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Attracting Hummingbirds



Flowers for Hummingbirds
by Diane Linsley

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.

Hummingbird Flowers

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.

Goldenrod -- One of the last flowers of the season. This native perennial provides nectar for hummingbirds, butterflies and beneficial insects.

Hesperis matronalis -- Violet flowers in late spring. Also attracts butterflies.

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.

Impatiens balsamina (Balsam)-- Self-sowing annual with bright colors.

Ipomoea (Morning Glory) -- Hummingbirds are more attracted to the red varieties like Ipomoea luteola, but all colors are good.

Ipomopsis rubra (Standing Cypress) -- Chocolate cake for hummingbirds.

Liatris (Blazing Star) -- Tall spikes of purple flowers for hummingbirds and butterflies. Native perennial.

Lobelia cardinalis -- Hummingbird watchers rave over Cardinal Flower.

Lupine 'Morello Cherry' -- Blooms in late spring before most other flowers get started.

Lychnis chalcedonica (Maltese Cross) -- The vivid red flowers are like a neon sign that says to hummingbirds, "Eat at this restaurant!" 

Mirabilis jalapa (Four O'Clock) -- The flowers close up in the heat of the afternoon, so watch for hummingbirds in the early morning or evening.

Monarda citriodora (Bee Balm) -- Attracts hummingbirds and butterflies. 

Penstemon barbatus 'Iron Maiden' -- Most penstemons attract hummingbirds, but this is the best one in my garden.

Perovskia (Russian Sage) -- I was surprised to see a hummingbird return to this plant several times one day, especially since there was an agastache nearby that should have been more tempting.

Petunia violacea -- Easy-to-grow annual. Perfect for hanging baskets, so you can watch for hummingbirds outside the window.

Salvia (Sage) -- The best salvias for attracting hummingbirds are Salvia azurea, Salvia coccinea Red and Salvia coccinea 'Coral Nymph'.

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.

Verbena bonariensis -- Tall clusters of purple flowers for hummingbirds and butterflies.

Zinnia -- Zinnias are always a big hit!


More Flowers for Attacting Hummingbirds

Abelia, azalea, begonia, birds eyes, bleeding heart, bovardia, butterfly bush, canna lily, Centranthus ruber, chelone, clematis, crabapple, crocosmia, dahlia, delphinium, fuchsia, flowering quince, gaura, geranium, gladiolus, hawthorne, heuchera, hollyhock, honeysuckle, hosta, iris, kniphofia, lantana, lilac,
mock orange, nasturtium, nepeta, pentas, phlox, physostegia, rose of sharon, scarlet runner bean, Stachys coccinea, sweet pea, sweet william, veronica, trumpet vine, weigela, wisteria, yucca, zauschneria.


Related Articles
Flowers for Butterflies -- Attracting butterflies with nectar and host plants.
Flowers for Beneficial Insects -- Support your local ladybugs and lacewings.
First-Year Flowering Perennials -- Get more bang for your buck.


Other Resources
Hummingbirds and Flowers They Love by Joe Lively
Amazing pictures of baby hummingbirds by Alek Komarnitsky


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