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The Ultimate Dining Guide for Hummingbirds

Hummingbird flying among the flowering garden plantsThe ultimate dining experience for hummers is a well-stocked hummingbird garden. Sure, they will flock to your feeders if that is their only option, and in the earliest days of spring or the dog days of summer, your feeders may be absolutely necessary for their survival. However, nothing pleases hummingbirds more than offering them a nectar-filled all you can eat buffet.

The ideal hummingbird bistro includes an assortment of blossoms in an array of colors, especially red. Hummingbirds can see red from far away, while most other critters, including birds and bees, can't distinguish red at all. Therefore, hummers somehow know that if they see a red blossom, it probably hasn't already been picked over, and they head right for it. They actually will check out any red objectyou should see how they flock to our red gazing balls!

But, of course, once you put out the eat sign, you have the smorgasbord ready. Plant a variety of different blossoms, especially tube-shaped blossoms that hang and cascade. The hummer is just about the only creature that can extract pollen from a tubular blossom, so it's like putting out an exclusive dish for them at the buffet.

There is a lot of overlap between the favorite plants of butterflies and hummers, so you will probably find your yard also becoming a gathering place for butterflies, with the hummers darting from flower to flower, while the butterflies flutter about leisurely.

Stocking Your Hummingbird Buffet

There are hundreds of plant species that hummingbirds love, but you will want to narrow down your selection to those that will do well in your Zone.

You'll also want to aim for a garden that will have something blooming in it from the beginning of spring until the first hard frost. By considering the bloom times of different plants, you can come up with a mix that will achieve this goal. To make it easy for you, we have grouped the list below according to bloom times, and have also indicated Hardiness Zones within each description. (If the text indicates a plant will be perennial in certain Zones, that also means it is ideally suited to those Zones.)

Hummingbirds are driven by sight more than smell, so the showier the blossoms, the more interested they will be. As mentioned earlier, they like red, and some gardeners also recommend orange. In the list below we have linked to red varieties, but you don't need a solid red garden to have lots of hummingbirds. Just be sure to provide a decent showing of red and perhaps orange, and then go for whatever color mix suits your fancy.

Variety is always a good idea, so mix it up by offering the hummers a combination of bushes, shrubs, perennials, and annuals. The bushes and the perennials will be the foundation of your hummingbird garden, while you can change the annuals as you wish, to alter the overall appearance or create a new color scheme.

One note of caution: please don't use chemical pesticides or fertilizers in your hummingbird garden. Hummers are such tiny, sensitive creatures that their systems can hardly handle the red dye some people put in the sugar water of their feeders, let alone strong chemicals. We know you want them to be around for a long, long time, so please be sure that the blossoms they feed on are not laced with anything toxic.

To learn more about hummingbirds, read Make Your Back Yard a Hummingbird Hilton, Our Seven Favorite Hummingbird Feeders, How to Get Your Backyard Humming, and The Care and Feeding of Your Hummingbird Feeder. Within these articles you will find links that enable you to track the hummers' migration and to report your first sightings. There's even a link to a video of a hummingbird snoring!

Hummingbirds will return year after year to a spot they like, and they will tell their friends, too. So when you create a hummingbird garden, the time you invest will reap many delights for years to come, both for you and for the hummers.

For continuous blooms throughout the entire growing season, we suggest you plant a variety of bushes, shrubs, perennials and annuals. The bushes and perennials will be the foundation of your hummingbird garden, while annuals can be changed to create a different look each summer. To help you make your choices, here is a month-by-month guide to what will bloom when and for how long:

 

March to April

Hummingbird dinning on a Chaenomeles flower

Chaenomeles (Flowering Quince): deciduous shrub, bonsai trainable, drought-tolerant, deer resistant and ideal for cut arrangements. Ours produce neither thorns nor fruits. Chaenomeles will bloom from early spring to early or mid-summer. Hardy in Zones 5–9.

Hummingbird feeding on a Canna flower

Canna: tropical, trumpet-shaped blossoms, lily-like foliage, needs 6-8 hours of sun and a warmer winter location, but is suitable for containers. Blooms 90 days after seeding from mid-summer to first frost. Annual in Zones: 1-6, perennial in zones 7-1.

Hummingbird feeding from a Cleome flower

Cleome (Spider Flower): Plants grow sturdy 4-foot stems topped with unique flower blossoms. Blooms throughout spring and fall until the first frost. Hardy in Zones 2a to 11b, annual in Zones: 2a-8, perennial in Zones: 9-11b.

