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Unusual Flowers to Attract Hummingbirds

Unusual Flowers to Attract Hummingbirds

Today I want to share “Hummer” plants with hot colors for summer that are unique.  I will also list a few very colorful plants that  feed the overwintering hummingbirds in winter.

imagesHardy Fuchsia may be considered common for feeding hummingbirds 8 months out of the year.  Here are 3 varieties that are available locally (Portland, Oregon) that are a little different.  This type of fuchsia is a perennial and not anything like the fuchsia baskets that live in shady patios.  These fuchsias need sun and will come back year after year with simple care.

‘Golden Gate’ Hardy Fuchsia has hot gold leaves and shocking red pink flowers.  It is much smaller than the typically ‘Aurea’ and is an upright shrub instead of a wide vase shape.  It will fit into a smaller garden much better than ‘Aurea’ which can grow 4′ across easily.  We have a local source, a wholesale grower, Jockey Hill, who sells retail at Scappoose Saturday market.

Fuchsia Magellnica ‘Isis’ – this is great against a wall and while the leaf and flower are tiny, it can become a tall column (8′ – 10′) or it can be cut back hard every year and kept in the 4’ range.  Hundreds of flowers will interest many varieties of the larger bees as well as hummingbirds.

President’  Hardy Fuchsia.  It has a dark maroon leaf which is very unusual. This can be hard to find.  We have a local wholesale grower, Jockey Hill, who sells retail at Scappoose Saturday market.  It grows into a wider than tall shrub with purple and red flowers.

agastache-kudos-mandarin Terra Nova photoAgastache, also called Hummingbird Mint, are hot plants for long flowering summer color and for hummingbirds.  My old favorite variety is called ‘Apricot Sunrise’ and is an Agastache aurantica.  There are many new varieties of Agastache that I am very excited about.  ‘Summer Fiesta’,  ‘Summer Sunset’, ‘Kudos Manderin’, and ‘Kudos Coral’ are newer varieties that are more compact.  All of these Agastache are fragrant and smell strongly like mint or apple mint depending on the variety.

If you provide good drainage (think about planting on a low mound of soil), and don’t over water or fertilize …… it can live for years.  I often mulch around these plants with a cup of tiny crushed rock or pumice and I also tend to plant Hummingbird Mint in a raised planting.  Even 4” above the rest of the soil will improve drainage.

Agastache ‘Summer Glow’  did very well in a client’s gardenagastache-kudos-coral until a local rabbit ate them to the ground one too many times.  I love this exact variety, ‘Summer Glow’, because even after the glowing creamy yellow flowers are gone, the mulberry calyeces (under each tubular flower) stay on the plant until frost.  This color is soft but truly does glow especially in the evening.  This variety, like the hummingbird magnets above, results in 3 months of color in the garden.  It’s not red so isn’t as attractive to Hummers.

Here are three great hummingbird attractors for winter:

191 spring promise camellia

Camellia Sasanqua ‘Springs Promise’




Hybrid ‘Springs Promise’ is a new vivid rose red winter flowering Chinese Camellia.



Correa 'Dusky Rose'

Correa ‘Dusky Rose’




Correa ‘Dusky Rose’ Australian Fuchsia is available locally at Cistus Nursery on Sauvie Island.




Arhtu Meziezies Mahonia

‘Arthur Menzies’ Mahonia – photo from Forest Farm.

Mahonia x media ‘Arthur Menzies’   Think small tree so 15’ by 8’ wide.  The fragrance alone is amazing.  It is a coarse but attractive blue green leaf, the flower is a soft but strong yellow and is beloved by the Anna Hummingbirds.  At times you can find it at Portland Nursery, Cistus Design Nursery or Xera Plants, Inc.

You can also order a small plant from Forest Farms




For typical plants that attract hummingbirds go to my video for



Hummingbirds in Your Winter Garden

During our recent cold spell I was reminded that our overwintering hummingbirds need support to survive.  It’s so much fun to see them feeding on the bright red flowers of Camellia Sasanqua ‘Yultide’.  I got an e-mail and photo from my client Lois showing me the numerous flowers and telling me how happy her hummingbirds were.

Hummingbird feeder in winter

Hummingbird feeder in winter

My client, Diane Nowicki, has had a hummingbird nest in her front yard, conveniently located a mere foot away from large windows.  The nest is in her native Madrone tree, a tree her first landscape designer campaigned for over 20 years ago.  I was thrilled to see this Madrone doing so well in an east exposure. Pacific Northwest Madrone, Arbutus Menziesii is one of my favorite trees.

