Stillwater News Press


June 7, 2014

What’s Blooming 06-08-14

Hummingbirds look for three species

Hummingbirds overwinter in the tropics and then migrate north each spring. Their migration pattern follows the bloom cycles of three plant species that are a main food source for them along the way.

The tree Red Buckeye, Aesculus pavia is a hummingbird magnet. In spring it is covered with bright red tubular flowers that hummingbirds can’t resist. The Red Buckeye is a great addition to any landscape especially if you are trying to attract hummingbirds.

Another plant linked to hummingbird migration is Clove Currant, Ribes odoratum. I remember this plant from my childhood. My grandma had one in her garden and when it bloomed it smelled just like the spice, cloves.

Columbine, Aquilegia canadensis is probably the most commonly grown plant known to migrating hummingbirds. The columbine comes in many colors and sizes, and its tubular flower really attracts the hummingbirds.

Planting a garden with an abundance of early-spring blooms is essential to attracting hummingbirds to settle in your landscape.

Two of the early-blooming vines that offer an abundance of tubular flowers are the Crossvine, Bignonia capreolata and Coral Honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens.

Crossvine, Bignonia capreolata, “Tangerine Beauty” is one of the plants chosen for the Oklahoma Proven plant program. Crossvine is often confused with Trumpet Creeper, Campsis radicans. Trumpet Creeper is a native vine with orange tubular flowers and it blooms in the summer. You will often see Trumpet Creeper growing along the banks and in trees.

Coral Honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens is the native honeysuckle species. Lonicera japonica is the introduced species of honeysuckle and is very invasive. And, according to the USDA Plant Database, it is now listed as a noxious weed in most states and even prohibited in Connecticut and New Hampshire. There are slight variations between these two vines and it’s believed that the leave size, thickness and stomata are larger on the Lonicera japonica which enables this vine to photosynthesize and grow faster than the native species.

Catmint or Nepeta x faassenii, ‘Walker’s Low’ is another Oklahoma Proven plant and is quick to grow and blossom in the spring, making it an excellent perennial for hummingbirds. And as soon as the weather allows, plant your annuals.

This is a great way to introduce quick pops of color and nectar-rich blossoms. Petunias and Shrimp plant, Justicia brandegeeana are excellent annuals for attracting and keeping hummingbirds in the garden.

I find it very entertaining to sit watch the hummingbirds feed. They are so graceful, extremely fast and very curious. So if you don’t have a place to plant flowers to encourage hummingbirds to your yard, just mix up one part white sugar to four parts boiled water, when cooled, place in a hummingbird feeder.

Laura Payne is the volunteer and events coordinator at The Botanic Garden at Oklahoma State University and a field producer for the television program “Oklahoma Gardening.”

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