12 Plants for Hummingbirds (Top Picks)

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Cinnamon hummingbird
As long as hummingbirds are naturally present and abundant in your region, cultivating some of the plants below will have hummingbirds visiting in no time! Charles J. Sharp, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The relationship between hummingbirds and their favorite sources of nectar reveals some of the most fascinating aspects of evolutionary biology. A close inspection of the hummingbird’s morphological traits, evaluated alongside the trends with which flower form, color, and shape have changed over time, shows a measure of co-dependence (a mutualistic interaction). This means that hummingbirds evolved alongside some plants, ensuring that the fittest individuals of both groups could rely on one another for metabolism and pollination.

Known for having iridescent feathers, wings that move at intense speeds, and fine, pointed beaks, hummingbirds are welcome additions to thriving flower gardens. Drawing them to your very own property, given they are naturally present and abundant in your region, is fairly straightforward. Simply cultivate a diversity of their favorite plants and ensure they bloom profusely at the right time of year. Before you know it, the lovely plants listed below will have hummingbirds hovering just outside your window!

1) Scarlet sage (Salvia coccinea)

Scarlet sage flowers
Mature scarlet sage specimens can reach heights of 2 to 4 feet. Forest & Kim Starr, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to the southeastern US, Central America, Colombia, Brazil, and Peru

The scarlet sage, a flowering perennial that favors warm conditions, is just one of many ornamental salvias. This species produces tender stems with bushy, medium to deep green foliage. Healthy leaves are typically heart or triangle-shaped, covered in light fuzz, and have slightly scalloped margins. At maturity, productive specimens maintain a height of around 2 – 4 feet (61 – 122 cm).

The terminal inflorescence of scarlet sage, which can sport a length of around 10 inches (25 cm), appears in midsummer to fall. These produce evenly spaced whorls of vivid tubular blooms. As each bright red flower makes a substantial amount of nectar, it is highly attractive to hummingbirds. For this reason, this member of the mint family may also be referred to as ‘hummingbird sage’.

2) Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis)

Cardinal flowers
Cardinal flowers are best suited to garden zones with humus-rich, loamy soil. Fritzflohrreynolds, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to the Americas

The cardinal flower is a beautiful perennial for the consistently moist or boggy areas of the garden. In the wild, this species tends to produce extensive stands close to streambanks, ravines, lakes, and swamps. In an ornamental garden, it would be best suited to zones with humus-rich, loamy soil. Full sun or partial shade brings out its best features in USDA hardiness zones 3 – 9.

The cardinal flower owes its quirky common name to the similarity between the shape and color of its flower to that of a Roman Catholic cardinal’s hat. The scarlet blooms are found along inflorescences that may rise to above 3 – 6 feet (0.9 – 1.8 meters). Each one measures around 1 – 2 inches (2.5 – 5 cm) long and consists of 2 sets of petals – 3 lower ones and 2 upper ones – fused into a single tube. The beak of the ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) is exceptionally compatible with the morphology of the floral tube.

3) Coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens)

Coral honeysuckle flowers
Ruby-throated hummingbirds are particularly suited to coral honeysuckles due to their lengthy beaks. peganum from Small Dole, England, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to the eastern US

Another popular plant with reddish blooms, the coral honeysuckle is best cultivated as a twining vine. This means that you can grow this species on a simple lattice mounted onto a wall or fence. Its vigorous stems can easily grow to lengths of 20 feet (6 meters) or more in optimal conditions. It can also be used as a ground cover plant to fill in spaces in areas receiving full to partial sun. Despite its knack for spreading on its own, it is not known for being excessively aggressive.

In spring to summer, coral honeysuckle bursts with dense clusters of tubular blooms. Each one is trumpet-shaped and has a length of about 1 – 2 inches (2.5 – 5 cm). Bright yellow anthers emerge from the opening of each tube. Hummingbirds, particularly ruby-throated ones, are perfectly suited to pollinate this vine as their lengthy beaks can effortlessly gain access to the blooms’ nectar.

4) Common foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)

Common foxglove
Common foxglove may not be ideal if you have pets or children, as its seeds, flowers, and leaves can cause toxic symptoms. Andrew Shiva / CC BY-SA 4.0

Native to western Europe and North Africa

Now widely naturalized in many parts of North America, the common foxglove is typically found in temperate stands of wildflowers. Due to its attractive inflorescences, it has become popularized as a garden plant. Some of its cultivars are recipients of the RHS Award of Garden Merit. It must be noted, however, that this species may not be the most ideal plant for gardens frequented by pets and children. Its seeds, flowers, and leaves contain digoxin, a cardiac glycoside that causes toxic symptoms.

In gardens with humus-rich, well-draining substrates, the common foxglove can form colonies that beg for closer inspection in late spring to summer. Its flowers are borne on tall spikes that tower several feet above the basal clump of coarse leaves. A single raceme may have 20 – 80 blooms measuring 1.5 – 2.5 inches (3.8 – 6.4 cm) each. Bright pink and speckled, these are bell-shaped, have 4 lobes each, and attract hummingbirds and honeybees.

