The key to attracting hummingbirds and keeping them in your garden is to have a variety of herbaceous perennials and shrubs blooming at different times from early spring through fall. Since hummingbirds are extremely territorial in feeding, spread a variety of these plants throughout different areas of your landscape. Creating a garden with nesting habitat and a variety of nectar-rich flowers ensures the return of these gem-like, delightful birds to your yard year after year.
Provide a Perennial Smorgasbord of Mostly Natives Plants
Herbaceous perennials that die back to the ground in winter and regrow from their roots each spring. Many perennials have tubular trumpet-shaped blooms preferred by hummingbirds; below is a selection of these plants that thrive in our USDA Growing Zones 7b/8a when planted in the right place. Download and print Attracting Hummingbirds Grow Guide here.
These hardy perennials return to your garden bigger and better each year for the hummingbirds’ enjoyment and your delight.
Bee Balm (Monarda didyma and other Monarda species and cultivars) – this tall native, which loves full sun to partial shade and moist well-drained soil, has an extended bloom season throughout the summer. A member of the mint family, if you cut it back by half after the first flush of bloom, it re-blooms.
Wild Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) – an early spring bloomer with a tubular red and yellow flower that dangles downward attracting the early birds to your garden, some as early as March. Given filtered sun and well-drained soil or even lean soil, this native blooms for several weeks and slowly colonizes to a larger area if the seed heads are left on.
Fire Pink (Silene virginica) – a shade lover that blooms with clusters of crimson flowers in late spring or early summer. This low-growing native is easy to grow with regular water and is adapted to moist, well-drained soil.
Indian Pink (Spigelia marilandica) – this misnamed native has tubular flowers that are rich crimson with a bright yellow lining. Given rich, moist soil, this clump-forming, low-growing perennial blooms late spring to early summer in the shade garden and is easily found by hummingbirds as they scout for food sources.
Hardy Gloxinia (Sinningia speciosa) – thrives in semi-moist soil in part sun (morning sun preferable) with white, purple, or red blooms in mid to late summer. Gloxinia also gradually spreads into a large colony.
Coral Bells (Heuchera americana and H. villosa hybrids) – another native plant for filtered shade and well-drained soil. Bloom time for various cultivars ranges from spring to fall and offers a variety of spectacular foliage colors. Look closely at each tiny flower to see the tubular shape of the bloom.
Maltese Cross (Lychnis chalcedonica) – an early summer bloomer 2-3’ tall, with dense clusters of red flowers, which likes full sun or light shade with regular water.
Beard Tongue (Penstemon species and cultivars) – late spring to early summer bloomers, these natives and cultivars like full sun and well-drained soils. After spring flush of blooms, deadhead to reward yourself and the hummers with more blooms. Cultivars include: Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker’s Red’ with tall, white blooms; ‘Garnet’ and ‘Ruby’ with deep pink flowers that grow very large and bloom into winter. Other varieties include: Eastern Smooth Beard Tongue (Penstemon laevigatus) and Small's Beard Tongue (P. smallii).
Garden Phlox (Phlox paniculata and cultivars) – easy to grow in full sun, but also blooms in part shade; deadheading promotes re-blooming. The tall flower heads of this native and its cultivars are a late spring through summer food source for hummers.
Salvias (Salvia guarantica, S. macrophylla, and S. greggii) – wonderful perennials that bloom their heads off all summer long, especially shrubby S. greggii cultivars, which bloom all summer to first frost. S. guarantica cultivars include ‘Argentine Skies’ (light blue) and ‘Black and Blue’ (navy blue). Salvias thrive in full sun or part shade, and hummers love them all.
Lady Bells (Adenophora confusa) – growing 24-30” tall in full sun to part shade with lavender bells, this hardy plant adapts to clay soils and some drought. Although it spreads enthusiastically, it is easy to uproot and keep in control.
Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis) – with 3-4’ tall spikes of red blooms from mid to late summer, this stunning native plant loves moist soils in full sun. This NC Wildflower-of-the-Year is a favored late summer food source hummingbirds.
Trees and Shrubs and Even Vines Contribute to a Happy Hummingbird Habitat
Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles speciosa) – a deciduous shrub that grows in full sun or part shade, flowering in spring. Best cultivars are ‘Texas Red’, ‘Cameo’ (apricot blooms), and ‘Toyo Nishiki’ (apricot and white blooms).
Beautybush (Kolkwitzia amabilis) – arching, spreading branches of pink or white funnel-shaped flowers; grows in sun or part shade in well-drained soil.
Glossy Abelia (Abelia x grandiflora) – a semi-evergreen or evergreen shrub with long-blooming flowers in mid to late summer; grows in sun to part shade in well-drained soil, attracting both hummingbirds and butterflies. Cultivars include ‘Rose Creek’, ‘Sunrise’, and ‘Kaleidoscope’, all of which offer the added benefit of interesting foliage colors.
Old-fashioned Weigela (Weigela florida) – spreading to upright deciduous shrub that grows in full sun or part shade in fertile, well-drained soil; the showy, bell- to funnel-shaped flowers attract hummingbirds. The best cultivars include ‘Red Prince’ with red flowers in early summer and again in late summer; ‘Rubridor’ with yellow-green new leaf growth and dark, ruby-red flowers in late spring; and ‘Tango’, a compact, dwarf form with purple-green leaves bearing red flowers with yellow throats in late spring.
Chaste Tree (Vitex agnus-castus) – this small tree (15-20’) grows in full sun and produces blue or pink blooms late summer to midautumn. Cultivars include ‘Colonial Blue’ and ‘Ruth’ (pink).
Red Buckeye (Aesculus pavia) – this handsome small native small tree (10-20’) produces large, upright panicles of showy red flowers in early spring.
Bottlebrush Buckeye (Aesculus parviflora) – a medium to large deciduous native shrub (6-10’) that produces panicles of creamy white blooms in midsummer.
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Hummingbirds are drawn by instinct to the color red, but they are more attracted by the shape of the flower—blooms with a long, tubular trumpet. This bloom shape cannot be utilized effectively by bees or wasps, offering nectar heaven just for hummingbirds! Once hummingbirds are attracted to your yard, they seek out nectar sources from different colors of flowers in your garden’s nectar smorgasbord.
Trees and shrubs and even vines contribute to a happy hummingbird habitat. Most hummingbirds nest near a reliable food supply in a location where the nest is protected from rainfall and direct sunlight. Hummingbirds often nest in the same site year after year, sometimes building on top of their old nests.
Select trees and shrubs that produce blooms that are attractive to and provide a nectar source for hummingbirds, and plants that provide a desirable nesting habitat for these amazing creatures.
Crossvine (Bignonia capreolata) – above, a wonderful, vigorous evergreen native vine with huge trumpet flowers. ‘Tangerine Beauty’ is one of the best cultivars, with orange trumpets with a yellow throat. Blooming spring through summer, this vine likes full sun, well-drained soil, and space.
Coral Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) although its foliage resembles that of Japanese honeysuckle, L. japonica (an invasive that chokes out native vegetation), the long, tubular red flowers of this twining, evergreen native vine are a favorite of hummingbirds. Grows best in moist, well-drained soil with full or partial sun; blooms spring through summer.
Cypress Vine (Ipomea quamoclit) – an annual twining vine with feathery leaves that grows up to 20’ and reseeds rather prolifically. Best recognized for its large red trumpet blooms all summer long, but hummers love the white cypress vine blooms as well.
Carolina Jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens) – this 20’ long, twining native vine is covered with glossy, evergreen leaves and waxy, trumpet-shaped yellow flowers from late winter to spring. The blooms of this vine are an early nectar source for hummingbirds.