It's fun to watch hummingbirds drinking from red plastic feeders, but there's nothing like seeing them sipping from the flowers in your own garden. I’ve been observing hummingbirds for many years in the hope of discovering their favorite flowers. But just when I think I’ve figured it out, the funny little birds change their minds.
One day, they spend all their time visiting the salvias, and another day, they prefer the zinnias. When I expressed my frustration at not being able identify which flowers were best, my husband said, “Well, some days you feel like eating broccoli, and other days you want chocolate cake. Maybe it’s the same way with hummingbirds.”
So here’s my list of favorite hummingbird flowers. You might be tempted to plant only “chocolate cake”, but remember that “Variety is the spice of life”. The more selection you have, the better.
Agastache rupestris (Sunset Hyssop) -- Bushy perennial with orange-pink, tubular flowers. Think of it as a low-maintenance hummingbird feeder.
Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly Weed) -- Drought-tolerant perennial with bright orange flowers for attracting hummingbirds and butterflies.
Aquilegia (Columbine) -- Spring-blooming perennial in a wide range of colors. Native Aquilegia formosa has red flowers that attract hummingbirds.
Cleome -- This flower is useful in more ways than one. Hummingbirds like to perch on the horizontal seedpods.
Cosmos 'Ladybird Scarlet' -- I planted this near my hummingbird feeder, and I was surprised to see hummingbirds visiting the cosmos more than the feeder.
Digitalis (Foxglove) -- The tubular flowers attract hummingbirds, and the plants grow in full sun or part shade. I was surprised to see a hummingbird sipping on the pale yellow Digitalis lutea. That's what I call "hummingbird broccoli".
Eupatorium maculatum (Joe-Pye Weed) -- A native perennial that blooms in the fall. The mauve flowers attract hummingbirds and butterflies.
Gaura lindheimeri -- The delicate pinkish-white flowers look great combined with other hummingbird favorites, especially red flowers.
Goldenrod -- One of the last flowers of the season. This native perennial provides nectar for hummingbirds, butterflies and beneficial insects.
Hibiscus -- Hummingbirds spot these huge flowers from across the yard, and they swoop in to investigate. I'm not sure how much nectar they have, so I plant other flowers around them to provide more food.
Silene -- One morning, I was pollinating a daylily next to Silene 'Jack Flash', and a hummingbird tried to scare me off. When the attempt failed, he relented and agreed to share the space with me. He really wanted that silene!
Tithonia 'Torch' -- Large, bushy annual with orange-red flowers that attract hummingbirds and butterflies.