The Plant Native

How do you plant a hummingbird garden?

Hummingbirds—is there a more magically delicate creature? They are such fast fliers that sometimes you only see a streak flying by. There are so many native plants that are hummingbird favorites. Plant the following selections and attract hummingbirds to visit your garden for years.

Cardinal Flower and Milkweed: hummingbird favorites

Creating a hummingbird garden with native plants is a wonderful way to attract these tiny marvels of nature. In this article, we’ll explore what hummingbirds are attracted to and what to avoid, while introducing you to nine native plants that will make your garden a hummingbird magnet. Get ready to welcome these enchanting creatures and create a vibrant ecosystem right in your own backyard.

How many types of hummingbirds are there in the US?

There are eight species of hummingbirds that are common in North America and several more that are rare. Like many birds, many hummingbird species migrate from the warmer southern areas to the north during the summer. In the fall, they fly back south again. There are also some hummingbird species that don’t migrate; you’ll find these in consistently warm places like Florida, Arizona, and parts of California.

Now that you know about the 8+ species of hummingbirds, you’re probably wondering…

What attracts hummingbirds?

The short answer: food.

Hummingbirds spend the majority of daylight hours making hundreds of trips in search of food. This to in part due to their incredibly high caloric intake; it takes a lot of calories to fly that fast.

The food that fuels hummingbird metabolisms is mainly the nectar in flowers. (Although, they also eat some insects… more on that in a few sentences.) The amazing thing is while the hummingbird is sipping flower nectar, it is also acting as a pollinator. Plants have figured this out and many have evolved over thousands of years to create the perfect hummingbird nectar cup. Perfect hummingbird flowers often have the following:

  • Brightly colored flowers (red, pink, purple and orange are favorites)
  • Tubular blossoms: they almost look like a long skinny cup
Coral Honeysuckle has perfect hummingbird cup flowers

Also: hummingbirds eat bad bugs

While the hummingbird is drinking nectar it also chows down on any tiny insects inside the flowers, like aphids and gnats. It’s a win-win for yards that might be worried about bugs (although don’t worry about bugs in native gardens, here’s an article that explains why.)

It’s crucial to not use chemicals

To keep the bugs, flowers, nectar, and hummingbird cycle flowing, it’s crucial to not use chemical pesticides. Using chemical pesticides keeps bugs away, which keeps birds like hummingbirds away. Planting native plants and committing to not using chemical pesticides delivers the ability to have a harmonious garden, where the bugs feed the birds, the pollinators pollinate the flowers, and we all get to enjoy a beautiful garden.

The best native plants for hummingbirds

The following native plants are hummingbird favorites. Plant a few so that the hummingbirds have an easy time spotting their favorite foods. The nine native plants we’ll spotlight are:

  1. Azalea
  2. Bee Balm
  3. Blazing Star
  4. Cardinal Flower
  5. Coral Honeysuckle
  6. Firebush
  7. Milkweed
  8. Obedient Plant
  9. Tulip Poplar
  10. Red Columbine

1.

Azaleas

Native Azaleas have flowers that hummingbirds love. These shrubs cover themselves in blooms in the early spring, giving hummingbirds early food while the weather warms. 

2.

Bee Balm

Bee Balms have tubular-shaped flowers made for hummingbird beaks. Planting Bee Balm in a mass (5+ plants) ensures that hummingbirds can find the flowers quickly. 

3.

Blazing Star

Blazing Star are butterfly and hummingbird magnets; their tall stalks create a runway of nectar. It’s gorgeous to plant at least five together.

4.

Cardinal Flower

Cardinal Flowers basically evolved to be hummingbird BFFs: their bright red flowers are placed on high stalks, perfect for hummingbird access. Cardinal Flower is great for wet areas, like rain gardens.

5.

Coral Honeysuckle

If you have a fence or trellis that needs a vine, here is the vine for you. Coral Honeysuckle covers itself in bright red blooms in the spring, which later turn into berries (a songbird favorite.)

6.

Firebush

Firebush is a perfect hummingbird shrub for Southern gardens. This shrub covers itself in red flowers in the spring and looks great year-round, thanks to its evergreen leaves.

7.

Milkweed

We all need to plant Milkweed, ASAP. Not only is it loved by hummingbirds, but it’s also the host plant for monarch butterflies.

8.

Obedient Plant

Such a strange common name for such a stunning flower. Obedient Plant’s tall stalks give hummingbirds easy access to flower nectar.

9.

Tulip Poplar

These tall trees have been around since the dinosaurs. In the spring, adult trees cover their branches in beautiful yellow and orange striped blossoms. These trees can live for 200+ years; plant one today to feed generations of hummingbirds.

10.

Red Columbine

These plants are mostly pollinated by one creature: hummingbirds! These part-shade loving beauties almost guarantee hummingbird visits in the spring. These are crucial plants for hummingbirds on their migrations north.

After you’ve planted these hummingbird gems, go the extra step to make hummingbird life carefree. Think of the following additions as you build your hummingbird garden:

Hummingbirds need water

All creatures need water and hummingbirds are no exception. But hummingbirds are tiny! A normal-sized bird bath is too big for a hummingbird.

Hummingbirds love fountains and sprinklers!

Instead, think of ways you can make water suit their small size. In birdbaths, add pebbles and rocks to ensure there are different depths for smaller birds, like hummingbirds. And as you can see from above, hummingbirds love spray from fountains and sprinklers! If you’re spotting that rush of wings out in the garden, try setting up a sprinkler in a place you can also photograph. Remember to use the action setting on your phone!

Plant native plants near nesting sites

We’ve said it many times: hummingbirds are tiny. They have developed lots of behaviors to stay away from predators, one of which is placing their nests near food.

They will be more hummingbirds in your garden if you plant native near where they would like to live. Think of where a hummingbird family might want to make a nest: perhaps in a large tree on the edge of your property? Plant your native hummingbird garden close by. This ensures hummingbirds can set up house and have constant food as they raise their family. 

Creating a native garden hummingbird haven is easy to do—even for beginner gardeners. By incorporating nectar-rich, tubular flowers in vibrant colors, you’ll attract these charming creatures to visit regularly. Remember to choose native plants like Cardinal Flower, Coral Honeysuckle, Firebush, Bee Balm, and Tulip Poplars for a successful hummingbird garden. Enjoy the beauty and delight these tiny visitors bring to your outdoor space alongside a garden filled with flowers. Get your phone’s zoom lens ready for the colorful presence of hummingbirds as they make your garden their favorite feeding spot.

Looking for some more inspiration? Find your planting guide by region and plant native!

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