My Favorite Plants for Attracting Hummingbirds
I’ve been thinking about Hummingbirds a lot lately. This may seem odd in that the snow along my curb is piled about 4′ high and the temperatures lately have varied between really cold and brutally cold – not exactly Hummingbird weather. But perhaps that is why thoughts of Hummingbirds are such a pleasant diversion.
Plus, now that we are making garden plans it is a good time to consider adding flowers that attract Hummingbirds. In our garden Hummingbirds were a lot more common last year, which is good because it was such a disappointing year for butterflies. Even though we had lots more Hummingbirds, I’m sorry to say that Judy was never able to get a single picture – she just never seemed to have the camera in hand at the right time.
In our region we have only one species, the Ruby-throated Hummingbird, but I am always amazed to watch these birds hover, then fly straight up or down or backwards. They are such tiny creatures, but every fall they migrate from the eastern US to winter homes in Central America.
For pictures of Ruby-throated hummingbirds, click on this link to All About Birds.
In my garden there are four plants that stand out when it comes to attracting Hummingbirds.
Trumpet honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens). This is a native perennial honeysuckle vine that is not invasive like the Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica). The flowers of the species are tubular and coral-colored. There are a number of cultivars with yelllow, red, or orange flowers.
Trumpet honeysuckle has a big flush of blooms in late spring, then flowers sporadically throughout the season. It tolerates part shade and is a pretty tough plant in my experience. Unfortunately it is not fragrant, but it does have berries for the birds in fall.
Star flower (Pentas lanceolata). This is an annual with clusters of red, lilac, pink, or white star-shaped flowers (I like the red ones). Hummingbirds made their first appearance in our front garden after I planted these in containers on the front steps. Star Flower is grown as an annual in Chicago, but is hardy in USDA zone 10. In full sun it blooms profusely and over a long season, but in cool weather it will sulk.
Cigar plant (Cuphea ignea). Another plant from the tropics grown as an annual. Hummingbirds love this plant, which will get big and bushy over the course of a hot summer – but not so large that it doesn’t make a good container plant. Another common name is firecracker plant, which is a good description of this annual when covered with small, tubular red-orange flowers with yellow tips. Last summer is the first time I saw this plant at our local nurseries, and I will grab more if I see them again next year.
Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis). This North American native is a beautiful plant but not easy to grow if you don’t have the right conditions – moist to wet soil with at least part sun. In my experience it is short-lived, even where I planted it near the end of a downspout. However, the uniquely shaped flowers are a dazzling red in late summer. About 3′ tall, it often requires staking.
Do you have hummingbirds in your garden? What are your favorite hummingbird plants?