Best Plants to Attract Hummingbirds
Feb 2nd 2023
Attracting hummingbirds to your yard can lead to years of flourishing plants and gardens. Hummingbirds are the most common avian pollinators in the U.S. They are fascinating to watch with their tiny, beautiful bodies hovering and wings moving so fast that you can barely see them as they dip their needle-thin bill into a flower's pot of nectar. When they do, their forehead rubs against the plant and collects pollen to transfer.
Along with being great pollinators, hummingbirds also eat small insects such as mosquitos and beetles so they don't destroy your plants. They can remember food sources for years, meaning they'll keep coming back each summer. I've selected the best plants for attracting hummingbirds so they can help plants flourish while adding more of nature's beauty.
12 Best Hummingbird Attracting Plants
Brightly colored plants with a lot of tubular flowers typically produce the most nectar, which makes them particularly attractive to these flying jewels. Lantana, penstemon, trumpet vine, petunia, salvia, lupine, columbine, butterfly bush/buddleia, red columbine, bleeding heart, honeysuckle, fuchsia, rhododendron, mimosa tree, honeysuckle, pride of Madeira, trumpet flower and sunflowers are just some of the flowers and plants that attract hummingbirds.
Every year, it is a wonderful challenge to plant as many of these pollinators as we can to attract not only these iridescent hummingbirds but other birds, butterflies, and bees to help our fragile ecosystem thrive. Here are my picks for the best hummingbird flowers along with how best to plant and use them.
The sunflower comes in all sizes, shapes and bright colors that hummingbirds look for. If you check out sites online that specialize in sunflowers, you'll find yourself in a feeding frenzy trying to limit yourself to just a few seed packets as they come in assorted exotic colors, tall single flower types, smaller multi-flowering and multi-branching varieties. If kept in moist soil, the seeds will sprout in 5-7 days. The common sunflower (helianthus annuus) is a large 5-8 feet tall plant that is used to make edible oil and edible fruit (seed). You can also use it for its beauty as sunflowers will tower proudly over the landscape.
Butterfly Bush (buddleia)
Butterfly bushes are a beautiful perennial that grows to 10 feet tall and 6 feet wide with long, large white, purple or pink flowers at the end of every branch. Each winter, I prune ours back to four feet tall only to see it grow profusely through the spring. This bush does best with all-day sun and has low water requirements. Butterflies, bees and hummingbirds love this ornamental when it is blooming.
Whether as an extremely fragrant vining plant or arching shrub, honeysuckle is a powerful hummingbird attractant. It is native to the northern latitudes in North America and Eurasia. Honeysuckle contains some antioxidants such as quercetin. It takes 5-10 years to reach its mature height of 20-30 feet but will be putting out flowers its first year. Planting honeysuckle along a fence, near your deck or patio or along a walkway is an excellent way to enjoy this sweet vine.
Pride of Madeira
Native to the Madeira archipelago of Macaronesia, Echium candicans is a dramatic perennial bush when flowering. It is a real eye-catcher as it puts out many gorgeous one-foot-long purple flowers all summer long from its mounding shape. Pride of Madeira appreciates a coastal climate where hard winter freezes don't occur. We often see this large bush in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco when driving through the city. It can do well in poor soil, clayish soil or dry soil. It is straight out of Fantasia!
This profusely flowering small shrub is loved by hummingbirds, bees and butterflies, so it is considered a great pollinator. Its mounds of flowers are loaded with a sweet nectar attractant. Lantana is moderately drought tolerant, deer resistant and will bloom from spring until early autumn.
Salvia plants come in all different sizes, shapes and colors. Each different variety doesn't necessarily look like other varieties at all. They can be planted in sunny or partially shady areas. Some salvias are extremely cold-hardy while some need to be replanted every spring. Your local nursery probably offers the variety that does well in your area — but read the label carefully if you want a perennial.We have one that grows into a five-foot-tall and wide bush-like plant that puts out long purple flowers in late summer into the fall. Other varieties come in bright red or raspberry colors and are smaller mounds of color.
Columbines come in many colors, including pink, white, yellow and orange. I've found the red ones seem to be the best for attracting hummingbirds. But all columbines have the nectar that brings these birds to them for a meal. I love the sight of a hillside full of various colored patches of columbine. The leaves have a lacey look to them, but this perennial plant is tough and will colorfully spread each year in your garden or yard. They are good in a sunny location or with partial shade.
Also known as lupin or bluebonnet, lupine is a perennial pollinator plant that we often see along roadsides and in neighbor's gardens. They come in many vibrant shades of yellow, white, blue, pink and red. They grow best in a sunny spot with well-drained soil. As they get older their roots send out shoots so expect them to slowly spread becoming a beautiful part of your flower bed or hillside.
Petunia plants are one of the most common flowering annual plants in the U.S. They come in a wide array of colors that can be interspersed with other more permanent plantings. Petunias also produce a good amount of nectar and bright profuse colors that entice hummingbirds. Plant a few six packs every spring to attract hummingbirds.
Part of the heath family of woody plants, Rhododendron is a popular flowering perennial bush that normally grows to 4-5 feet tall and wide. Although some new varieties that have been bred to withstand Midwest winters, here in northern California where we get winter freezes, I prune mine down to 2 feet tall in the fall and wait for it to leaf out again in the early spring. The tallest "rhody" is in India and is a giant standing over 100 feet tall! Rhododendrons with their rounded 6-8 inch wide flower heads come in many colors. Bright red is a hummingbird's favorite, but there are also white, pink, blue and purple flowers.
The trumpet flower, or datura, has a bad rap as it is in the nightshade family and can be poisonous — but the hummingbirds love them for their sweet nectar. These beautiful plants put out drooping enormous flowers that are often white but also come in red, yellow, purple and lavender. This plant is an annual but puts out seeds that sprout up the nest spring and can grow up to four feet tall. I discovered a datura plant on the side of my house when I first moved there. It was growing out of the hard-packed gravel that was a walkway even though most nurseries that sell them say they need soft fertile earth and lots of sun to flourish.
Sound the trumpets again with this vine plant that is great for attracting hummingbirds. You can drape these large vines over a trellis or against a south-facing fence for maximum flowering. Trumpet vine has very large flowers that attract hummingbirds and can be seen from far off, making it a standout in your yard. This plant requires a bit of maintenance to its root system to keep it from becoming invasive. Root pruning with a sharp spade should be done once a year about 2-3 feet from the base of the vine to keep the plant from spreading. Pinching off small side shoots near the base will force the main shoot to grow longer and flower more profusely.
The hummingbirds are out there for you to attract and enjoy and for the environment to profit. If you would like to get a few of these pollinator plants to attract them to your yard, check out your local nurseries or investigate the following online nurseries for an excellent selection.