So long ago I don't remember (i.e. sometime before last week), I planned to post hummingbird plant profiles, thinking I'd put out one every couple of weeks. I might have posted three...with this one, four.
Mexican oregano is a long-flowering option for attracting pollinators and hummingbirds. I've used it in cooking but was advised not long ago (see comment) there might be side effects, so the leaves stay in my garden now.
I'll confess that if a hummingbird finds salvia or firebush in the garden, Mexican Oregano will be visited second. But Mexican Oregano's low bushes offer flowers in hot times and provide nectar for butterflies and sphinx moths as well as hummingbirds.
They bring wintertime cheer with evergreen foliage. And for about six warm-season months sport tubular purple blooms.
<---Giant swallowtail butterfly on Mexican Oregano.
Drought tolerant and deer don't eat it. I'm a little afraid to say that about the deer, this year the animals are eating plants on every 'don't eat' list, but my Mexican Oregano plants have been free from predation so far.
The plants grow into small bushes 2-3 feet high, suggested spacing is 18-24 inches. The branches arch and sprawl but break easily. I have them next to paths...and think of the breakage as a self-pruning mechanism. Otherwise they benefit from a light spring pruning.
Above, our back porch view, Mexican oregano mixed with purple lantana and white salvia greggii in foreground, red blooms of firebush (hamelia patens) across the dry creekbed.
Plant in well-draining soil in full sun to light shade. More Mexican oregano plants are killed by wet feet than drought.
Cold hardiness is graduated. According to a Texas A&M plant profile (here), "Mexican Oregano is an evergreen woody shrub in USDA zones 9b to 11, a dieback woody subshrub in 9a to 8b, and often root hardy in zones 8a(7b); it tends to be a more reliable woody plant in arid regions; hardiness in zones 8 and 7 can be suspect, particularly in more mesic climates."
My experience with cold hardiness in our zone 8 location has been good, including last winter's spell of 3-days-below-freezing when the plants made it through without losing leaves or suffering cold damage.
We've been flocked with hummingbirds this year--the desert-drought has reduced the Hill Country to baked clay. Our perennial flowers must look like an oasis to the birds. I'm grateful for drought-tolerant plants that nurture our wildlife and cheer our garden.
Copyright 2009-2011 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.