether they use it or not. I've never saw use from Red Hot Poker yet but is far from the patio. Gartenmeister Fuchsia was touted by many to be a great Hummer plant but never saw use of that either but if I see it real cheap, I do buy it ocassionally. Gave up on Lions Ears (no use after a couple of years of trying), Agastache Rupestris (gets a ton of use in my yard) & never had Chuparosa.

I've never noticed a difference between am & pm use (I see both) but I do know rain has a lot to do with using feeders over flowers.

Joni
Elwood, IL
Zone 5b
[linked image]

 
 

Nathan
(Login nmotz06)
Hummingbird lover 2013

Re: Plant preferences

July 12 2017, 11:07 PM 

That is true about Four O'Clocks taking up too much space considering they don't bloom until evening. I'd much rather have a large Salvia or two instead. I've never been able to grow Nicotiana Glauca. It also seems you can only find seeds online? Someday I'll try that one for sure though.

I agree with Joni that J. Spicigera is nice for its colors alone. There certainly are some hummingbird flowers that are nice enough to have around even if the birds don't prioritize them. I really like the look of my Manettia too.

I do enjoy hearing which plants everyone else's birds like the most to see how it compares to what I grow. I also try to make at least a few new additions for every new garden I have. I just can't wait for this one to mature because I really think it's going to look nice once the plants get a little bigger.
Nathan Motz
Deridder, Louisiana

 
 

Kathi and Michael Rock
(Login kathirock)
Hummingbird Member 2006

Re: Plant preferences

July 13 2017, 1:03 AM 

Nathan,

Nice list of plants you are growing. We grow many of these currently and have tried them all. Of course, many do not work out so well in an Upper Midwest garden where the growing season is extremely short and the summers cool.

Currently, the only plant in our garden being visited by the few hummingbirds we have is Monarda 'Jacob Kline', but then it's only infrequently and for a brief moment. They are almost exclusively using feeders and ignoring the garden, which is a bit depressing given the time and money that has gone into creating it.

Here in Wisconsin, we have to find flowers that bloom profusely during the fall migration since that's when we see the most hummingbirds. It's all about tender, late blooming salvias and Nicotiana then and Cannas are also visited.

In the majority of hummingbird gardens, plants such as Cuphea 'David Verity' and Salvia guaranitica are everblooming and the garden workhorses with top tier perennials such as Lonicera sempervirens, nepeta, monarda, silene regia and a few others coming in and out of bloom and favor. The spring garden will certainly always look different and offer different flowers than the fall garden.

I agree with Nancy, Four O'Clocks are just really not worth it. We've gotten them to bloom here (and that is always the key question for the Upper Midwest---will it bloom before October?), but the Japanese Beetles love them and we've seen only occasional use. It is much more valuable to have a plant that is in bloom and ready for a hummingbird visitor all day long. However, many people love this old-fashioned favorite.
Michael and Kathi Rock
Madison, WI
Zone 5

[linked image]

 
 

Nathan
(Login nmotz06)
Hummingbird lover 2013

Re: Plant preferences

July 13 2017, 10:47 AM 

Kathi, thanks for the perspective. It seems the consensus amongst most knowledgeable hummingbird gardeners is to choose plants that are relatively straightforward to culture. This can mean avoiding invasive species even though they might attract hummingbirds or be very appealing to the human eye or both.

It might also mean avoiding that pretty tropical plant that just won't do well in a local climate or in a certain type of soil. That can be really hard as I'm sure you are well aware. When I was in Cali I had terrible, nutrient-deficient clay in my entire backyard. It was hard as a rock and allowed no drainage. Amending it was basically useless and replacing it entirely with potting soil basically just formed a natural bowl that had the same dampening effect on root systems. I lost so many plants to poor drainage, but I think I may have lost some needlessly because I never should have purchased them in the first place. I finally had to accept that only the hardiest of (mostly native) plants would endure such conditions. I stopped buying the stuff I really wanted and just bought what worked and had more success although even that was not without much effort on my part. Aren't gardens just wonderful sometimes? wink.gif

That experience makes me appreciate much more what I have now. The soil here is still pretty "heavy" but it can be modified easier and I have a wonderful raised bed that allows for much better drainage for all my plants that can't deal with wet feet. And I have fairly decent conditions for wetland plants like Jewelweed and Cardinal Flower.


