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Ask the Master Gardener: Red tubular flowers the best way to attract hummingbirds

While red is by far a hummingbird's favorite color, they will also feed on blue, yellow, and purple flowers.

A potted Pentas plant.
Pentas plants are among the many annuals that attract hummingbirds.
Contributed / Jennifer Knutson
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Dear Master Gardener: What annuals can I put in my containers that will attract hummingbirds?

Answer: Hummingbirds are attracted to flowers that are red, red and yellow, or have a red component (orange-red, orange, or pink) and have a tubular shape. Red is by far their favorite color, but they will also feed on blue, yellow, and purple flowers. Iowa State University recommends the following annuals for attracting hummingbirds: Four-O-Clocks, Fuchsia, Impatiens, Morning Glory, Nicotiana, Petunia, Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans), Salvia, Scarlet Runner Bean, Shrimp Plant, and Zinnia. In my experience Black and Blue Salvia, Pentas, and Lantana also attracted them. I’m sure there are others, but the key is to find annuals with long tubular flowers, those with projecting stamens and pistils, or open inflorescences (a cluster of flowers on a branch or system of branches).

Dear Master Gardener: I noticed green fuzzy looking balls on the canes of my rugosa rose bushes. What are they and will they harm the plant?

Answer: What you are describing sounds like mossy rose galls. These galls are common on wild roses and rugosa cultivars. The newly hatched larvae of the cynipid gall wasp stimulate the development of these galls in the spring. Galls can stress a plant out and even kill it. Insecticides are completely ineffective on galls. The best means of control is the physical removal and disposal (not in your compost pile) of galls. Don’t miss a single gall because one gall can introduce 30-40 mature wasps into your garden this spring. If it happens don’t worry — these types of wasps are harmless to people.

Dear Master Gardener: How do I divide my daylilies? Can they be divided this spring?

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Answer: Daylilies can be divided every three to five years. The best time to transplant or divide daylilies is early spring or late summer after they are finished flowering. Division promotes more flowers, but keep in mind if they are divided this spring, they may not bloom this summer. Dig up the entire clump and carefully pull the clump apart, or use a sharp knife. Divisions should have two or three fans of leaves with all the roots attached. Replant the divisions so the crown (the part where the stem and root meet) is 1 inch below the soil surface. If needed, add more soil back into the hole to lift the plant up. When the plant is at the right level, back-fill with the soil, lightly packing it down. Water thoroughly to hydrate the plant and settle the soil around the roots.

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Dear Master Gardener: I enjoy growing fruit native to Minnesota and, so far, have planted plums, raspberries, and blueberries. I’d like to try growing Juneberries. What can you tell me about them?

Answer: Juneberries, members of the rose family, are also known as Saskatoon berries and serviceberry (Amelanchier). Several serviceberry species are native to Minnesota. They are hardy in zones 2-7, grow in many kinds of soil and thrive in full sun to full shade (although they will produce fruit best in full sun). Usually seen as bushes up to 8 feet tall and 6 feet wide, they can also be trained as small trees. They are often found along the edges of woods growing under trees. In the spring they are covered with delicate white blossoms which in June (hence their name) turn into deep red-black berries that look and taste like blueberries. They are also like blueberries in size, color, shape and use. They are good fresh and in pies, jams, jellies and syrups. They are nutritious, having more iron and vitamin C than blueberries. Though they are common in the woods, you may not notice them because their fruiting season is short and birds tend to get to them first. Native Americans used them for food and medicine, drying them for off-season use. Juneberries have lovely orange-red fall color.

Cultivated varieties of serviceberry for Minnesota include:

  • Regent — 6 feet tall by 8 feet wide, compact rounded growth habit, yellow and red fall color, drought tolerant.
  • Autumn Brilliance — 25 feet tall by 15 feet wide, rounded growth habit, red fall color.    
  • Rainbow Pillar — 20 feet tall by 10 feet wide, upright growth habit, orange and red fall color.    
  • Princess Diana — 30 feet tall by 20 feet wide, spreading growth habit, red fall color.    
  • Standing Ovation — 15 feet tall by 4 feet wide, upright and narrow-crowned growth habit, red and orange fall color.

Dear Master Gardener: Will lavender grow in this area?

Answer: As much as we may want to bring a touch of Provence to central Minnesota, most lavenders (Lavandula) are hardy in zones 5-9. Unfortunately, they are not hardy here in the Brainerd lakes area, which is zone 3b. Lavender will need to be grown as an annual outdoors, or can be potted up in the fall and with luck, overwintered indoors.

You may get your garden questions answered by calling the new Master Gardener Help Line at 218-824-1068 and leaving a message. A Master Gardener will return your call. Or, emailing me at umnmastergardener@gmail.com and I will answer you in the column if space allows.

University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardeners are trained and certified volunteers for the University of Minnesota Extension. Information given in this column is based on university research.

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