Arbutus menziesii
Photo credit Watershed Nursery

It was very interesting to watch the daily doings of the mama hummer and her babies.  Diane and her husband Ed also got to watch the mama hummer spread her wings and clamp them down over the nest during a wind storm.  The nest was so small; it was bouncing up and down in the wind. The young hummers would have been bounced right out of the nest.

If you feed hummingbirds with sugar water, you have an obligation to continue in freezing weather as the birds become dependent on you.  They do eat insects under the bark and wherever they can find them but to keep the sugar water viable, consider using Christmas lights to warm the liquid.  Also, the chemical hand warmers can be tied to the tube and it is said this will keep the liquid from freezing for up to 7 hours.  This photo shows a home owner supplied pie tin and everything else was purchased at Backyard Bird Shop.

Hot Summer Color Flowering Plants That Last

Carol with coneflower

Carol Lindsay of Landscape Design in a Day standing in a parking strip of Cutleaf Coneflower

Here are three great plants for summer color in the Northwest.  These vibrant flowering plants are very easy to care for and come back each year as long as they have good drainage.  These won’t survive our Northwest winters planted in a low place or puddle.  If the clay is hard and dry as pottery in the summer we do have plants that will live in these conditions, but very few and not these.

Hardy Fuchsia
Flowers all summer and into late fall. I had mine inside a courtyard and used flowers for my Thanksgiving table every year. Hummingbirds love this plant.  It’s old fashioned but my 30 something clients love it too.

Fuchsia 'Chickadee'

Photo of Fuchsia magellanica ‘Chickadee’ courtesy of Jockey Hill Nursery

There is quite a variety of shrub sizes, foliage colors, and variable sizes of flowers.  Look for hot pinks, hot reds, deep purples, orchid and pinks.  Some sun is needed to get  flowers.  All day dappled sun coming through tree leaves is perfect!  Morning sun and afternoon shade also works well. Deep shade works for annual Fuchsia baskets – don’t be confused.  The plants I’m talking about are shrubs Fuchsia magellanica  that come back every year and will not flower with too little sun.

Herbstonne rudbeckia

Our client Mary loves her cutleaf coneflower!

Rudebeckia Lacinata ‘Autumn Sun
Common Name: Cutleaf coneflower
Syn: Herbstonne

Here’s an easy plant on the other end of the spectrum in every way. Oh how to tell you??? Initially I used this plant to fill in planting areas while my clients wait for their new slower long term plants to grow in.  After 3 years when it was time to remove the 5′ to 6′ tall Rudebeckia, my clients tended to say……….”noooooo,  I love it so, it just means summer to me!”

So we found ways to keep the plant in the garden and the client happy.  Rudebeckia Herbstonne  grows to 6′ tall and softens the view of a fence beautifully, it loves hot sun, but will cope with perhaps as little as 4 hours of sun.  The flowers are drop dead georgeus.  The plant is low water needs and you won’t need to stake it!  It stands on it’s own!

Kims knee high coneflower

Photo courtesy of Monrovia

Color! Color! Color! is what Echinacea purpurea ‘Kim’s Knee High’ and E. p. ‘Kims Knee High Red’ are all about.  They start flowering in June and keep going through August.  In September, coneflowers turn cool burnt colors and if you are willing to leave the flower heads overwinter … the chickadees will make a nice meal of the seeds in late winter.

This plant is easy once you get the soil prepped for it.  The only way to lose it is have slugs eat it all the first year while it’s just shooting up out of the ground in spring. Many varieties of coneflower get too tall and floppy.  The Knee High varieties do not flop and is one of my personal favorites!

Satisfy Summer Color Cravings with Easy Care Crocosmia

Croscosmia Explosion flowers

A parking strip garden in SE Portland, OR across from Laurelhurst Park. The gardener used to work for a huge wholesale company that sold unusual bulbs.

Crocosmia flowers mean summer has arrived!

Having grown up in Oregon I can’t really trust summer is here until I see those intense red, orange or yellow trumpets!

In Portland,  they typically start to flower in late June into early July. The variety Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ is the local favorite because of the intense crimson hummingbird attracting flower. Plus it’s one tough plant that comes back even in adverse situations.

The Good News
Crocosmia are perfect for color cravers. The long, strappy stems are great in a vase and beloved by hummingbirds. They are tough and clients think they are extremely low maintenance.

