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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Saturday - October 08, 2011

From: Toledo , OH
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Wildlife Gardens
Title: Hummingbird plants for OH
Answered by: Anne Bossart

QUESTION:

We live in Toledo, Ohio and would like to have a Hamelia patens or firebush to attract hummingbirds; we are in their migration path. Would it survive outdoors or do we need to pot and move it indoors for winter?

ANSWER:

According to our Native Plant Database Hamelia patens (Scarletbush), also known as Firebush, is native only to Florida, so there is no way it will survive outdoors in Ohio.  You can try to overwinter it indoors but its chances of survival are slim.  Tropical shrubs generally find the indoor air in the wintertime too dry.  Every time I have tried something similar I end up with spider mites by the end of January!

Seeing as you are on the hummingbird migration path, there are plants native to your area that they have been using as a food source long before humans starting hanging out red syrup filled plastic feeders for them.  If you plant these plants in your garden, they will visit you.  In general, hummingbirds prefer red colored flowers with long, tubular throats.You can begin your search for these plants by visiting our Native Plant Database and doing a Combination Search for Ohio.   Unfortunately, we cannot sort the data specifically for hummingbird plants, but if you search for red flowering shrubs and perennials (herbs) and visit the information page for each one by clicking on the link, you will find whether it is a "hummingbird plant".

Here are some recommmendations:

Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine)

Lobelia cardinalis (Cardinal flower)

Lonicera sempervirens (Coral honeysuckle)

Monarda didyma (Scarlet beebalm)

Penstemon digitalis (Mississippi penstemon)

If you have these plants in your garden, there will be a constant supply of nectar for the hummingbirds during their stay.  You will find a wealth of information on attracting hummingbirds and other widlife to your garden at The National Wildlife Federation's Garden for Wildlife Website and you will find a very interesting and informative article on designing a hummingbirds garden on the Brooklyn Botanic Garden website here.  I also highly recommend their publication "The Wildlife Gardener's Guide" which is available through Amazon.com

 

From the Image Gallery


Scarletbush
Hamelia patens

Eastern red columbine
Aquilegia canadensis

Cardinal flower
Lobelia cardinalis

Coral honeysuckle
Lonicera sempervirens

Scarlet beebalm
Monarda didyma

Mississippi penstemon
Penstemon digitalis

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