Last year I wrote about “habitat containers” to attract birds, butterflies and pollinators up close and personal to your porch or patio, but today I’d like to showcase some hummingbird-attracting plants suitable for growing in pots and containers. You’ll notice most of them have red tubular-shaped flowers, which are perfectly adapted to accommodate the long bill of a hummingbird.
Note: These plants are all annuals in New England, or perennials hardy to warmer areas that can be brought into an unheated garage or porch to overwinter in cold climates….
Right now the beardtongue (Penstemon barbatus) is in full bloom, and the hummingbird we call “Stubby” works each and every flower at least twice per day:
After this blooms, I’ll cut the beardtongue stems down to about 3″, and by then the Salvia coccinia and annual phlox (Phlox drummondii) will take over the show. Hummers will find something blooming on this container right til first frost.
Any type of salvia, especially the annual scarlet sage (Salvia coccinea) are guaranteed to attract hummers – here, “Lady in Red” scarlet sage grows in a container placed in a porchside foundation planting:
Later in the summer, sunset hyssop (Agastache rupestris) will feed ruby-throat hummingbird migrants stopping by to fuel up on their long journey down to the tropics:
One year I tried this container with coleus, red fountain grass, annual phlox and Fuschia “Gartenmeister Bonstedt“:
The hummingbirds visited the fuschia and phox, but next time I won’t cut off the coleus flowers as I did here, because hummingbirds will also drink nectar from the violet-colored coleus flowers.
Don’t forget that containers with non-flowering plants can also provide resources for hummingbirds. This moss container provides a variety of soft nesting materials, and hummers can use bits of the lichen to camouflage the outside of their nests. The pebbles in this container even supply nesting for ground-nesting pollinators, some of which may become food for hungry hummingbirds patrolling the area for insects.
At Garden in the Woods (the headquarters of New England Wild Flower Society) in Framingham, MA, these containers of native plants include the dark-foliaged coralbells (Heuchera), which has tiny white or red blooms along a tall stem which hummingbirds investigate:
Speaking of New England Wild Flower Society, this summer they held a contest for the best habitat container gardens to support pollinators, as part of their 2011 program “Native Buzz” which concentrates on native bees and other important pollinators. All the contest entries will be on exhibit at Garden in the Woods through August 31st. Worth a visit to check out the creativity of local gardeners!
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