Red birds in a tree: a feast for the eyes (and the birds)

Scrophularia macrantha Plant Select

Red birds in a tree is a hummingbird’s delight. The hovering birds are attracted to the luscious cherry-red tubular flowers that sit atop dark green, ovate, toothed leaves. Just look at the flower and you will see how it earned its descriptive name.

A relative of the penstemon, Scrophularia macrantha flowers continuously from spring through fall. The plant does not need much TLC and will re-bloom without deadheading. Vibrant color will illuminate your garden all summer long. Once established, it requires little water and is suitable for xeriscaping. The plant originates from the mountain slopes of New Mexico and adapts quite well to anywhere in your landscape that offers full sun to part shade. Red Birds in a Tree likes to entwine with other plants for support and will grow best in the back of a border.

This showy variety combines attractively with other Plant Select® selections including: SUNSET® Hyssop (Agastache rupestris) or SONORAN SUNSET® Hyssop (A. cana ‘Sinning’), ORANGE CARPET® Hummingbird Trumpet (Zauschneria garrettii) and the two Salvia greggii, Furman’s Red and Wild Thing Sage. You will be inviting hummingbirds to a smorgasbord of nectar. The real treat will be watching them feast in the flowers. Red Birds in a Tree is an absolute must for your garden this year. See the video here.

View the plant profile here.

Red Birds in a Tree (Scrophularia macrantha)
Perennial
Height: 24-36 inches
Width: 16-20 inches
Blooms: May to frost
Sun: Full sun to partial shade
Soil Moisture: Moderate to dry
Hardiness: USDA zones 4-9
Culture: Clay, loam or sandy soil

Thanks to Heather Winokur, Gulley Greenhouse & Garden Center, for writing this piece.

14 responses to “Red birds in a tree: a feast for the eyes (and the birds)”

  1. Barb says:

    I love this plant/shrub! It’s been in 5 years and is huge. I cut it down every year like other perennials and up it comes. It blooms from June through frost. I do dead head it when it gets leggy. The hummingbirds love it!

  2. Jennifer L says:

    I live in the western foothills of Denver. I have 4 of these in my hummingbird garden along with some red-flowering sage, yarrow, maltese cross, etc. The hummers love Red Birds in a Tree so much they ignore everything else. This plant has indeterminately flowering racemes which just get longer all summer and continue flowering so it is zero maintenance (no dead-heading). These are by far my favorite plants in the yard.

  3. Elise Storey says:

    I need to replace a Russian Sage because of the bees. Would this plant be a good choice?
    Thanks

    • Pat Hayward says:

      Probably not if you’re looking for that really showy look that Russian sage offers. Red Birds is a bit more “sophisticated” for better lack of a word. It is best appreciated closer up than the sage. How about Vermilion Bluffs Mexican? Or some of the agastaches? They offer a lot more bang per plant. Red Bird, though, is an absolutely beautiful plant with strikingly interesting flowers, but doesn’t put on the massive display that Russian Sage does. Bees and butterflies will be attracted to all of these, but not to the extent that Russian sage is. And for goodness’ sake, do NOT substitute blue mist spirea (Caryopteris) if you’re trying to reduce exposure to bees- it’s a total bee magnet!

  4. Courtney says:

    Love this so much! I accidentally planted one in the front of my garden last fall and I want to move it further back. Do you think I can safely transplant it? Any suggestions on how?

    • Ross Shrigley says:

      I think Red Birds in a tree is one of Plant Select’s best released plants. It does exactly this- Surprises you! When I planted one, I never thought I could love a flower so small. Within the first year I fell in love with it! It’s tougher and longer living than one might expect. Hours of enjoyment watching the humming birds and sphinx moths visiting the flowers. To answer your question, yes I think you can transplant this plant, because it is recently planted and not well rooted in. Just be sure to get a large root ball on it and don’t let it dry out in this heat. You will probably not see any more flowers on it for the rest of the year. A better time to move it would be next spring.

  5. Mireille Brisson says:

    Is it possible to divide that plant ?

  6. Tammy says:

    Where can I get seeds or root from this? Beautiful!

    • Ross Shrigley says:

      I have not seen any seed packets for sale. However if you have a friend who has this plant, you can collect them there. But why work and wait that long to enjoy the plant? I’ve seen these plants in quart size containers in spring for $6-$8 dollars. With Labor Day fast approaching, you might find these plants on sale in gallons for those prices. They would survive just fine planted in the fall from a container. Happy gardening!

  7. Sharon Markey says:

    I live in the Seattle area. Is it ok to plant this plant in the fall, or should I wait till spring? Often times I don’t have luck with southwestern plants if I plant them in the fall – it’s too wet, and the winter is too long. Is Redbirds in a tree a more flexible plant?

    • Ross Shrigley says:

      Definitely wait until spring and you’ll have more success. They do love well drained soil and lots of sun. It’s great that you know what all those southwestern plants prefer.

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