A wet garden and Mimulus cardinalis--Has anyone grown this?

kristin_williams(6)September 13, 2005

Hi everyone. I'm planning a partial shade, "wet footed" hummingbird garden at my mother's house. We have an orange trumpet vine climbing up the bricks that has been flowering sparsely, but is attracting the birds. I've also begun feeding them sugar water, and really enjoyed their visits before their departure.

Our soil is really irritating. It is slightly alkaline, thin, rocky, and way too well drained. What we have is the impossible combination of partial shade and soil that gets very dry. Digging deep, and adding organic matter is helpful, but it seems that when you're sitting on broken limestone and sandstone, the soil still dries out too easily.

With all this in mind, I decided to take portions of the perennial garden, dig them deep--2 1/2 to 3 feet deep, and install plastic pond liners. I would puncture the liners in the top foot or so to improve surface drainage, and fill them with some nice soil from a friend's raised bed vegetable garden that he is giving up on.

Delighted with the hummingbirds, I've decided to plant Monarda "Cambridge Scarlet" and Mimulus cardinalis. Both are said to like partial shade and wet to occasionally even boggy conditions. I have never grown Monarda, but know others who have and am confident it should do well and be attractive to the birds. However, I've never grown Mimulus of any sort. M. cardinalis (the Scarlet Monkeyflower) is a hardy perennial. It is said to enjoy partial shade, and likes its feet wet, so to speak. It also is supposedly attractive to hummingbirds.

Has anyone grown this plant? Did it do well? What were your growing conditions, and was it a hit with the hummingbirds? I think it's a bit of an obscure plant, so I'm just hoping someone out there has some experience with it.

Thanks in advance....

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I have Lobelia Cardinalis in my little pond and the hummers have visited it. I'm posting a pic that my son took of a hummer at the plant.

Deb in PA

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   September 13, 2005 at 6:39PM
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penny1947(z6 WNY)

Sarah who also lives in PA. has grown monkey flower (i think). Hopefully she will see your post and reply. As Deb posted Lobelia Cardinalis can take soggy soil as well as Lobelia siphilitica which is the Great
Blue Lobelia and both are native plants. I have a couple of spots in my yard that are in part shade and stay quite wet because of the location of the gutter down spout and they do very well. Both are excellent perennial hummer plants. Impatiens capensis (spotted jewelweed) the wild native form of impatiens is an excellent reseeding annual for wet shady areas as it naturally grows near boggy areas, lakes etc. It can grow 5-6 ft. tall in the right conditions. It doesn't bloom prolifically until August but provides nectar for migrating hummerz all the way to the Gulf when many other plants are waining during that time. I have just started collecting seed. If you want some let me know. Seed must be sown now (just thrown down where they are to grow) as they need to overwinter in order to germinate.


    Bookmark   September 14, 2005 at 8:29AM
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wardw(z6 NJ)

I grew scarlet monkey flower this year. Unfortunately it was in an area that was a bit too shady (at least I think). They bloomed OK through most of June and then that was pretty much it. If I were to try them again I'd want to give them a half day sun and soil that never dried out. I grew mine from seeds started in late January and the plants really grew fast. By the time they went into the ground in late April they already had flowers. What I'm still not sure of is whether this species works well in high heat and humidity. A lot of western plants just don't like our jungle summers.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2005 at 9:02AM
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Thanks everyone.

Deb, I may try Lobelia cardinalis as well, but was seeking information on Mimulus cardinalis. Thanks for the info on Lobelia. I've seen it growing wild here in Pennsylvania, and it is a pretty plant. I'm sure it would do well in the boggy partial shade garden I am planning. I'm waiting to see if our local garden center gets an order in of the plants. They said they might.

Penny, thanks for the seed offer. I am familiar with impatiens (spotted jewelweed). It grows prolifically in the woods around here. It just carpets the ground in wet, heavily shaded areas. It comes in two forms--pale yellow (much more common around here) and orange (which I think is the spotted one you're talking about). What I love about it is the way the seed pods explode when touched, scattering the seeds everywhere! If I need plants, I could dig a few plants up from the woods. They are so abundant, that I wouldn't feel guilty about digging up a few. I think they would probably prefer more shade than my garden, which varies from maybe 2-4 hours of direct sun (based on location), the rest filtered shade.

