Native plants for hummingbirds

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Hummingbirds are agility, speed, and fearlessness all bundled into a three-inch package wrapped in iridescent colors! They’re so cute, would you like to enjoy them up-close? You can by offering a garden of nectarous plants they like. And, it also happens to make their lives a bit easier—they expend enormous amounts of energy in their search for food, so when there’s a convenient spread before them they have more time to rest.

Delightful as they are, hummingbirds serve a higher purpose than mere entertainment for us. As they move among plants sipping their nectar, they spread pollen, and, in fact, more than one hundred thirty native plant species rely exclusively on these birds for cross-pollination—they can’t exist with them.

We see the heaviest concentrations of hummingbirds when they move northward in the spring to their breeding range in the United States, and again south in the fall to their winter range in Mexico and beyond. Some species stay all year in California, Oregon, and Washington, and an occasional few spend winter in southern Florida and southern Texas. But those of us in the rest of the US must take our enjoyment during the short time they’re here in the summer.  America’s long-distance hummingbirds

Go bright!

Hummingbirds are drawn to bright colors, especially red (which is why most nectar feeders are red). They don’t entirely limit themselves and will sip nectar even from white flowers, but mostly go for bright colors. Plant flowers in masses of the same color—a single red plant here and a single yellow plant there just doesn’t scream “come hither” to a little bird passing overhead. (It’s also more appealing to the human eye.)

They like to have many different sources of nectar, so also plant several varieties. Be sure to include species that flower at differing times, so a group of something is always in bloom. If you decide to include hybridized plants, be sure to select single-bloom varieties, as hummingbirds prefer them over double-blooms. Slow-motion video of how hummingbirds “sip” nectar.     

Common nameTypeLatin nameBloomsZone
BeebalmPMonarda didymaMS–F4–7
Blue FlagPIris versicolorES5–9
California FuchsiaPEpilobium canumMS–EF5–9
Canada Lily (plant bulbs only)PLilium canadenseMS–EF3–9
Cardinal FlowerPLobelia cardinalisLS–EF3–9
Coral BellsPHeuchera sanguineaMS4–9
Coral HoneysuckleShrubLonicera sempervirensS–F4–9
Currant (Golden, Red, Black)ShrubRibes spp.MSp3–8
Fire PinkPSilene virginicaMSp4–8
Garden PhloxPPhlox paniculataMS–EF4–8
Great Blue LobeliaPLobelia siphilitica ES–EF3–9
Indian Blanket (Blanket Flower)AGaillardia pulchellaMS–MF3-10
Indian PinkPSpigelia marilandicaLSp–ES5–9
Lemon HorsemintA, BMonarda citriodoraLSp–MS2–12
Milkweed (Common, Marsh, Butterfly, etal)PAsclepias spp.S–F2–9
MonkeyflowerPMimulus cardinalisMSp–MS6–9
Mountain RosebayShrubRhododendron catawbienseSp4–8
NasturtiumATropaeolum majusMS–EF1–13, incl. Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico
PhloxA, PPhlox spp.MS–F3–8
Purple BeardtonguePPenstemon cobaeaMSp–ES3–8
Red BuckeyeShrubAesculus paviaESp–ES5–9
Red ColumbinePAquilegia canadensisLSp3–8
Red IrisPIris fulvaESp–LSp5–11
Red ThistleBCirsium occidentaleSp2–9
Rose VerbenaPGlandularia canadensisLS–EF6–9
Royal CatchflyPSilene regiaMS–EF4–8
Scarlet Bugler PenstemonPPenstemon centranthifoliusMS3–8
Scarlet MonkeyflowerPMimulus cardinalisMSp–EF6–9
Scarlet SageA, PSalvia coccineaMS4–10
Southern Blue Flag IrisAIris virginicaSp5–9
Spiked GayfeatherPLiatris spicataMS3–10
Spotted JewelweedAImpatiens capensisMS–EF4–10
Trumpet VineP, VineCampsis radicansES–MF4–9
Wild BergamotPMonarda fistulosaMS3–9
Wild LupinePLupinus perennisSp–ES3–9
Wild PetuniaARuellia caroliniensisES–LF3–8
Yellow HoneysuckleP, VineLonicera flavaLSp-ES4–9

*Top photo: Allen’s Hummingbird, Selasphorus sasin. (Dawn Beattie / Flickr; cc by 2.0 )

More reading:

Hummingbird nectar recipe   
Explore an insect-friendly yard   
Types of bird feeders   

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