Hummingbirds are not only beautiful and fascinating, as well as elusive and funny, but they’re also excellent pollinators! It’s possible to purchase a hummingbird feeder, but the sugary water is not necessarily the best food for them. They rely on the protein in plant pollen, so they’re much happier if fresh flower nectar is available. Here are some perennials and annuals loved by hummingbirds that may draw them to your garden!1. Bee Balm (Monarda)Native to the Northwest and Southwest United States, these colorful flowers are related to the mint family and, like mints, can spread quite aggressively in the garden, so give them some space. They’re easy to divide, but dig or pull up the shallow roots to keep them under control. The herby scent and bright colors attract hummingbirds, bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. They like the sun and need space around them for airflow to prevent mildew growth on the leaves. These plants are drought-tolerant and don’t do well in a humid environments. Bright red ‘Cambridge Scarlet’ and deep magenta ‘Raspberry Wine’ are popular heirloom monardas. The newer hybrids are more compact and mildew resistant and come in various colors, including reds, pinks, and purples.
2. Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) This bright red lobelia is attractive in the garden with a long bloom period. Though hummingbirds are more attracted to nectar than color, they tend to gravitate toward red flowers. The cardinal flower is a tall, sturdy native that grows from 2 to 4 feet tall. It is hardy in USDA zones 3-9 and likes plenty of suns to keep it blooming. Deadhead the spent blooms to encourage more flowers.
3. Trumpet Vine (Campsis radicans) ~ A hardy and fast-growing native vine with brightly colored orange or red flowers, the trumpet vine is also sometimes called hummingbird vine. The birds love their bright conical flowers, which are easy to sip nectar from. It is considered invasive, but many grow in established gardens because their lush blooms are so gorgeous in summer. Choose the planting location cautiously and give them a sturdy structure to climb (such as a fence). They benefit from frequent pruning.
4. Flowering Catmint (Nepeta) With its pale purple-blue flowers and minty scent, this hardy herb puts on a luscious show for weeks. It’s a staple in the cottage-style garden and adds lovely cool shades of blue-green foliage. Not only beloved by cats, but it also attracts hummingbirds! The stems grow to about 2 feet tall, and it’s fun to see hummingbirds sip from their tiny tubular flowers. It spreads from the base and can be divided every 2-3 years to keep the clumps manageable.
5. Eastern Red Columbines (Aquilegia canadensis)These gorgeous native perennials produce delicate, abundant blooms in mid-spring, making them an excellent early-season food source for pollinators. Studies have shown that red flowering varieties of columbines have higher sugar content than other colors, which is good news for hummingbirds! Once established, they will reseed freely, even producing hybrid color varieties if you have more than one color planted. They will flower in partial shade to full sun.
6. Larkspur/Delphinium With its tall, fluffy flower spikes in bold colors, the delphinium is delightful in the cottage-style garden and makes an excellent cut flower. These perennials like loamy soil and plenty of suns. The annual delphinium variety is often known as larkspur and is attractive to hummingbirds and pollinators. These flowers come in various colors, from white to pastel pink, blues, and purples. The annual variety is smaller, and the perennial varieties can grow up to 4 feet tall! The entire blooming spikes may need support stakes.
7. Butterfly Bush (Buddleia) These wonderful shrubs sport panicles covered in tiny fragrant flowers that attract butterflies, honeybees, and hummingbirds. The butterfly bush is hardy to Zone 6 and benefits from being planted in an entire sun area. These flowering dynamos come in many colors, from white to pink, blue and purple. Some newer hybrids are compact and stay below 2 feet tall, but many buddleias will grow to 8 feet tall or taller! Trimming it back each fall keeps it more compact; it will regenerate new branches in spring. It can also be pruned generously once flowers begin to die back and will keep putting forth blooms throughout autumn.