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.     

NATIVE PLANTS FOR HUMMINGBIRDS

P= perennial; A= annual;  Sp= spring;  S= summer;  F= fall;  E= early;  M= mid;  L= late  A,P= annual in cold climates, perennial in warmer locales. V= varies, depending on species

Common nameTypeLatin nameBloomsZone
Wild PetuniaARuellia caroliniensisES-LF3-8
Wild LupinePLupinus perennisSp-ES3-9
Wild BergamotPMonarda fistulosaMS3-9
Trumpet VineP, VineCampsis radicansES-MF4-9
Spotted JewelweedAImpatiens capensisMS-EF4-10
Spiked GayfeatherPLiatris spicataMS3-10
Southern Blue IrisAIris virginianaSp5-9
Scarlet Monkey FlowerPMimulus cardinalisMSp-EF6-9
Scarlet Bugler PenstemonPPenstemon centranthifoliusMS3-8
Scarlet SalviaA, PSalvia CoccineaMS4-10
Royal CatchflyPSilene regiaMS-EF4-8
Rose VerbenaPGlandularia canadensisLS-EF6-9
Red ThistleBCirsium occidentaleSp2-9
Red ColumbinePAquilegia canadenseS-LF3-9
Red IrisPIris fulvaESp-Sp5-11
Red BuckeyeShrubAesculus paviaESp-Sg5-9
Purple BeardtonguePPenstemon cobaeaMSp-ES3-8
PhloxA, PPhlox spp.MS-F3-8
Native Yellow HoneysuckleP, VineLonicera flavaLSp-ES4-9
NasturtiumATropaeolum majusMS-EFAll
Mountain RosebayShrubRhododendron catawbienseSp4-8
MonkeyflowerPMimulus cardinalisMSp-MS6-9
Milkweed (Common, Marsh, Butterfly, etal)PAsceplias spp.S-F2-9
Lemon HorsemintA, BMonarda citriodoraLSp-MS2-12
Indian PinkPSpigelia marilandicaLSp-ES5-9
Indian Blanket (Blanket Flower)AGaillardia pulchellaMS-MF3-10
Great Blue LobeliaPLobelia siphilitica ES-EF3-9
Garden PhloxPPhlox paniculataMS-EF4-8
Fire PinkPSilene virginicaMSp4-8
Coral HoneysuckleShrubLonicera sempervirensS-F4-9
Coral BellsPHeuchera sanguineaMS4-9
Currant (Golden, Red, Black)ShrubRibes spp.MSpV
Cardinal FlowerPLobelia cardinalisLS-EF3-9
Canada Lily (plant bulbs only)PLilium canadenseMS-EF3-9
California FusciaPEpilobium canumMS-EF5-9
Blue FlagPIris versicolorES5-9
BeebalmPMonarda didymaMS-F4-7
American ColumbinePAquilegia canadensisLSp3-8
*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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