Draw hummingbirds, butterflies with drought-resistant Lion’s Tail – Orange County Register

Q.  I saw an unusual plant blooming in what was called a “nectar garden.”  It had butterflies and hummingbirds all around it.  There were no labels on any of the plants in the garden.  Can you identify it from the sample provided?  I would like to plant one if you can tell me what to ask for.

A. I hope you didn’t get into trouble for picking part of the flower to show me.  I don’t know of any public gardens that allow “sampling” the plants.  A photo will usually work fine for identification purposes.

Nectar gardens have increased in popularity in recent years.  Typically, they contain an assortment of plants that are rich sources of nectar for butterflies, hummingbirds and honey bees.  The goal is to select plants that have differing bloom seasons to ensure a steady source of nectar throughout the year.

The plant that caught your attention is native to South Africa and called Lion’s Tail, Leonotis leonurus. It’s very attractive to nectar-lovers such as the hummingbirds and butterflies you observed.  Lion’s Tail is a sun-loving evergreen perennial with a shrubby growth. It can attain a height of 6 feet but looks tidier when kept somewhat shorter.

The individual 2-inch tubular orange flowers are arranged in dense whorls around the stems, providing a distinctive appearance to the plant.  The fine hairs on the flowers, stems and leaves are indicative of the plant’s excellent drought resistance.  The flowering season can be quite long, extending from late spring through summer and into fall.  Lion’s Tail is known to survive temperatures below freezing and does quite well in the most areas of Southern California.

Q. The oranges on my Valencia orange tree are turning from orange to light green.  Should I pull them off and throw them out?

A.  Mature Valencia oranges, as well as some other citrus fruits, may begin to turn green in midsummer.  This is called regreening.  Because the photosynthetic rate is high in summer, the fruits are producing green chlorophyll in the rind, masking the normal orange color.  The fruit is still sweet and edible, so don’t waste it.

Q.  Each year my rosemary plants get wet‑looking masses of white bubbles here and there on them.  What is causing this and what should I do about it?

A.  It sounds like your rosemary plants, Rosmarinus offinalis, have spittlebugs infesting them.  If you probe within the frothy masses of spittle, you should be able to find tiny greenish bugs. These…

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