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Three must-have plants sounded like a good idea for a column, but how can I possibly pick just three? That’s like saying you can only have three pieces of accessories for your wardrobe or three places to dine for dinner. So instead I shall share my three must-have, underused plants for the butterfly and hummingbird garden.

Also known as cigar or firecracker plant, cuphea is a real show stopper. Glossy green leaves, brilliant orange flowers and spring through fall blooming makes this a desirable garden annual. This plant can get bushy, if you treat it well. Once the hummingbirds find it, your garden will be alive with their hyper chatter and boundless energy.

The bees, especially the bumble bees, come to this in droves. On quiet, still days I can hear their hum as I approach the garden- it’s magical. Very easy to grow, it prefers a lot of sun and can take hard pruning when done blooming. This perennial is a must for any pollinator garden.

This may be cheating to say salvia because there are countless varieties. You could create a stunning garden using only this plant that comes in a variety of colors. I am smitten with Black and Blue Salvia with its upright habit that is strong and can reach three by three feet. I add it to my garden and forget about it. It requires no special attention beyond watering. The hummingbirds love it. It may return in our Cincinnati gardens, but I treat it as an annual, assuming I have to replace it each season.

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