What is a Hummingbird?
Hummingbirds can be found only in the Western Hemisphere, from southeastern Alaska to southern Chile, although most live in the tropics. There are more than 300 species of hummingbirds, twelve of which summer in North America and winter in tropical areas. Where I live, it is the Ruby-throated Hummingbird (see photo below).
Hummingbirds are small, colorful birds that have iridescent feathers. Their name comes from the fact that they flap their wings so fast (about 80 times per second) that they make a humming noise. Hummingbirds can fly right, left, up, down, backwards, and even upside down. They are also able to hover by flapping their wings in a figure-8 pattern. They have a specialized long and tapered bill that is used to obtain nectar from the center of long, tubular flowers or from the nectar from bright hummingbird feeders found in people’s backyards. Nectar is a sugary fluid secreted by plants, especially within tubular flowers. Or you can make your own nectar to use in your feeder. See recipe here: NECTAR RECIPE
These fascinating birds are always a delight to have in your garden. While most people just focus on nectar feeders to attract hummers, they also should be thinking about a variety of other options, especially if they would like to keep these beautiful birds coming back.
An ideal habitat for hummingbirds consists of certain flowers for the nectar as well as pollen, certain trees, and shrubs, and in addition a water source. The trees and shrubs are important for shelter and also for nesting, and the water is for drinking, bathing and preening.
My Top 10 Flowers
I have made a list of my Top 10 flowers and shrubs/bushes that I like to have in my own backyard garden. Of course, there are many other plants and flowers that hummers will be attracted to. To find out more information you can go to your local nursery who will be glad to help you choose the right flowers and shrubs for your area. Keep in mind that the flowers do not have to be red as most people believe, hummers will seek out the nectar of various types and colors of flowers and plants. For example, the yellow hibiscus is a good one (see #6).
#1 Butterfly Bush
The Butterfly bush is can be a large, arching shrub that produces masses of flowers in midsummer to fall. Flower colors include blue, pink, red, violet, yellow, and white, and the shrub grows 5 to 10 feet tall and wide, depending on the variety. These beautiful long blooming bushes are great in borders. You can trim them back each year to keep them as a smaller bush which is what I do as I do not have the space for it to be bigger. Hardiness zones 5 – 10.
#2 Cardinal Flower
This flower is a wildflower that blooms during the summer months and into the fall. The bright red color of the tall spike like flowers and the sweet nectar attract many species of hummingbirds and growing cardinal flowers are ideal for use in hummingbird gardens. They are in plant hardiness zones 1 through 10.
Lantana are known for their rounded clusters of small, brightly-colored flowers. The flowers may be yellow, orange, white, red and purple, and often colors are mixed within the same cluster, creating a bi-colored effect. This is also a popular plant for butterflies. This can either be a trailing plant that gets to be 18 – 24 inches or a bush that will get up to 4 feet tall. I think I have seen them even bigger in Arizona. It depends on where you live.
#4 Bee Balm
Bee Balm is a perennial that will grow 1 to 8 feet and up to 2 feet wide. This prairie native has beautiful flowers that come in tones of red, pink, purple, and white, surrounded by dark bracts. They grow atop substantial clumps of dark foliage. Bees and butterflies also love this flower. Zones 4 – 9
One of my favorite vines is the Mandevilla. These flowers are trumpet-shape that come in shades of pink, white, or red. It is has a very tropical look and will bloom all the way up to the first frost. I overwinter them indoors so that I can enjoy them the next year. Zones 10-11, however I am in zone 5 and they do well. Added note: The photo shown is a hanging plant but I also have one in a standing potted plant that has a trellis. Hummers like both.
There are three different types tropical, perennial, and hardy shrub (or rose of sharon). I have both the tropical and perennial. These flowers bloom in July and August. Each flower is short-lived, but there are an abundance of them. Blossoms are usually 3”- 6” in diameter and come in many different colors and varieties including red, orange, yellow, salmon-pink, multicolored, and even double blossoms.
#7 Trumpet Vine
These beautiful tubular flowers range in color from yellow to orange or red. Blooming on the trumpet vine plant takes place throughout summer and into fall, though blooming may be limited for those planted in shady locations. The trumpet vine is a fast grower and can become invasive but with proper pruning and care you can keep them under control. Hummingbirds love this vine! Zones 4 – 9
The Fuchsia is a vivid purplish red color and flowers almost continuously during the growing season. They are beautiful flowers with green foliage and come in a variety of hues in pink, red, white, purple, and magenta. Best growing zones 8-10 but you may still be able to have fuscia plants during the summer months. I do in zone 5.
Petunias are fail proof favorites for many gardeners. They are vigorous growers and long term bloomers from mid spring through late fall. Color choices are nearly limitless, with some sporting beautiful veining and intriguing colors. Zones 5 – 10
Impatiens flowers are also popular among gardeners attaining a height of not more than 1 foot. The flowers come in a variety of colors, including white, red, pink, violet, coral, purple, and yellow. They are shade loving plants. Zones 2 – 11
These are my Top 10 favorite flowers and bushes that I have in my garden in Northern Kentucky. You may have your own choice of flowers that you prefer to grow that attract hummers. There are so many pretty flowers that the hummers like too.
While this post is specifically about types of flowers and shrubs you can add to your garden to attract the hummingbirds, don’t forget to add a water source too. The hummers like to drink the water, bathe in it, and do their preening. Of course, a hummingbird feeder filled with nectar is an added delight for these beautiful birds, which will keep them coming back time after time.
I would love to hear your thoughts. What flowers and shrubs do you use in your garden to attract hummingbirds? Please feel free to leave a comment below.