Hummingbird and butterfly lovers can have the best of both worlds by selecting garden plants attractive to both pollinators. Nectar-sipping hummingbirds search for red, pink or tubular blooms, says Colorado State University Extension Master Gardener Susan Perry. In additions to nectar-rich flowers, butterflies also lay their eggs on plants that that feed their caterpillars. Many garden plants accommodate both hummingbirds and butterflies.
Giant Hyssop 'Ava'
Giant hyssop (Agastache) is a summer-blooming perennial also known as "hummingbird's mint." The cultivar 'Ava' stands from 2 to 4 feet high and 2 feet wide. It has mint-scented, toothed oval green leaves, suitable for cooking and teas. From June to September, straight, 12-inch spikes of tubular rose-colored flowers top 'Ava's' stems. The flowers' bright red calyxes (outer coverings) and sweet fragrance attract hummingbirds, butterflies and bees.
'Ava', says the Missouri Botanical Garden (MBG), is a good choice for borders, herb and butterfly gardens, and containers. Disease and pest-resistant, it thrives in sun to partial shade and averagely moist, well-drained soil. Poor drainage may cause root or crown rot. Reduce the risk of rot with sand or gravel mulch. Remove dead flowers to extend the blooming season.
Blood flower (Asclepias curassavica) is a South American perennial, hardy to winter temperatures of 20 degrees Fahrenheit and higher. Belonging to the milkweed and dogbane family, blood flower grows up to 3 feet high and 2 feet wide. Its erect stems have medium-green, lance-shaped leaves. It flowers over a much longer period than native perennial milkweeds.
Between June and October, it has round clusters of showy, yellow-hooded orange-red blooms. Monarch butterflies, says the MBG, lay their eggs on blood flower's leaves. Hummingbirds and bees feed on its nectar. Plant it in full sun to partial shade and well-drained, rich, evenly moist soil. Watch plants for aphids. In areas with warm winters, blood flower self-sows easily and may become invasive. The sap, poisonous if ingested, may irritate unprotected skin.
Garden Phlox 'Bright Eyes'
A summer garden favorite, garden phlox (Phlox paniculata) is a perennial hardy to winter temperatures of minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit. Reaching 2 feet high by 18 inches wide, the cultivar 'Bright Eyes' blooms from June to September. Dense pyramid-like clusters of fragrant, tubular, red-centered flowers top straight, narrow stems. Flowers work well in cut flower arrangements.
'Bright Eyes' and all phlox varieties are hummingbird magnets, says the MBG. They also attract butterflies and bees. Drawbacks are susceptibility to spider mites, powdery mildew and root root. Grow it in sun to part shade and organically rich, moist soil. Provide good air circulation, and thin its stems to combat powdery mildew. Water regularly from beneath, and mulch during dry spells. Remove spent flower heads to encourage new blooms.