Wardw, thanks for the info. As I mentioned, my garden probably gets at least 2 (maybe 4) hours of direct sun, so perhaps the monkeyflowers will do okay. As for heat and humidity, we probably have less of that than you in NJ, so I guess I'll just have to wait and see. Did you see any hummingbirds at your plants?

Maybe Sarah will see this and share her monkeyflower experiences.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2005 at 3:06PM
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wardw(z6 NJ)

Not one hummingbird. Although it was not planted in an area where I could keep a careful eye on things. Some 20 plus years ago I lived in the native habitat of this species. I recall it growing along perennial streams on the coast under willows (not a lot of sun under there), and that sometimes it was in standing water. Hummingbirds, at least western ones, are known to favor this plant. If you do grow it, and are successful, we will want to know all about it, and in detail.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2005 at 3:18PM
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I grow the native mimulus (lavendar) and it is in my wetlands in full sun. The plant thrives. It is too far from my house to see if the birds use it but the plant has been very happy with sometimes wet feet. I have just harvested seed if you or anyone else is interested.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2005 at 5:48PM
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Kristin, where are you located? I see are in SWPA.

Deb in PA

    Bookmark   September 14, 2005 at 6:52PM
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penny1947(z6 WNY)

SOme advice on the jewelweed. If you decide to dig some up at some point get it very early in the spring just after it sprouts as it isn't a good transplanter. Seeds are the easiest way to go though....no digging no watering...just throw them out there willy nilly and next spring you will have plants. I do have both the pale and spotted jewelweed but mostly spotted. My stepdaughter, neice and nephew and neighborhood kids (and adults) love to come over and pop the pods. That is why I have soooo much to share.


    Bookmark   September 15, 2005 at 4:57AM
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I grew Monkey Flower this summer in the North Carolina mountain s- it is extremely easy to grow from seed - I did a hybrid called Shady something - it bloomed beautifully, but I noticed that it dried out easily, and looked pretty tired out half way through the summer - which means, it would be perfect for partial shade and wet! It is as easy as petunias - never noticed if the hummers went to it, but am thinking of growing cardinalis this summer since it is red and so easy, and will repot it like a good girl so that it does not dry out. Getting seeds from Thompson and Morgan.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2005 at 10:12AM
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wardw(z6 NJ)

Ellery, over the years I've a number of hybrid monkeys. They are fantastic early summer plants in part shade. I have yet to have one survive past mid summer, they just don't like our weather. Neither have I ever seen a hummingbird at any of them. As to the eastern native, I've never heard of a hummer using that either - it may be a butterfly plant. My own personal experience is just that, personal. My yard is very sandy and tends to dry out, plus the shaded areas have maple roots. If I were to make a wild stab at the ideal conditions in the east, it would be soggy heavy soil in part shade. I just remembered that I gave some to a friend for her Maine camp. It will be interesting to see if her cooler central Maine conditions worked for this plant.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2005 at 11:08AM
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Deb, I have an apartment in the city of Pittsburgh, in a neighborhood called Friendship. My rather neglected garden, however, is at my mother's house in a suburb of Pittsburgh--Green Tree. It's a near suburb, just south of the city limits, and a little to the west. Where are you?

Penny, I'm probably not going to bother with the Jewelweed, but thanks for the advice. I just don't think it would do well, and it's a pretty big plant. I just don't think I have the right spot for it, and there's plenty of it in nearby woods for the hummers to feast upon.

From what people are saying, it sounds like my Mimulus may have trouble with summer heat and humidity. The site I have chosen is partially shady, and with the pond liner I'm planning, will be immune from drought. I will be sure to use nice, rich soil when I fill it in, so hope that it will manage to do OK.

The most disappointing thing I'm reading is that no one has personally seen hummingbirds visiting monkeyflowers. I chose them because I have seen them on multiple lists of hummingbird flowers. In fact, I'm quite certain I saw a Google images photo of a western species feeding at M. cardinalis. I would assume Ruby-throats would also show interest. You can bet that if my plants survive and flower, I will be watching them closely to see if there are any little feathered visitors. I'll let you know.

By the way, the plants arrived today, so will have to plant them ASAP. I combined my order with a friend, and talked him into trying out a couple Mimulus. Hopefully, one of us will be successful in growing them and attracting hummingbirds.

