Western Penstemons for Eastern Gardens

Submitted by Leonard Lehman on Thu, 09/26/2013 - 11:47

As many of you know, our Alleghany Chapter put in a rather lovely rock garden at the National aviary in Pittsburgh, PA. Today, during our regularly scheduled rock garden maintainence, one of the top ornithologists at the aviary came out to tell us how much the garden was appreciated. He said that he would like to see us put in some of the western hummingbird friendly plants to help attract hummingbirds to the are. Does anyone in the forum have any suggestions as to

1. Western Penstemons hardy in the east

or  other hummingbird plants also hardy in east suitable for a rock garden. 


Len Lehman


Submitted by Mark McD on Thu, 09/26/2013 - 13:30

Hello Len, hummingbirds visited my small Penstemon barbatus this summer; if I had enough of it it would be more of an attraction, still looking for my photos on this one.  One of the best bets to attract hummers, are some of the Agastache species, wonderful plants all around, aromatic foliage and flowers, many stems, large and bushy to create quite the attraction for hummingbirds and pollinators of all sorts.

I trialed a few species and cultivars in the garden, the following two large ones (topping out at 5' each) have been a spectacle all summer, and their best feature, they just keep on going until cut down by frost.  Our hummers left about a week or two ago, so now it's just myriad bumblebees and butterflies enjoying them. High Country Gardens has a fine selection, that's where I got both Agastache 'Eva' and Blue Blazes' shown below (Blue Blazes photo by my wife)



My favorite is this spontaneous garden hybrid between A. aurantiaca x rupestris, both are delightful, but this hybrid seems longer lived; it has been making brilliant spikes of bloom all summer, this photo taken today.  The hummers visit them religiously. This one grow about 2' tall.

We have a hummingbird feeder, so really enjoy these remarkable creatures being around for the summer.  Interestingly, every morning they visit each and every open flower on singe-flowered forms of Hibiscus syriacus (rose of sharon), including white ones, bright pink 'Aphrodite' and 'Blue Bird' (blue of course).  For a slow growing highly ornamental summer tree to their liking, they go for the tiny white flowers on the native Sourwood, Oxydendron arboreum.  Len, I realize you're asking about rock garden plants to attract hummingbirds, the Agastache aurantiaca and rupestris might be suitable for the edge of a rock garden, rupestris in particular is so delicate and narrow leaved that it doesn't have a heavy look even though reaching a couple feet or more.  Zauschneria might be an attraction, although with my over exuberant mats of Z. garrettii, they bloom too late, the hummers have left by the time they flower.  I would imagine Penstemon pinifolius might be worth trying, certainly a good rack garden plant.

Hummingbird at our feeder (my wife took the photo):


I think I can speak for others,  we would love to see your Alleghany Chapter's garden if you have photos. smiley

Submitted by RickR on Thu, 09/26/2013 - 14:27

I don't know about the bedding plant salvias (too loud for rock gardens in my opinion, anyway), but other red salvias like Hot Lips always attracted hummingbirds when I grew them.


The hummingbirds are still here in Minnesota.  I saw one just yesterday in the garden.