Nathan Motz
Deridder, Louisiana

 
 

Kathi and Michael Rock
(Login kathirock)
Hummingbird Member 2006

Re: Plant preferences

July 13 2017, 4:34 PM 

Nathan,

We can relate to the heavy, clay soil that you used to have. Parts of our garden are like that and it's useless to try and amend it, which is why we plant so much in containers. You are lucky to now be able to grow valuable wetland plants such as Cardinal Flower and Jewelweed---those are two of our best plants actually (in addition to Monarda 'Jacob Kine'). We have been able to successfully grow every plant on your list but a few were just not worth the effort in our climate and zone---Aniscanthus and Turk's Cap were two. However, Manettia cordifolia in pots is great for us and is well used by hummer. We also have Mexican Honeysuckle blooming in pot this season. Dicliptera grew like a weed and bloomed in a pot, but only bloomed for a few weeks and then was a green plant (as was Aniscanthus). Every hummingbird garden is so different.
Michael and Kathi Rock
Madison, WI
Zone 5

[linked image]

 
 
Dylan
(Login utahxericman)
Hummingbird Lover 2016

Re: Plant preferences

July 13 2017, 6:04 PM 

Natahan,
Great list of plants I have only tried a few of them on your list. New to me this year was David Verity I have heard nothing but wonderful things about this plant. I have three of them and so far have seen ZERO interest in them from my Black Chinned Hummers, hopefully when the Rufous show up it will be different.

I must say however, that I have seen almost no interest in any of my hummingbird tip tier plants this year, I hear and feel Michael's and Kathi's pain.

I thought I knew what plants my hummers liked based off of previous years use but this year they have thrown me way off. They have fed almost exclusively off my feeders. This year I have more females visiting than ever before and that maybe part of why I am seeing what I am seeing. My Black Chinned male that used my yard as his territory seems to have moved elsewhere or didn't survive as he always hung around and fed off my plants and feeders. The males I see now come in for a quick drink and they are off. Out of all my flowering plants I have seen the most use on Orange Yucca Do (Salvia) and am finally starting to see use on my Zauschernia garettii(Orange Carpet). This plant has been a favorite of theirs in the past.

Usually this time of year the Rufous hummers show up and so far nothing...maybe they will be two weeks behind like the Black Chinned were????


 
 
Dan
(Login hawkeye_wx)
Hummingbird lover 2009

Re: Plant preferences

July 13 2017, 6:09 PM 

In June, my hummers were mostly feeder birds. Now, only one of them, an adult male, uses a feeder.
East-central Iowa
Zone 5a

 
 

Nathan
(Login nmotz06)
Hummingbird lover 2013

~

July 14 2017, 10:25 AM 

Dylan, it is frustrating when the birds don't use the plants we labor over. It was like that in California lot for me, also with Black-chinneds. The adults, especially the males wouldn't touch the flowers unless the feeders were too hotly contested. Then they'd fly over, pick at a few Salvias and just head back to the feeder. The juveniles were much more curious and willing to try every flower.

Also Dan is right about the changes that happen to hummingbird feeding behavior over the course of the breeding season. So much about how they feed and why they use the nectar sources that they do at a given time of year is unknown. With hummingbirds there is so much conjecture involved because we just don't know all the reasons why. But that kinda makes it fun too because you can try out all kinds of flowers and see what they like, what grows well, what doesn't, etc.

Just this morning I saw some hatch-year birds combing through my flowers and completely ignoring the feeders. The sun came up a bit more and they started hitting the feeders. I would still agree with Nancy and many others that it is proper hummingbird landscaping that turns a yard into a critical feeding source for hummingbirds, not feeder placement. Feeders are still a supplemental asset, albeit an important one.
Nathan Motz
Deridder, Louisiana

 
 
Dan
(Login hawkeye_wx)
Hummingbird lover 2009

Re: Plant preferences

July 14 2017, 10:46 AM 

Monarda 'Jacob Cline' is currently a hummer favorite, as it always is. The scarlet spires next to it gets good action as well. Also, the patio pots always get worked over once action picks up as it has the last few days. These include black & blue, amistad, wendy's wish, heatwave blaze, and vermillionaire.
East-central Iowa
Zone 5a

 
 
Brett (KY)
(Login afvn71)
Hummingbird Lover 2014

Re: Plant preferences

July 14 2017, 1:09 PM 

I have an ongoing experiment in which I position a variety of plants near a popular feeder to see if any of them get a lot of attention from feeder patrons. This is, admittedly, not at all scientific. The hands down winner is Salvia rubescens subsp. dolichothrix. Hummers consistently bypass many other salvias and agastaches in its favor. The thing this plant really needs is a nick name. I can't pronounce or remember the official name. I vote for "Kathy's Salvia" since Kathy Rock was the first one I saw mention it on the forum. Or, "Kermit's Salvia" since it came from FBTS. Other ideas are welcome. Brett

 
 

Kathi and Michael Rock
(Login kathirock)
Hummingbird Member 2006

Re: Plant preferences

July 14 2017, 1:33 PM 

Brett,

What a great honor and but I must thank Kermit for sending it to us as a gift plant and Gary from Ohio (who only posts to the Forum infrequently and grew it that first year too) for this amazing plant. Ours is not blooming yet, and maybe that is the problem. Once it is blooming, I agree, the hummers ignore almost everything else. It is a must have hummingbird plant for the Northern garden (and I say this because Nancy Newfield said she tried it and it didn't work out in her Louisiana garden, so maybe it's not good in the south.)
Michael and Kathi Rock
Madison, WI
Zone 5

[linked image]

 
 
 
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