Thanks everyone for your feedback. If the Mimulus doesn't work out, there's always my trumpet vine and Monarda.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2005 at 7:46PM
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penny1947(z6 WNY)


I just read the most wonderful book... A HUMMINGBIRD IN MY HOUSE...the Store of Squeak and the author did have a Mimulus Cardinalis that Squeak used and enjoyed quite a bit. The author lives in upstate NY and brought in several of her plants for the winter and that was one of them.


    Bookmark   September 16, 2005 at 1:02PM
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Jillberto(Z9 CA)

I know you are posting from PA and my advice is from California, but I wanted to tag this link below along.

I have found it to be an extremely reliable source of butterfly and hummingbird info.

I have not grown this plant myself and I know you were hoping for personal experiences but I thought it would be worth showing you the site any ways.

Here is a link that might be useful: M. cardinalis info

    Bookmark   September 16, 2005 at 6:47PM
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Just wanted to thank everyone for their comments. It's nice to hear from books and websites that these flowers are attractive to hummingbirds, not just butterflies.

I received my plants in the mail, but am still working on the garden. I've got it dug out 3 feet deep, 2 feet wide, and 5 feet long--quite an accomplishment in our rocky soil. I bought some pvc pipe and I am planning an irrigation system to be fed into the downspout. I still have a few days of work to get the pipes set up and the hole filled in with good soil. I'm planning to drill holes in the pipe and fill it with pea gravel, and then bury it about 1 1/2 to 2 feet below the surface. Water will flow through the pipe from the downspout whenever it rains. If there's a lot of water, it will flow through the pipe and then out and down the hill, and empty some distance away from the foundation, if I can get my engineering right. I'm hoping this design will keep the water from getting too stagnant. I also plan to allow access with a hose so that I can water it during dry spells.

I hope those hummers appreciate my labors! Even if they don't, I still hope to have a cute garden of red posies. Thanks again, everyone. I'll try to follow up on this next year if I remember.


    Bookmark   September 18, 2005 at 8:41PM
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flutterbug(NH 5b)

I wanted to bump this up in hopes that Kristin would post how the mimulus cardinalis did for you. I am growing these from seed this year, so it would be cool to know if hummers visited yours. I am very excited about them because I just finished potting them up to 3" pots. I was doing a search to see how long they take to flower from seed, but came up empty.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2007 at 9:50PM
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Wow. Long time no see on that thread. Thanks for dredging it up. The Mimulus cardinalis is a sad story. I planted three of them in the fall of '05, and they just never took. I could tell they weren't settling in, and then the cold weather came and I had a bad feeling about them. Spring of '06 came and they did not survive.

I called Joy Creek, and told them the sad story. I said it might have been too late in the year to successfully plant them. They very kindly agreed to send 3 replacement plants, and I put them in immediately. They settled in nicely, putting out new growth and I was feeling very hopeful about them.

That summer, misfortune struck. We had workmen redo our front sidewalk. There were 4 or 5 guys, very nice fellows, but pretty clueless about plants. I pointed to the Mimulus and made sure to tell at least one of the workmen to please be very careful not to trample them. I'm sure you can tell where this sad story is leading. I went inside for a bit, and when I came out, all three plants were ground down to mush. They never recovered and this time I knew there wouldn't be any free replacements.

Maybe I'll try to order some more this spring and try again. They really had been settling in quite nicely, and I could have just died when they got stomped. I should have told all of the workmen, not just one guy. What a disappointment.

I wish you luck with them, flutterbug, and thanks for resurrecting this old thread. I'll let you know if I decide to try again.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2007 at 10:34PM
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flutterbug(NH 5b)

Oh that's too bad! I was hoping you were going to say they were wonderful! Too bad you weren't closer to me or I'd give you a few plants, I have 36 plants that seem to be doing well. I'll have to let you know how the hummer's like them in my yard. Last year I had mostly just one male and he left by the end of July. I had a few other one timers in the spring and fall migration periods. I hope this year I get more so maybe I'll see more flower action. It's hard to monitor just one hummingbird at flowers. I just moved into my house in Jan. 2006 and there weren't any hummer flowers but I added as many as I could plant and afford last year. So hopefully I have more this year, a momma and some babies would be nice, then maybe they'll stick around longer too.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2007 at 9:35PM
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Where are you located, flutterbug? When I click on your "(My Page)," it just tells me you're in the United States. That sure doesn't narrow it down very much!

