Hummingbirds and other pollinators play an integral role in maintaining healthy ecosystems and are an essential part of not only plant reproduction but also of insuring genetic diversity in native plants. Before you start planting those hummingbird attracting flowers, take some time to consider the environment and what hummingbirds need in addition to the tasty nectar. In our neck of the woods (North Carolina), the Ruby-throated Hummingbird is the most prevalent species but most of the information below will apply to other species as well.
Attracting Hummingbirds to Your Garden
Use Native Plants
Hummingbirds have adapted to native plants, and these are also typically the easiest to grow. Be sure to incorporate plenty of locally native plants in your hummingbird garden. We’ve organized several collections of US native hummingbird attracting plants and even a few by state including; North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and Texas.
Include Early and Late Bloomers
Hummingbirds are migratory so be sure to include plants that flower in early spring and late fall in addition to the regular summer bloomers. This ensures that there is plenty of nectar year-round to attract migratory hummingbirds. Ajuga, Alstroemeria, Baptisia, Dianthus, and Kniphofia are all excellent spring blooming perennial flowers that attract hummingbirds. Abutilon, Buddleia, Nepeta, and Salvia are fantastic winter bloomers.
Include Plants of Different Heights
Hummingbirds nest and perch on the branches of taller trees and shrubs, typically 10 to 20 feet above the ground, so be sure that there are plenty of trees nearby to provide a safe place from predators. Hummingbirds also feed on insects so be sure your hummingbird garden includes plenty of groundcover and other insect attracting plants.
Plant a Diverse Range of Colors
It is true that hummingbirds are attracted to red flowers, but they often feed on flowers of other colors since many of the red varieties may not bloom until late in the summer. Having a range of flower colors also means there is a diverse selection of pollen and nectar for hummingbirds to choose from.
Provide a Water Source
Hummingbirds get most of their water from the nectar they consume but they still require water for preening and bathing. Adding a misting bird bath or a water element to your hummingbird garden will provide hummingbirds a place to stay cool and clean.
Avoid Using Pesticides
Despite popular belief, hummingbirds get most of their nutritional requirements from insects. Nectar just gives them the fuel they need for finding the insects. Since pesticides tend to reduce the insect population, it’s best to limit their use or just avoid them all together. Some pesticides could also be harmful to the hummingbirds.
We are frequently asked what plants attract hummingbirds so if you'd like a list of the top plants to attract hummingbirds to your garden, we hope the list below will prove useful. As a rule, flowers that attract hummingbirds have bright flowers and are good nectar (fuel) sources. With enough of these hummingbird plants in your garden, you're sure to get a good buzz going.
Plants Hummingbirds Like
Abutilon (Flowering Maple) - These hibiscus relatives are well-known house plants but new winter-hardy cultivars make fantastic garden specimens.
Agapanthus (Lily-of-the-Nile) - A great summer-flowering perennial for warmer climates that attracts hummingbirds and butterflies.
Agastache (Anise Hyssop, Hummingbird Mint) - Agastache hybrids bloom all summer long and attract humminbirds, butterflies, and bees.
Agave (Century Plant) - You may not think of agave as particularly floriferous, but when they do bloom, the hummingbirds will soon show up.
Ajuga (Bugleweed) - A great low lying groundcover plant, ajuga also produce colorful spikes of blooms that are a feast for swallowtail butterflies and our native ruby-throated hummingbirds.
Alcea rugosa (Hollyhock) - This reliable and disease-resistant perennial is adorned all summer long with large yellow flowers that are attractive to hummingbirds and edible by humans.
Alstroemeria (Princess Lily) - Many varieties of alstroemeria plants make great sun perennials that hummingbirds love.
Anisacanthus wrightii (Texas Firecracker) - Hummingbirds love the orange, tubular flowers of this perennial. Plant in masses and sit back and watch the hummingbirds arrive.
Aquilegia (Columbine) - These spring flowering perennials not only produce nectar that hummingbirds love, but the seeds attract all sorts of small birds including finches and buntings.