Hummingbird drinking from a flowering Lantana plant

Lantana: free flowering, tender perennial, suitable for indoor and outdoor containers, sun-lover, drought- and salt-tolerant. Lantana will bloom from late spring through October or November. Hardy in Zones 8–11.

Hummingbird pollinating a Weigela flower

Weigela: highly adaptable, trumpet-shaped blossoms, fragrant with low pollen (ideal for allergy sufferers), and deer resistant. Weigela will bloom from early spring to early fall. Perennial in Zones 4–8.

 

April to May

Rufous hummingbird enjoying a visit to a Columbine plant

Aquilegia (Columbine): blooms late spring, early summer, drought-tolerant in partial shade, deer resistant. Perennial in Zones 3–9.

Hummingbirds love Digitalis plants

Digitalis (Foxglove): perennial or biennial, wide variety of colors, prefers moist soil, puts on a dramatic and flamboyant display. Blooms late spring to late summer. Perennial in Zones 3–9.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird enjoying Fuchsia flowers

Fuchsia: annual, hanging blossoms ideal for hummingbirds, prefers partial shade, well-suited for containers, striking and tropical-looking flowers, blooms mid-spring to mid-fall. Hardy in Zones 10-11.

Hummingbird eating from a Impatiens flower

Impatiens: annual, partial sun to full shade preferred, perfect for container growing, wide variety of colors and forms, blooms late spring to early fall. Hardy in Zones 9 –11.

Annas Hummingbird dinning from a Honeysuckle flower blossom

Lonicera (Honeysuckle): deciduous vine, wonderfully aromatic, blooms from spring through fall and its fall berries attract migratory songbirds. Lonicera will bloom from mid-spring though October or November. Perennial in Zones 4–9.

Hummingbirds love Lupine flowers

Lupinus (Lupine): extremely adaptable, stunning planted en masse, popular for cutting gardens, fragrant and colorful, blooms late spring to summer. Hardy in zones 4–11.

Hummingbirds love the flowers of Petunia plants

Petunia: extremely versatile annual, light and sweet fragrance, low maintenance, fantastic variety of colors and forms, good for containers and beds. Blooms throughout spring until the first hard frost. Hardy in zones 9–11.

Hummingbird ready to feed on a Salvia flower

Salvia (Meadow Sage): disease- and pest-free perennial, blooms spring to fall, drought-tolerant, grows in poor soils and looks beautifully dramatic in cut arrangements. Hardy in Zones 7–11.

 

May to June

Hummingbird dinning on a Butterfly Bush

Buddleia (Butterfly Bush): low maintenance, drought-tolerant once established, fragrant and great for cut arrangements. Buddleia will bloom from mid-summer to early fall. Perennial in Zones 5–9.

Hummingbirds love Monarda flowers

Monarda (Bee Balm): is a fragrant perennial in the mint family and ideal for shaded, naturalized areas. It attracts beneficial predatory insects and pollinators. Blooms from early summer to early fall. Hardy in Zones 4–9.

 

June to July

Male Calliope Hummingbird drinking from an Agastache plant

Agastache (Hummingbird Mint or Hyssop): perennial in many climates; heat, drought, wind and rain tolerant, deer repellant, aromatic and nice in cut flower arrangements. Will bloom from early summer to mid-fall. Perennial in Zones 6–9.

Male Ruby Throated Hummingbird eating from a Penstemon plant

Penstemon (Beardtongue): drought-tolerant, tubular blossoms, perennialtolerant to below 0°, deer and rabbit resistant. Blooms from mid-summer to late summer. Hardy in Zones 3–8.

Hummingbird drinking from a Phlox flower

Phlox: available in creeping and garden varieties, easy to grow and care for, semi-evergreen foliage and a nice addition to fresh cut arrangements, blooms mid-summer to fall. Hardy in Zones 4–8.

We wish you a gorgeous hummingbird garden teeming with these marvelously entertaining and amazingly energetic little gems.

22 Responses to “The Ultimate Dining Guide for Hummingbirds”

  1. Diane says:

    I wish it was easier to find Spigelia Marilandica (Indian Pink), native and a hummer plant I have 1 plant that I planted several years ago. It has done wonderfully. Tracked down a local native plant nursery that carried them and bought 2- only one is coming up and I hope it makes it.

    Why is this wonderful little perennial so difficult to find?