I have this impression that Mimulus might prefer cooler, pacific northwest conditions, so don't know how your climate compares. Being in the extreme western foothills of the Appalachians, we don't tend to get as brutally hot as the midwest and the east coast. Still, in a hot summer, it can sometimes soar into the high 90's. I don't know if the Mimulus would like that. I did have a pretty wet spot for them, so had high hopes for them doing OK. Those darn workmen!

By the way, where did you get your seeds?

    Bookmark   April 19, 2007 at 10:46PM
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flutterbug(NH 5b)

I'm in southern new hampshire right on the mass border. 45 min. drive from the coast. I was thinking of planting them were they would get afternoon shade. I don't have a real wet spot to put them but I might make a mini bog garden, because I have lots of stuff started from seed that prefers moist soil. I successfully grew Lobelia cardinalis and other moisture lovers last year but I had to water a lot. I'm going to give some to my mom, she has a perfect spot. She has a water drain in her back yard that stays pretty wet most of the time. I got the seeds from Thompson Morgan, I started them Feb. 1st when I first started getting spring fever, so they should bloom nice and early for me.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2007 at 3:21PM
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Flutterbug, I may have spoken too soon. I think two of my Mimulus may have survived. I'm not absolutely sure, but I see some pale green leaves, shaped sort of like cherry leaves, but smaller, and they are slightly toothy around the edges. Maybe the workmen didn't completely stomp the life out of them!!

I'll just have to wait and watch and see what grows from them. Maybe they're just weeds, but I've gardened all my life and I don't remember a weed that looks like this.

Keep your fingers crossed.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2007 at 8:03PM
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flutterbug(NH 5b)

Heres a pic of my babies, maybe you can use it for comparison. I tried to get a small one in there, they are all growing at such different rates.

They are supposed to be hardy to Z6 so I wouldn't be surprised if they made it. The winters here usually don't get any colder than a zone 6 so I'm hoping mine might return, if not I heard they can reseed themselves.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2007 at 7:45AM
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That's it, Flutterbug! You're such a dear for posting that picture. The paler than usual green leaves and the slightly toothy edges match perfectly. It looks like I have a couple of survivors that survived the brutal stomping, but I don't think they're as big and healthy as they would have been if they hadn't been so traumatized.

With some TLC and luck, maybe they'll recover, put on some growth, and with a lot of luck may even flower this year. I hope so. I really want to see what the flowers look like, and they would make a great model for one of my hummingbird feeders!

By the way, I emailed you. Did you get it?

    Bookmark   April 24, 2007 at 9:08PM
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flutterbug(NH 5b)

Sorry I'm so slow with responding, I've been seed starting and planting outside the last few days. I need to get as much done as I can before I have no stamina left. I am expecting a baby in June and I am not sure what I'm going to do with all the plants I'm starting. I don't have any prepared areas for anything (and this is not something I can do right now). Guess I'll have to beg my husband to start digging! I agree the mimulus would make great models for your feeders. I did respond to your e-mail, just last night.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2007 at 8:26AM
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Hmmmm, well I live CA in an area that Mimulus Cardinalis is native and have cuttings growing in my yard. M. Cardinalis grow well in areas with direct sun to partial shade. Soil does not seem to be an issue, I guess gardeners would call it adaptable. This plant needs water on a regular basis and works well in seep areas near ponds or streams. They bloom amazingly well from March to the first frost and then tend to go semi-dormant. For those growing in areas where you have ground freezes I would say I would treat the plant more like an annual. Perhaps cuttings in a garage.

I would also suggest trying the sticky monkeyflower also known as the shrubby monkeyflower species of the Mimulus. They come in gold, yellow, red, and white naturally and there are some varietals that are purple and shades of the naturally occurring plants.

Prune in the spring, also the leaves of this plant are sticky as the name implies and it requires little care. I water mine every two weeks. The parents of the ones growing in my garden go from May to September with little or no water in direct sun that is generally from 80 to 100+ everyday.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2011 at 1:53PM
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