Watching hummingbirds play in the garden is one of my absolute favorite pastimes. The way they gleefully zip from flower to flower, taking turns between sipping on nectar and throwing sass to the other hummers around… those teeny-tiny birds sure have enormous personality! If you haven’t yet experienced hummingbird shenanigans first hand, you’re in for a treat. Read along to learn about the best flowers to attract hummingbirds to your yard, so you can help support their populations – and join in the fun too!
This article highlights 15 different flowering plants that hummingbirds find irresistible. We’ll cover key characteristics of each flower on this list: its growing zone, usual bloom time, if it’s an annual or perennial, and other unique facts. If possible, select a variety of flowers for hummingbirds that are well-suited for your climate and bloom at different times of year. That way, our little friends will always have something to eat!
What do hummingbirds eat?
Hummingbirds primarily eat nectar from flowers. They need a steady intake of sugar (carbohydrates) to keep up with their immense metabolism and activity levels. Therefore, those with a high-nectar content are the best flowers for hummingbirds. Their long slender beaks and straw-like tongues are perfectly evolved to reach the nectar deep within tubular flowers. Bright hues of red, orange, pink, and purple are particularly enticing! Hummingbird feeders provide them supplemental nectar too.
To round out a well-balanced diet, hummingbirds also need to eat protein. They dine on small insects including mosquitoes, gnats, aphids, fruit flies, ants, and spiders. If you see hummers haphazardly zigzagging in the air, they’re probably chasing bugs! While sipping on nectar, hummingbirds also inadvertently consume pollen – another source of protein, nutrients, and energy.
How to attract hummingbirds to your yard
- Plant colorful nectar-rich flowers, like those on the list below!
- Include a variety of flowers that bloom at different times per year. Choose native plants as much as possible. Check out your locally-owned nursery for zone-appropriate and native pollinator plants.
- Hang a hummingbird feeder to provide an additional source of food when less flowers are in bloom. Follow the tips provided in this article for how to make homemade hummingbird nectar, and best practices for feeder care and sanitation.
- Provide areas for shelter, perching, and nesting. Hummingbirds rest frequently by sitting on small branches, wire trellises, or other skinny perches that are suitable for tiny feet. They build their nests in a variety of dense shrubs, trees or vines, and do not use bird houses, boxes, or hollow tree cavities like many other birds.
- Water will also attract hummingbirds, though they prefer moving or airborne water over stagnant water – both for bathing and drinking. Hummingbirds take baths by fluttering their wings under a light shower of water. Consider adding a mister to your birdbath, or creating a fountain with a dainty trickle instead of a heavy cascade. They also love lawn sprinklers.
Flowers not on this list
This article could have easily grown to a list of over 30 flowers to attract hummingbirds! In a pinch, hummingbirds will visit just about any flower that provides a little nectar, including verbena, butterfly bush, lavender, larkspur, foxglove, hollyhock, petunias, impatiens, red hot poker, cleomes, and more. Yet I left those off the list of the best flowers for hummingbirds because they don’t seem to be their top favorites. Also, some of those flowers can be somewhat problematic in one way or another: either invasive, pest-prone, toxic to humans or pets, have a short bloom time, or otherwise are not the most effective for attracting hummingbirds. That’s not to say they’re not worthy of growing though!
What flowers do hummingbirds NOT like?
Many popular flowers that gardeners love just don’t do it for the hummers! Either due to low nectar content, lackluster color, or other factors, hummingbirds are not usually attracted to: roses, tulips, marigolds, irises, lilacs, lilies, sunflowers, daffodils, gardenias, or peonies.
Now, without further ado…
15 Best Flowers for Hummingbirds
1) Salvia (Sage)
- Description: The sage or salvia plant family is vast! There are thousands of different varieties of salvia, and they come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and colors. Some salvia species may have just a few petite flower spikes on a compact plant, while others grow into a massive bush of flowers. Yet one thing most salvia species have in common is: hummingbirds adore them. In our garden, salvia flowers attract hummingbirds more than any other plant! It is their clear favorite.
- We grow many different types, but the hummingbirds are especially fond of our Pineapple Sage, Hummingbird sage, Wild Watermelon Salvia, ‘Black and Blue’ salvia, ‘Love and Wishes’ salvia, and ‘Mystic Spires Blue’ salvia. Most varieties of sage are container-friendly as long as they have excellent drainage.
- Growing Zones: Most salvia can be grown as perennials in USDA hardiness zones 7 or 8 through 11, and as tender annuals in lower zones. Read the descriptions for particular varieties you’re interested in, and check in with your local nursery to see what they carry or suggest for your area.
- Bloom Time: Prolific blooms in spring through fall, though year-round flowers are possible in climates with mild frost-free winters.
