By Becky Cowell
Years ago, I chose two Hesperaloe parviflora (redflower false yucca) plants for a spot in my garden. It fit all my criteria: xeric, likes soil that is well drained, moderate to poor fertility, long blooming (June-October), and food for pollinators and hummingbirds. This plant is truly a hummingbird magnet. Once it starts blooming, early every morning and at dusk, the hummingbirds show up.
Hesperaloe means “western aloe” and belongs in the Agavaceae (Agave family). It has blue-green leaves that form an evergreen grass-like clump. It’s coral-red tubular flowers form on 5 ft. stems with continuous bloom happening until October.
When the inflorescence appears in early June, it reminds me of a pink asparagus.
Seed pods form as new tubular flowers appear, providing continuous nectar for hummingbirds and pollinators. Hummingbirds are very smart and can remember every flower they have been to and how long it will take a flower to refill.
The stiff leaves provide a nice place to perch. In fact, hummingbirds spend most of their life perching. They eat small soft bugs for protein.
Hummingbirds have tiny hairs on the tip of their tongue to help lap up nectar. Their bottom beak is slightly flexible. They have little to no sense of smell. A hummingbird’s favorite flower is red and tubular shaped. A hummingbird will visit an average of 1,000 flowers per day for nectar.
The wings of a hummingbird beat about 70 times per second. When diving, they can beat up to 200 times per second. They can hover in mid-air, fly sideways and even upside-down. If you have the spot and you like hummingbirds, I would recommend planting at least one Hesperaloe parviflora.