Asclepias (Butterfly Weed) - A well-known attractor of butterflies, these colorful late-summer bloomers are also a delight for hummingbirds.
Baptisia (False Indigo) - One of our favorite genera of sun perennials, baptisia are not only great hummingbird attracting plants, but serve as host plants for a variety of butterfly species.
Begonia - This genus has exploded to include over 2,000 species but we prefer the winter-hardy varieties like Begonia grandis 'Pink Teardrops' and Begonia 'Immortality' as hummingbird flowers.
Bergenia (Pig Squeak)
Beschorneria (False Red Agave)
Bouvardia ternifolia (Hummingbird Flower) - With the common name 'Hummingbird Flower' you can't really go wrong with this herbaceous perennial. The bright red tubular flowers are custom-made to feed your garden hummers.
Buddleia (Butterfly Bush) sp and hybrids
Calibrachoa (False Petunia)
Campanula (Bellflower) - Late spring and summer flowering perennials with blue and purple/lavender bell-shaped flowers that are hummingbird favorites.
Canna Lily - Tough, low-maintenance perennials that are garden favorites. Hummingbirds especially love the red flowered varieties like 'Flaming Kabobs' or 'Red Tiger'.
Cestrum (Willow-leaf Jessamine) parqui and hybrids
Chelone (Turtlehead) species and hybrids
Clematis species and cultivars
Crocosmia (Montbretia) species and hybrids
Cuphea micropetala (Cigar Plant)
Dahlia species and hybrids
Dianthus (Pinks) species and cultivars
Dicentra eximia and hybrids (Bleeding Heart)
Dicliptera suberecta (Hummingbird Plant)
Digitalis (Foxglove) species and hybrids
Echinacea (Coneflower) species and hybrids
Echinocereus species (Claret Cup Cactus)
Erythrina herbacea (Coral Bean)
Fuchsia species and hybrids (Fuchsia)
Gladiolus species and hybrids
Grevillea species and hybrids
Hedychium (Ginger Lily)
Hesperaloe parviflora (False Red Yucca)
Heuchera 'Paris' (Coral Bells)
Hibiscus (Mallow) species and hybrids
Hosta species and cultivars
Iris species and cultivars
Kniphofia (Red Hot Poker) species and hybrids
Kosteletzkya (Seashore Mallow)
Leonotis leonurus (Lion's Ear)
Lantana species and cultivars
Lepechinia (False Salvia)
Liatris (Gayflower) species and hybrids
Lobelia (Cardinal Flower) species and hybrids
Malvaviscus drummondii (Turk's Cap) and hybrids
Manfreda (False Agave)
Monarda (Bee Balm)
Nepeta (Catnip) species and hybrids
Nicotiana glauca (Tree Tobacco)
Opuntia (Prickly Pear)
Penstemon (Beardtongue) species and hybrids
Phlox Wild Phlox species and cultivars
Physostegia (Obedient Plant) species
Rosmarinus (Rosemary) species and cultivars
Salvia greggii, microphylla, regla, roemeriana, and hybrids (Sage)
Salvia guaranitica, S. leucantha, S. farinacea, S. nemorosa (Sage)
Silene virginica, S. regia (Fire Pink, Catchfly)
Silphium (Rosinweed, Cup Plant) species
Solidago (Goldenrod) species
Spigelia marilandica (Indian Pink)
Stachys coccinea (Betony)
Verbena (Vervain) species And cultivars
Vernonia (Ironweed) species and cultivars
Yucca (Soapwort) species and cultivars
Additional Hummingbird Resources:
Miller & MacGowan, "FNR-249-W Attracting hummingbirds to your yard", 2004, https://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia/fnr/fnr-249-w.pdf
Brittingham, Margaret C. “Attracting Hummingbirds.” Penn State Extension, 12 Mar. 2022, https://extension.psu.edu/attracting-hummingbirds