A sugar-water-filled feeder will surely bring hummingbirds to your yard, so why not invite the little birds to stay by planting a luscious array of their favorite flowering plants?
Hummingbirds go for long, tubular blossoms, particularly those sporting hot colors like red, orange, yellow and bright pink, but they will also visit blue and purple flowers, particularly if the shape is right. The hummingbird beak is perfectly adapted for getting nectar out of the skinny tubes of trumpet-like flowers, so those are the ones they’ll tend to favor.
Below are just a few of the perennials, annuals and vines that are popular with hummingbirds and will most assuredly encourage the birds to take up residence in your garden.
Columbine – With nodding flowers and petal spurs that contain coveted nectar, Aquilegia canadensis is more commonly seen in eastern North America, while Aquilegia formosa is a western species. Both have red blooms with yellow centers, but hummingbirds will also be attracted to solid yellow and multi-toned pink flowers, as well. For seeds of Aquilegia canadensis, click here.
Cardinal Flower – The North American native Lobelia cardinalis sends up 2-3 foot stalks with blood red blooms when grown in consistently moist soil with some dappled shade. Though a fairly short-lived plant, it’s worthy of a spot in a hummingbird (and butterfly) garden. Click here to order a live plant of Cardinal Flower.
Giant Hyssop – An excellent perennial herb for well-drained, gravely soils, Agastache or Hummingbird Mint sports showy, fragrant flower stalks covered in multiple blooms. This plant is resistant to deer and rabbits and needs infrequent watering once established. The hot pink cultivar ‘Red Queen’ is a hummingbird favorite. Get Agastache seeds here.
Salvia – Hummingbirds like just about any kind of perennial sage, but they’ll be especially drawn to the red flowers of the more cold hardy, drought resistant Salvia greggii ‘Furman’s Red.’
If you want to temper all that scarlet with some cool blue flowers, Salvia azurea is a good bet.
Penstemon – Hailing from the western U.S., the 2-foot Penstemon eatonii or Firecracker Penstemon is known for its tubular scarlet blossoms that decorate southern California east to the Rocky Mountains. The taller Penstemon barbatus or Scarlet Bugler flowers in spring and again in late summer, coinciding with the southward migration of the Rufous Hummingbird. Buy seeds here.
Poinciana – Hummingbirds spend much time at the orange flowers of Caesalpinia pulcherrima or Pride of Barbados, a hardy, shrub-like perennial especially adapted to hot, dry climates. It can grow 5-8 feet high in full sun with little maintenance. For seeds, click here.
Scarlet Bee Balm – This aromatic native American herb has bright red (and sometimes purple), ragged, tubular flowers that grow in dense 3-foot tall clusters. Monarda didyma prefers to be kept uniformly moist, and once established, will spread on its own like many fellow members of the mint family. To buy seeds of this perennial, click here.
Yellow Bells – Whether covered with fragrant yellow trumpets or the newer orange, Tecoma stans or Esperanza loves the sunny, dry heat of Texas down through South America. Shrubby in warmer climates and a tender perennial further north.
Petunia – The Petunia is a common bedding plant for summertime color, and the funnel-shaped flowers are just right for hummingbirds. Some plants have a more compact habit; others like to trail. Whatever you choose, both solid and variegated color combinations are readily available, and the hummingbirds will love them all.
A lovely, white-ruffled, pink and purple seed mix of Petunia Multiflora F2 Picotee can be found here.
Flowering Tobacco – A tender perennial in its native South America, further north, Nicotiana alata is used as a drought- and insect-resistant, sun-loving annual. The tubular flowers come in many shades from deep maroon through yellow to lavender. Buy a multi-color seed mix here.
Salvia – Native to Brazil, Salvia splendens or Scarlet Sage is most commonly used as an annual, herbaceous bedding plant in the United States. Like its shrubby cousins, it is equally enticing to hummingbirds looking for nectar-filled cones that are available for most of the growing season. Reaching up to about 30 inches high, these salvias like full sun and moist, well-drained soil, with maybe a little afternoon shade in particularly hot climates.
For a really spectacular salvia with red and white flowers, try ‘Reddy White Surprise’ found here.
Fuchsia – If you have some shade and live in a cooler, wetter clime, try the pendulous flowers of one of the many cultivars of Fuchsia to get hummingbirds interested in your backyard. Fuchsias can be shrub-like or have a more trailing habit, and the flowers come in a huge variety of shades of purple, pink, red, white, and orange.
Coral Honeysuckle – While hummingbirds will feast on many species of honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens is native to the eastern United States and far less invasive than its Chinese and Japanese relatives. Its dark coral trumpets show up by mid-spring and are a beacon for early arriving hummingbirds. Buy a 5″ pot, here.
Carolina Jessamine – Bright yellow, funnel-shaped flowers adorn the evergreen vine Gelsemium sempervirens in early spring, calling to the hummingbirds who are just arriving from parts further south. Native to the southeastern U.S. down to Central America, it likes full sun and something to twine around. Being evergreen, eventually the stems will get quite thick and woody. For a one or three gallon plant, click here.
Hummingbird Vine – Easily grown from seed, the annual, sun-loving Ipomoea pennata (formerly I. quamoclit) or Cypressvine has delicate fern-like foliage, and like its name suggests, the hummingbirds will be drawn to this vine and its bright red blooms. For a seed mix that includes pink and white flowers, click here. For the solid red blossoms, click here.
Morning Glory – While not red, the traditional deep purple-blue flowers of the common morning glory are enough to tempt the little birds. Click here for seeds of the beautiful, indigo-flowered Ipomoea purpurea.
There are many more flowering plants that are attractive to hummingbirds, but choosing some of the flowers listed here will give you a great start on creating your own hummingbird garden. Be sure to plant a variety of these perennials, annuals and vines, so you’ll always have something for the hummers to feed on and keep them coming back for more.