The 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 object. Red ribbons are perfect for attracting attention.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Aquilegia (Columbine): blooms late spring, early summer, drought-tolerant in partial shade, deer resistant. Perennial in Zones 3-9.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.