2) Bee Balm
- Description: Bee balm attracts hummingbirds with fragrant nectar-filled flowers that form in a unique circular cluster atop tall stalks. I think it’s crazy-beautiful, and comes in shades of pink, red, lavender and more. Bee balm (Monarda sp) is part of the mint family, but does not rampantly spread through underground runners like most mint does! Even better, Bee balm is native to North America and has a rich history as a medicinal and edible plant.
- Growing Zones: Perennial in zones 3 – 9
- Bloom Time: Late spring through fall (depends on the variety)
- Description: Like Bee Balm, agastache is another non-invasive beautiful member of the mint family. Agastache produces long-blooming tubular flowers that attract hummingbirds from far and wide. So much so that agastache often goes by the common name ‘hummingbird mint’. There are dozens of cultivars and colors of agastache. Anise hyssop is one stunning variety that hummingbirds particularly enjoy in our garden, as do butterflies! On the other hand, deer and rabbits tend to avoid agastache.
- Growing Zones: Most varieties of agastache can grow as perennials in zones 4 through 10.
- Bloom Time: Tall flower spikes bloom in early summer through fall
4) Cardinal Flower
- Description: Cardinal flowers are a bright, brilliant shade of red; hummingbirds can’t miss them! Hummingbirds can drink nectar from their slender tube-like flowers with ease. These flowers are so bird-friendly that The Audubon Society has dubbed cardinal flowers “a hummingbird magnet”! The plants do like a lot of water, making them ideal for wetter climates. In dry areas, plant them in partial shade. Yep, cardinal flowers are shade-tolerant! They’re also native to North America, low-maintenance, deer and rabbit-resistant, and incredibly hardy.
- Growing Zones: Short-lived perennials, grow in zones 1 through 10.
- Boom Time: Early to late summer
- Description: If you think your area is a little too dry to keep cardinal flowers happy, consider planting penstemon instead. Penstemon (also known as ‘beardtongue’) is drought tolerant once established, and is happy in poor but well-draining soil. It can also benefit from a little afternoon shade in the hottest climates. Native to North America, the Penstemon group is very diverse. It includes hundreds of different species and varieties, so you’re bound to find one suitable for your garden. Penstemon flowers will attract hummingbirds with their vibrant hues of red, pink and purple.
- Growing Zones: 3 – 10, depending on variety. Perennial.
- Bloom Time: Spring through fall, also depending on variety. Mid to late summer is most common.
- Description: This American native wildflower will attract hummingbirds and other pollinators out in natural landscapes, or to your garden! Lupines create a regal yet whimsical vibe with their tall, showy flower spikes of purple, blue, or pink blooms. Since Lupine is part of the pea family, they improve soil fertility by fixing nitrogen from the atmosphere into their roots. That makes lupine a wonderful multi-purpose plant to grow. Blue lupine is a beautiful and prevalent variety native to the eastern US. Here in California, we see hummingbirds and bees feed from the California lupine that dot the hillsides of our favorite hiking areas.
- Growing Zones: There is a lupine for every zone! Seek out varieties native to your area. Most species grow in zones 4 to 8 (as perennials) while a few extend into zone 9 and 10.
- Bloom Time: Spring through late summer.
- Description: Bottlebrush trees (or shrubs) are originally from Australia and are related to paperbark trees – both part of the Melaleuca family. These plants get their name from their frilly, bristly flower spikes that very much resemble a bottle brush. Most bottlebrush flowers are red, though less common varieties also come in pink, yellow or white. I can tell you first hand – hummingbirds love bottlebrush trees! There are dozens of these plants along one of our favorite walking paths, and they’re always full of hummers. The dense shrubs double as habitat and a safe place to perch.
- Growing Zones: 8b through 11. In lower zones, plant bottlebrush in containers that can be moved to a protected area in winter.
- Bloom Time: Early spring through fall
- Description: Snapdragons boast beautiful, long-lasting, tall stalks of flowers in every color of the sunset. Between their rich and flashy colors, ample nectar, and cupped shape, snapdragon flowers are perfectly suited to attract hummingbirds.
- Growing Zones: Most snapdragons are annual flowers, which can be grown in any zone. Select hardy snapdragon varieties can be grown as short-lived perennials in zones 7 through 11.
- Bloom Time: A long bloom period, from early spring until first fall or winter frost. Snapdragons are considered ‘cool-season bloomers’ – meaning they may temporarily stop blooming during very hot weather, but resume producing new flowers once things cool down again in fall.
- Description: I’ll admit, I never thought of nasturtium as being a key flower to attract hummingbirds – until I saw them frequently visited by tiny bird friends in our own garden! The more I researched, I learned that nasturtiums contain especially sweet-tasting nectar. Nasturtiums are an easy-to-grow, sprawling, annual flower. They are also highly attractive to bees, but draw in pest insects like aphids and cabbage worms. We use them as a companion plant and trap crop for that very reason. Nasturtiums peppery arugula-like leaves are edible, as are their colorful flowers.
