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ReWILD: Hummingbirds Love This Plant!

Words and pictures by Sharon Reeve, for Let’s Talk Plants! October 2023.



Hummingbirds Love This Plant!


I love hummingbirds, and I love that hummingbirds love this plant! Metrosideros collina 'Springfire' has been in a pot on my deck for five years now. It is thriving and just gets bigger and better every year. It has a few flowers now but it will soon be loaded with coral-colored brushy blooms that draw hummingbirds like a magnet. I watch from my kitchen sink as they go from flower to flower. This plant gets serious and long (by hummingbird standards) attention from the flying gems.



Surprisingly, honeybees visit it too. Initially, this shrub was reported to grow to be 6-8 feet tall, but reports from gardeners who have been growing it for some time say it will get much bigger. San Marcos Growers says to 25 feet eventually! Quite a difference! My travels have taken me to New Zealand to see another Metrosideros species, Metrosideros excelsa, the New Zealand Christmas tree or Pohutukawa. I was completely taken with this plant and it became apparent after some observation that it grew best right along the coast.



Plant descriptions for Metrosideros collina say the plant grows best in coastal conditions as well, so I hesitated to try it since I live about twelve miles inland. My gardening location gets some coastal influence, but I wondered if it would be enough. Well, I can now suggest that Metrosideros collina can be grown a little inland and it does well and blooms fantastically!

I love to watch the flower's fiery glow in the sunlight that backlights them. Metrosideros collina is found from French Polynesia all the way to the Hawaiian Islands out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Endemic Hawaiian birds called honeycreepers pollinate them in Hawaii and hummingbirds love them here. Flowers last from two weeks to almost one month and bloom heaviest in January-February and throw out additional blooms almost year around. These long-stamened and long-styled flowers produce copious nectar for much of the life of the flower. Interestingly, studies show that smaller plants produce flowers with more nectar than flowers on mature plants. I guess they need a little help to get the bird traffic to come visit them! Metrosideros flowers resemble the brushy flowers of Callistemon because they are in the same family of Myrtaceae.

The foliage of this plant is a wonderful gray-green and the leaves are thick and coriaceous.


ADJECTIVE

coriaceous

(adjective)

  1. resembling or having the texture of leather:

"coriaceous leaves"


They appear gray because of a light dusting of white that covers the leaves. I would have liked to get a photo of a hummingbird on this plant but that hasn't happened yet. Metrosideros foliage is hardy and healthy-looking all of the time. My plant gets regular water and seems to thrive from the additional attention. I collect kitchen water and throw it on whichever plant strikes me as needing water.


Because this guy is right outside my door he gets his fair share when I am too lazy to walk further. My life is certainly brightened by this wonderful plant.

 

Sharon Reeve is a Master Gardener who has worked as a consulting Horticulturist for Monrovia Nurseries, and as a landscape designer for BrightView Landscapes in San Diego. In 2015, she graduated with an MS from SDSU in Biology/Ecology. Her design business is called ReWild. She specializes in drought tolerant, native, and wildlife gardens, and writes two blogs.


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