So What’s Not to Love?
Crocosmia as a group can be aggressive spreaders – especially for small urban gardens. Lucifer reaches 36″-42” tall and has a tendency to flop halfway through summer. The corms need to be divided frequently to keep these issues in line. To me, that is not low maintenance.  I have better, findable replacements to add to your summer garden before you give Lucifer the “Get thee behind me”! hiss.

Croscosmia Explosion flowers

This crocosmia mimics the color of a juicy tangerine.

Other Crocosmia Options
Better varieties are 10 to 15 inches shorter than Lucifer, don’t crowd out their own flowers and don’t flop to the ground.  Lucifer lovers will complain that none of the other red varieties spread as fast as Lucifer . . . but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.

Joy Creek NurseryJoy Creek Nursery in Scappoose, Oregon  grows many of the good varieties of crocosmia.  I talked with Maurice Horn, Co-owner and plantsman extraordinaire and all three Crocosmia listed below are currently available:

Hellfire’ available now (6/15/14) at Joy Creek Nursery is 24″-30” and is an intense orange red.

‘Walburton Red‘ is closer to the rich red of ‘Lucifer’ but will increase very slowly compared to ‘Lucifer’. This is where I compare cheap chocolate to real chocolate, by the way.

‘Golden Fleece’ is 24″-30″, an amazing color of deep clean yellow. It starts flowering late in the summer and will carry through to fall.

Croscosmia Explosion flowers

I love to see a mix of different varieties of crocosmia flowers together.

Other good varieties that are hard to find but worthy of your garden
These corms (bulbs) don’t overcrowd and therefore continue to flower freely:

  • Bright Eyes
  • Burnt Umber
  • Little Devil
  • Little Red Head
  • Miss Scarlet
  • Walburton Yellow

Please don’t feel you have to rip out your Lucifer even though I have compared it to bad chocolate! Feel free to try a few of these other varieties and then if you are tired of giving up space to “Mr. Spread and Flop”, you won’t have any problem giving him away to a friend or containing him. Perhaps ‘Lucifer’ is a really great first crocosmia, sort of like a first love James Dean bad boy that you can’t part with.


Traveling to Hummingbird Heaven: A video at Joy Creek Nursery and more

Traveling to Hummingbird Heaven: My Trip to Joy Creek Nursery

If there is a garden visitor welcomed by virtually every gardener, it’s the hummingbird. Its brilliant colors, start-and-stop flight and light-speed lifestyle seems to appeal to everyone.

Attracting hummingbirds is one of the easiest and most satisfying way to bring wildlife into the garden. Not long ago (late fall 2012) I visited Joy Creek Nursery 18 miles north of Portland.  JC had a wonderful collection of late flowering hardy fuchsias and lots of penstammons so I knew we would see hummingbirds galore.

Here is a video and a list of plants that are guaranteed hummingbird magnets.  Best Flowers to Attract HummingbirdsCarol Lindsay on Humminbirds

Facts About Our Jewel-Toned Garden Visitors

Here are some fun facts and tips about hummers:

Don’t dye the sugar water! Everyone knows that bright red attracts hummingbirds. But, some people still dye their sugar water bright red. It’s not necessary. All that’s needed is a little flash of bright red near the feeder to bring them to the sugar water.

Don’t stop the feedings in winter. I think most people know now that if you start to feed hummingbirds for the winter, you should continue to do so until spring. Remember though, that “feeding” also involves cleaning the feeding tubes and warming them when we get our day or two of freezing weather. Hummers lower their body heat and their systems at night to conserve their food energy. But, come morning, they rev up and need to feed, so keeping a mess of Christmas lights on the feeder. Even a hand-warmer packet will work most nights—up to 7 hours, according to the Washington Department of Fisheries and Wildlife (WDFW).

Hummingbird nests are small. About the size of a golf ball, in fact.

Cats eat hummingbirds. So, try to provide the birds with flowers that are up off the ground or higher.

Toads eat hummers. Near my floating home on the Willamette River, we have a large pond that is adjacent to the parking lot. It is chock-full of toads. Many nights when I come home, the toads have staked out a particular path light, where they can sit and lazily catch plenty of insects without having to hunt. Hummingbirds have to drink a lot of water. That’s probably where the toads gets their chance to catch a hummingbird. I guess to Mr. Toad, a hummer is just a very big fly.

Hummingbirds are an easy and fun way to have moving color in the garden.

Agastache 'Summer Skies' Hummingbird Mint

While red is a sure attraction for hummingbirds, these tubular purple hyssop, also called Hummingbird Mint, are quite popular.