Flowers for Hummingbirds
by Diane Linsley
There's nothing like watching hummingbirds feeding from the flowers in your own garden. I’ve been observing hummingbirds for many years, hoping to discover 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 salvia, and another day, they prefer the zinnias. When I expressed my frustration at not being able identify which flowers were best, my friend said, “Well, some days you feel like eating broccoli, and other days you want chocolate cake. Maybe it’s the same way with hummingbirds.”
Native Flowers for Hummingbirds
Should you only plant native flowers for hummingbirds?
The Audubon Society recommends choosing native plants that are adapted to your region and growing conditions. This is practical advice because native plants are more likely to thrive in your garden. In addition, the hummingbirds, butterflies and beneficial insects in your region are already adapted to these plants, so they will recognize and make good use of them.
However, if it's a choice between bluegrass or non-native flowers that attract hummingbirds, it's obviously best to choose the flowers. My advice is to simply plant as many different species of hummingbird flowers as you can, giving priority to the native flowers first.
So here’s my list of the best hummingbird flower seeds. 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.
Annual Flower Seeds for Hummingbirds
Cleome -- This annual flower is useful in more ways than one. Hummingbirds like to perch on the horizontal seedpods. Cosmos sulphureus -- I planted these brightly-colored annuals near my hummingbird feeder, and I was surprised to see hummingbirds visiting the cosmos as much as the feeder. Easy to grow from seed. Diascia 'Pink Queen' -- Wonderful annual flower for hanging baskets, which is the perfect location for viewing hummingbirds at close range. Gilia tricolor -- Native annual wildflower for hummingbirds. Delicate, lilac and white, trumpet-shaped flowers. The fragrant blooms smell like chocolate. Easy to grow from seed. Mirabilis jalapa (Four O'Clock) -- Self-sowing annual with trumpet-shaped, fragrant flowers that close up in the heat of the afternoon. Good for attracting hummingbirds in the early morning or evening. Monarda citriodora (Lemon Beebalm) -- Annual wildflower with pink, whorled flowers and fragrant leaves. One of the best native flowers for hummingbirds, butterflies and bees. Nasturtium -- Popular annual with brightly colored flowers for hummingbirds, butterflies and beneficial insects. Nice in containers. Easy to grow from seed. Phlox drummondii -- Red Drummond Phlox is a native wildflower with rosy-red flowers that attract hummingbirds and butterflies. Nice in containers or as a filler between other plants in the garden. Easy to grow from seed. Salvia -- All salvias attract hummingbirds, but the best one in my garden is the red-flowered Salvia coccinea. Silene armeria -- Self-sowing, annual wildflower from Europe. Vivid pink clusters of flowers on tall stems. Silene pendula 'Triumph' -- Carmine-rose flowers. Great for hanging baskets. Easy-to-grow, annual flower for hummingbirds. White Cypress Vine -- Small, pure white flowers and attractive, fern-like foliage. The deep-throated flowers attract hummingbirds. Zinnia -- Zinnias of all sizes and colors work well. Easy to grow.
Perennial Flower Seeds for Hummingbirds
Agastache foeniculum -- Native wildflower for hummingbirds and butterflies. Lavender-blue spikes of flowers. Edible, licorice-flavored leaves for tea. First-year-flowering perennial. Easy to grow from seed. Aquilegia (Columbine) -- Spring-blooming perennial with flowers in a wide range of colors, heights and forms. Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly Weed) -- Native wildflower. Clusters of bright orange flowers in mid summer. One of the best flowers for hummingbirds and butterflies. Campanula americana (American Bellflower) -- Tall stems of violet-blue flowers from July to October. Native wildflower for hummingbirds and butterflies. Centranthus ruber 'Coccineus' -- Clusters of reddish-pink flowers. Long-blooming, first-year flowering perennial for hummingbirds and butterflies. Delphinium -- Stunning blue, purple, pink or white flowers on tall stems. Great for butterflies and hummingbirds. Dianthus barbatus (Sweet William) -- A biennial or short-lived perennial with crimson, pink, white and bicolor flowers. The sweetly fragrant flowers attract hummingbirds and butterflies. Digitalis (Foxglove) -- The tubular flowers attract hummingbirds, and the plants are shade-tolerant. 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) -- Fall-blooming, native perennial with large heads of mauve flowers that attract hummingbirds and butterflies. Gaura lindheimeri -- A graceful, first-year flowering perennial with pink-tinged, white flowers for hummingbirds and butterflies. Native wildflower. Hesperis matronalis -- Easy-to-grow perennial with violet or white, fragrant flowers that attract hummingbirds and butterflies in late spring. Hibiscus lasiocarpus -- Native perennial. Hummingbirds spot these huge flowers from far away, 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. Ipomopsis rubra (Standing Cypress) -- Native wildflower with tall, narrow stems of trumpet-shaped, scarlet-red flowers. Chocolate cake for hummingbirds. Liatris (Blazing Star) -- Tall spikes of purple flowers in late summer. Drought- tolerant, native perennial for hummingbirds and butterflies. Lobelia cardinalis -- Native. One of the best flowers for hummingbirds. Late summer-blooming perennial with bright red flowers. Lychnis chalcedonica (Maltese Cross) -- Heirloom perennial. The large clusters of vivid, scarlet-red flowers seem to glow in the garden like a neon restaurant sign that says, "Hummingbirds, eat here!" Malva 'Zebrina' -- A first-year-flowering perennial with pale pink flowers that have purple stripes. Attracts hummingbirds and butterflies. Penstemon (Beardtongue) -- Native perennial. Most penstemons, especially the red-flowered Penstemon eatonii, are chocolate cake for hummingbirds. Perovskia atriplicifolia (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. Ruellia humilis (Wild Petunia) -- Native perennial with lavender-blue, trumpet-shaped flowers for hummingbirds and butterflies. Blooms all summer into fall. Salvia -- Hardy and tender perennials with tubular flowers that attract hummingbirds. There is a salvia for every season in the garden. Solidago nemoralis (Goldenrod) -- One of the last flowers of the season. This native perennial provides nectar for hummingbirds, butterflies and beneficial insects in late summer and autumn. Verbena bonariensis -- Tall clusters of purple flowers for hummingbirds and butterflies. Self sows vigorously.
More Hummingbird Flowers
Abelia, azalea, begonia, bleeding heart, butterfly bush, canna lily, chelone, clematis, crabapple, crocosmia, dahlia, fuchsia, flowering quince, geranium, gladiolus, hawthorne, heuchera, honeysuckle, hosta, iris, kniphofia, lantana, lilac, mock orange, nepeta, pentas, physostegia, rose of sharon, scarlet runner bean, Stachys coccinea, veronica, trumpet vine, weigela, wisteria, yucca, zauschneria.