- Growing Zones: Annual in zones 4 to 8, possible perennial in zone 9 through 11. Super easy to grow from seed (and will readily self-seed and come back year after year).
- Bloom Time: Early summer through fall in most climates. May halt flowering during very hot conditions.
- Description: Lantana flowers attract hummingbirds and butterflies alike with their stunning red and orange hues. The ‘Sunset’ variety is a particular favorite, though there are over 150 different cultivars! Lantana offers nectar within tight round clusters of tiny, tubular flowers. The plants are known to be low-maintenance and easy to grow. However, some varieties of lantana are considered invasive and may spread – so do your homework before planting!
- Growing Zones: Perennial in frost-free zones, annual in lower/colder zones.
- Bloom Time: Profuse and continual blooms from spring until frost.
11) Hardy Fuchsia
- Description: Fuschia is an excellent addition to any hummingbird garden! There are hundreds of varieties to choose from, including upright shrubs, some that sprawl, and others ideal for hanging baskets. Fuschia attracts hummingbirds with its vibrant pink and purple flowers, which hang upside down from the plants. This doesn’t stop them though! Hummers are the perfect suitors for these unique flowers, as they’re agile and can easily navigate to drink from them.
- Growing Zones: Perennial in zones 7 to 10, depending on variety. Annual in lower zones.
- Bloom Time: Blooms from May or June until the first frost.
12) Trumpet Honeysuckle
- Description: The name says it all. If you’re searching for a perennial flowering vine that will attract hummingbirds to your garden, consider trumpet honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens). The long slender flowers are loaded with nectar, and come in bright red, orange, and coral-colored tones. Don’t confuse this awesome vine with Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica), which is very invasive. In contrast, Trumpet honeysuckle is native to the eastern US and does not aggressively spread – but they do grow fast!
- Growing Zones: 4 through 9. Evergreen in places with warm winters, and may lose some of its foliage during winter in colder regions (deciduous).
- Bloom Time: Summer and into fall.
Need a trellis for your Trumpet vine or Trumpet honeysuckle? Learn how to make a sturdy, inexpensive DIY trellis with this easy-to-follow tutorial.
13) Trumpet Vine
- Description: Here is another perennial flowering vine for your hummingbird garden! Also known as a “Trumpet Creeper”, Trumpet vines boasts clusters of big beautiful red-orange, pink, or purple flowers (up to 3 ½ inches long). These flowers are highly enticing to the Ruby-throated hummingbirds that inhabit the eastern United States. While Trumpet vines are native to North America, they can aggressively spread – so have your pruning shears ready! Plan to prune just after the blooming season.
- Growing Zones: 3 through 9. Like Trumpet honeysuckle, Trumpet vines are evergreen in frost-free climates.
- Bloom time: Spring to fall, with a mid-summer peak.
14) Rhododendron (and Azalea)
- Description: Azaleas and Rhodies are very similar members of the Rhododendron family, so I’m lumping them together here. Both offer pink, red, and purple flowers that hummingbirds love! The key difference between the two is that Azaleas are deciduous (lose their leaves in the winter) while rhododendrons are typically evergreen. Azalea flowers are more funnel-shaped, and rhododendrons have bell-shaped flowers.
- Growing Zones: 4 through 11. Perennial.
- Bloom Time: Early! Winter and spring. Rhododendrons and azalea have the potential to provide the earliest blooms for visiting hummingbirds – some as early as December to March, depending on the variety and your zone.
15) Wild Columbine
- Description: Wild columbine is native to the eastern United States and Canada, and grows there with ease. It’s red or pink and yellow bell-shaped columbine flowers naturally droop downwards, much like fuchsia flowers do. They’re narrow, bright, and full of sweet nectar – just what the hummers ordered! Columbine will attract Ruby-throated hummingbirds along with a host of other pollinators, all while being naturally deer-resistant.
- Growing Zones: 3 – 9, in the Midwest, Northeast, Midwest, or the Plains/Texas regions
- Bloom Time: Beginning in early to late spring through summer. Like Rhododendrons, Columbine are a welcome sight for ‘early birds’ as migratory hummingbirds return to the eastern half of the United States.
And that sums up the 15 best flowers to grow to attract hummingbirds.
I love our little hummingbird friends, so much! I hope this article inspired you to grow more of their flowering favorites. Do you already have a hummingbird-friendly garden? Did I miss any popular flowers that your hummer buddies greatly enjoy? Please let me know in the comments below. Also, please feel free to pin or share this article if you found it valuable. Thank you so much for helping your local hummingbird population!
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