Plant of the Month for May – Hey Hey We’re the Monkeys

This was not easy, the hills are quite literally alive (with the sound of….never mind).  I don’t think anyone could argue with me for declaring Mimulus aurianticus… better known as the sticky monkeyflower as the big winner for May.  Our local monkeyflower gets to about 3 feet tall and 5 feet wide, loving steep hillsides, part shade and well drained soils.  Flowers come in a vast range of oranges, depending on exposure and soil composition.  I’ve noticed them blooming since February but they are definitely peaking now, with entire hillsides ablaze.

We are not the only one’s in California to enjoy the exotic monkeyflower.  Aurianticus has cousins across the western United States, growing in serpentine soils of the high desert and moist mud of creeks and streams.  The entire plant is supposedly edible but very high in salt content.  A perennial favorite of the hummingbird,  the tube-like receptacle a perfect fit for a hungry proboscis.

The nursery industry has had a field day with monkeyflower, selling versions in every conceivable color, with frilly borders, multiple combinations of hues and tinges.  I would recommend part shade here in Ojai, well drained soil and avoid overwatering.  I have killed literally dozens of monkeyflowers in my brief 4 years of native gardening, they are fickle to say the least.  Even when healthy they tend to decline after a few years, but will usually produce volunteers.  Every one of these is from my yard sometime in the last 4 months:

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