  2. I always feel like I’m in the presence of a miracle when I see a hummingbird. My garden has lots of humming bird plants and I do see them at times, but not with the regularity of a popular feeder. I never had a crowd when I did have a feeder, but maybe it’s time to try again!

  3. jstutzman says:

    Diane, the availability of plants has a lot to do with the demand overall. Apparently this variety is not in high demand.

  4. Cathy says:

    Laurie Ann, yes, do keep trying. People who get lots of hummingbird traffic have been feeding them for years. At one place I had lived, in an upstairs apt., every year, I kept getting more and had 3 feeders to try to keep them from getting territorial. When I moved, I talked with neighbors and found out that they were also feeding them! The success lies in making proper nectar and keeping the feeder clean and change it more often when it’s hot. I boil water and add between 1/4-1/3 sugar. Refrigerate excess for a week or less. Another trick is tie red ribbons/rags/anything to attract them because they can see it when they are flying.

  5. Nick says:

    You should also leave building materials for them. I hang cotton balls from my trees as well as short pieced of thread. I currently have a nesting hummingbird in a tree on my lot and there are many colored thread and cotton in it’s nest construction.

  6. jstutzman says:

    Nick, that is an excellent suggestion. Thanks for sharing it with us!

  7. Jane Siewert says:

    Think they forgot to mention “trumpet vines” – we have a large arbor with huge vines and they adore the trumpets!!

  8. Kath says:

    Our 20′ mature Mimosa tree attracts so many hummingbirds during the summer blooming it is almost amazing – we also plant many perennials and annuals to feed these tiny gems – love them !

  9. jstutzman says:

    Sounds wonderful Kath. We would love to see some photos! Joe

  10. Karen says:

    They left out turk’s cap. It’s red and for someone who doesn’t have much luck with plants, it’s a Godsend. I also have a mimosa tree and a pine tree that the hummers love. But the most important thing is keep those feeders cleaned. To that end, they have several kinds of feeders and the easiest to clean is the one that looks like a flying saucer, very easy to clean, they have one with an ant guard on it(a water well) a little expensive when bought at Birds Unlimited. But now Wal*Mart has finally got one in that is similar and about half the price. Don’t get those tall ones they are hard to clean and waste a lot of sugar water and can have a sort of vapor block. Remember if you are changing it and cleaning it 2-3 times a week, you want to make it easy on yourself.

  11. Christine R. says:

    I have some great pics I would love to share with everyone.
    Where do I post them?

  12. jstutzman says:

    Christine, send them to info@gardenharvestsupply.com with “for blog” in the subject. Thanks, Joe

  13. Brenda says:

    I have Turks Cap plant that is perennial. Hummingbirds love it! I live in zone 6 or 7.

  14. Donna says:

    I saw my first hummingbird in my yard this week. He came back the next day. I didn’t see him yesterday. He really liked the Russian Sage I have planted. I’ve waited 16 years to see one in my backyard!

  15. Nicol says:

    I have a mostly shady yard.. and my hummers are after the rhododendrons..the red ones of course..

  16. […] What will give your back yard value-added appeal in the eyes of your little bejeweled patrons is the presence of their favorite plants. In last April's newsletter we discussed four such plants: Monarda,  Butterfly Bush, Lantana, and Fuchsia. We would also like to suggest Salvia and Sage as additional plants for your hummer garden. Hummingbirds will want to dine out at these fine nectar-bearing plants and you can be sure that they will appreciate the enhanced ambience those blooms provide in your back yard as much as you do. For a list of plants that will bloom all season long, read our blog article: The Ultimate Dining Guide for Hummingbirds. […]

  17. […] For more information on attracting hummingbirds with plants, read our article: The Ultimate Dining Guide for Hummingbirds. […]

  18. Annie says:

    We saw our first hummingbirds of the season 4/4/16! We have red and purple petunias, Easter lilies, azaleas, cross vine, woodbine, yellow jasmine, verbena, forsythia, amaryllis,and flowering quince in bloom, and 5 small feeders out. At the height of the season last summer we were feeding over three dozen hummers. We have many varieties of salvia, Mexican hyssop, monarda, butterfly bush, pentas, impatiens, fuchsia, columbine,and agastache that will provide food for them til frost.

  19. jstutzman says:

    Annie, that sounds like a wonderful hummer garden! We would love to see some photos should you care to share them with us. Thanks for the list of plants you use. GHS

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