Top Ten Natural Nectar Plants
All the plants included in our 2022 Pollinator Plants Days are favorites, but here are 10 plants David Salman has highlighted for their beauty, value to pollinators as sources of "natural nectar" and resilient performers in our high desert gardens of northern New Mexico.
Pollinator-friendly plants are why late summer and fall gardens can be as colorful as springtime with a stunning display of flowers and seed heads. Agastache (hummingbird mint), Salvia (Sage), Zauschneria (Hummingbird Trumpet or Fire Chalice) as well as gorgeous ornamental grasses, described below, like Muhlenbergia 'Pink Flamingos' (Muhly Grass) and Sorgastrum nutans 'Thin Man' (Indian Grass) are all wonderful additions to the waterwise landscape as a source of natural nectar for pollinators and stunning colors to please gardeners. See many of these perennial plants in our test gardens!
Agastache "Ava' (Ava's Hummingbird Mint)
Agastache ‘Ava‘ is a hybrid of A. cana x A. barberi both native to the southwestern U.S and Mexico, ‘Ava’ was cutting propagated from a single seedling that appeared in one of my xeriscapes.. A tall, robust plant, ‘Ava’ inherited her height from A. barbari, a very tall species from northern Mexico. Flowers appear over a long June to September (sometimes to first hard frost) bloom period and are highly attractive to bees, hummingbirds and butterflies. Leaves have a mint scent, and may be used fresh or dry to flavor teas.48-60" tall x 24" wide and cold hardy to zone 5.
Agastache x 'Red Happiness' (Hybrid Hummingbird Mint)
A long blooming hybrid hummingbird mint was introduced by David Salman. Found as a volunteer garden seedling in his Santa Fe garden, this long-blooming perennial has exceptional garden resilience and aromatic foliage. Grows well in most any soil including compost amended clay. Sun Xeric Rabbit/Deer resistant and is a hummingbirds magnet. 28-32 in. tall x 15-18 in. wide and cold hardy to zone 5.
Helianthus maximiliana 'Santa Fe' is a select form of this stunning fall blooming native wildflower. This plant is widely grown around the older parts of Albuquerque, Santa Fe (and elsewhere in NM) where it has been a "pass around" plant between neighbors for generations. About 16 years ago, David spotted an outstanding specimen in a neighborhood he drove to work. The plant was notable for its strong, upright, non-floppy growth habit and spectacular display of large golden yellow daisy-like flowers that were stacked tightly on the bloom spikes. He got permission to take some cuttings and the cultivar 'Santa Fe' was introduced the next year to the gardening public. Many growers start this perennial from seed, but the plants can be highly variable in both habit and the density and arrangement of the flowers. Generally, it's not a very tidy grower or a profuse bloomer. But 'Santa Fe' is a star and will light up your fall garden and bring the seed-eating songbirds to its seed heads later in the fall. 6-8' tall x 4' wide and cold hardy to zone 4.
Lavandula angustifolia 'Wee One'' is one of David's best introductions. This lavender is a special dwarf English Lavender that blooms with a wonderful display of short blue flower spikes only 10" tall. It is the most compact Lavender cultivar in cultivation.8-10" tall x 12-16" wide and cold hardy to zone 5.
Monardella odoratissima FlowerKisser™ 'Arizona Beauty' is a native western wildflower and this particular selection is from east central Arizona. Long blooming with lavender-pink puffball shaped flowers, this collection is from a lower elevation and is more wildly growable than the sub alpine forms known by rock gardening enthusiasts. Exceptional sweet minty herbal fragrance to the flowers and foliage. Eagerly sought out by native bees and butterflies. 4-6” tall x 12-15” wide. Cold hardy to zone 4.
Penstemon pinifolius 'Luminous' This David Salman introduction has bright light orange, yellow-throated flowers light up like a glowing orange bouquet of light when they capture the low-angled morning and late afternoon sunshine. This is an exceptional small growing, evergreen shrublet that covers itself with luminous orange flowers in late spring-early summer. A western native perennial, Pineleaf Beardtongue thrives in well-drained soils with plenty of sun and makes a fine edging plant with its tidy growth habit. Drought tolerant once established. 8-10" tall x 12-15" wide and cold hardy to zone 5.
Salvia pachyphylla 'Blue Flame'
David selected 'Blue Flame' from the xeric sub-shrub Giant Purple Sage and chosen for its huge, brightly colored 10"+ long flowering spikes. The long tubular blue flowers poke through the rose-pink bracts attracting hummingbirds from the entire neighborhood. 24" tall x 24-30" wide and cold hardy to zone 5.
Salvia Raspberry Delight® is one of David Salman’s best plant introductions. This stunning ever-blooming Salvia has a profusion of deeply-colored, raspberry-red flowers and deep green foliage with a sweet herbal fragrance. Garden trials have shown it to be a fast, vigorous grower with excellent heat tolerance and cold hardiness. Blooms mid-summer summer through fall and cold hardy to zone 6. Deer and rabbit resistant and a hummingbird magnet. 36" tall x 36" wide and cold hardy to zone 6.
Scutellaria 'Dark Violet'
This long-blooming native hybrid skullcap covers itself with a profusion of dark violet flowers held on short compact flower spikes. Scutellaria ‘Dark Violet’ blooms most of the summer and its neat, mounding habit enables ‘Dark Violet’ to be planted along the edges of hot, sunny paths. The hotter and harsher the growing conditions, the better it performs. This plant will stay compact. 6" tall x 10-15" wide and it is cold hardy to Zones 5. Introduced by David Salman in 2013.
Zauschneria garrettii Orange Carpet®
This superb Hummingbird Trumpet spreads like a groundcover and is perfect for slopes and cascading over the edges of raised beds. It blooms in mid-to-late summer it lights up the garden with a profusion of bright-orange flowers that hummingbirds adore. Introduced by David Salman in 2000, Orange Carpet originates from the arid, mountains of southern Idaho and thrives in northern New Mexico gardens. Wait until spring to cut it back just above ground level 4-6" tall x 15-18" wide and cold hardy to zone 5.
Two of our Favorite Fall Blooming Ornamental Grasses
Growing in our display gardens you'll see two of our favorite ornamental grasses. Muhlenbergia capillaris 'Pink Flamingos' (Muhly Grass) and Sorghastrum nutans Thin Man PP#28,923. Both are exceptional companions for late summer/fall blooming perennials and feed songbirds and other seed-eating animals later into the winter months.
Muhlenbergia capillaris 'Pink Flamingos' (Muhly Grass) is a vigorous grass ornamental grass with very narrow blue-green foliage and soft pink flower spikes in early fall. A heat-loving plant, it is an excellent choice for most Santa Fe and Albuquerque landscapes. Its narrow, upright growing habit makes it a great choice against walls and in tight spaces. 4-5' tall x 15-18" wide and cold hardy to zone 6.
Sorghastrum nutans Thin Man PP#28,923 is a selected form of native Indian Grass with very blue foliage and a narrow, very upright growing habit to the leaves and flower spikes. Blooming in late summer, the attractive bronze-colored flowers set lots of big seeds that feed songbirds and other seed-eating animals. 'Thin Man' was selected from a population of Indiangrass originally collected near Clovis, NM. A David Salman introduction 2017 Plant Select® winner. 6 feet tall x 24-30" wide and cold hardy to zone 4.
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