5) Trumpet vine (Campsis radicans)

Trumpet vine
Trumpet vine has relatively large flowers that can measure up to 3 inches long. Anneli Salo, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to eastern North America

A woody vine that is often cultivated for its lovely, trumpet-shaped blooms, C. radicans can readily cover trellises, lattices, and low-growing shrubs. Also known as the trumpet creeper, this vigorous, flamboyant, and notably hardy vine has a knack for latching onto as many structures as possible with its aerial rootlets. Outside of its native range, particularly in the absence of other competitive species, it does tend to become aggressive. On the plus side, due to its self-spreading nature, it can be used to reduce erosion rates in areas with loose substrates.

Hummingbirds are hard-pressed to resist the nectar-rich blooms of the trumpet vine. Relatively large, the tube-shaped flowers can measure up to 3 inches (7.6 cm) long. They sport bright red to orange pigments that can be spotted from a distance. Held in clusters at the tips of new, productive branches, the blooms are a hallmark of summer throughout the species’ native range.

6) Eastern red columbine (Aquilegia canadensis)

Eastern red columbine flowers
Eastern red columbine produces showy red flowers that attract ruby-throated hummingbirds in the spring. Francis Groeters, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to eastern North America

An upright, herbaceous perennial that grows to about 3 feet (91 cm) tall, the eastern red columbine is often cultivated for its showy flowers. These are known for attracting ruby-throated hummingbirds in spring. The nectar is also a critical source of nutrients for hawkmoths, bumblebees, and other long-tongued insects. This is held at the spurs of the red, downward-facing sepals, which enclose a dangling cluster of yellow stamens.

The genus name, Aquilegia, is an allusion to the appearance of the flower’s spurs. They resemble the form of an eagle’s claws, seemingly weightless and frozen in motion. Outside of the bloom period, this columbine continues to be quite attractive due to the complexity of its compound leaves. In fall, the foliage may gradually develop yellow to orange hues.

7) Hummingbird trumpet (Epilobium canum)

Hummingbird trumpet flowers
The hummingbird trumpet is a semi-evergreen subshrub that tends to bloom in the late summer or fall. chuck b. / CC BY 2.0

Native to western North America

Also known as ‘California fuchsia’ and ‘firechalice’, the hummingbird trumpet is a semi-evergreen subshrub. In the wild, this flowering perennial is found in dry areas. In well-draining gardens, it may be perfectly suited to the conditions of gravelly beds and rocky slopes. Its blooms tend to arise in late summer to fall, during which one of the Pacific coast’s resident hummingbirds, Anna’s hummingbird (Calypte anna), might begin to migrate southward.

The red, fuchsia, or red-orange blooms of the hummingbird trumpet are found on a profusion of floral spikes. During the peak bloom period, this can drastically change the appearance of the plant as each raceme can bear dozens of flowers. Grow this plant on borders along stone walls and fences, where their colors are most likely to be accentuated by duller hues.

8) Mountain larkspur (Delphinium glaucum)

Mountain larkspur in bloom
The mountain larkspur, as its name suggests, is best suited to mountainous regions. Dcrjsr, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to western North America

The mountain larkspur favors moist conditions in mountainous regions. This wildflower, though often associated with livestock poisoning events in grazing land throughout its native range, is actually highly valuable to hummingbirds in western Canada and the US. It is a great example for highlighting the fact that hummingbirds (particularly the black-chinned hummingbird or Archilochus alexandri) are not only attracted to red pigments but may be swayed by blues and purples too!

Also known as ‘Sierra larkspur’ or ‘glaucous larkspur’, this species produces inflorescences that measure up to 3 feet (91 cm) long. With stems that grow to a full height of about 9 feet (2.7 meters), the entire mature plant can be quite tall. A single floral spike may bear up to 30 individual flowers with slightly wrinkly petals. Most of these contain deep-colored pigments with varying degrees of petal variegation.

9) Fireweed (Chamaenerion angustifolium)

Fireweed flowers
Fireweed is an eye-catching perennial that attracts a host of pollinators, such as hummingbirds and bees. Zeynel Cebeci, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to the temperate zones of the Northern Hemisphere

An eye-catching perennial with erect stems, fireweed is remarkably attractive to hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees. This member of the Onagraceae or evening primrose family tends to colonize open spaces that have previously succumbed to forest fires. An important pioneer species, it aids in the recovery of disturbed areas. Apart from supplying nectar to various pollinators, it serves as a food plant for elk, porcupines, bears, and other herbivorous mammals.

The blooms of fireweed, which appear in profusion through June and September, may be rose, deep-pink, or magenta-colored. They are borne on terminal inflorescences which rise several inches above the swathes of narrow foliage. Each flower, measuring just 0.8 – 1.2 inches (2 – 3 cm) across, is characterized by four egg-shaped petals alternately arranged with four lanceolate sepals.

10) Beardlip penstemon (Penstemon barbatus)

Beardlip penstemon flowers
Beardlip penstemon is resistant to rabbit and deer grazing and thrives in well-draining, rocky substrates. peganum from Henfield, England, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to the western US

Commonly cultivated as a xeriscaping plant, beardlip or bearded penstemon thrives in well-draining, rocky substrates. Its wild stands are frequently found in the woodlands of states with semi-arid regions. This species is particularly important to the resident hummingbirds of western North America. As the birds migrate south, they flock to flowering penstemon stands for their nectar. It’s safe to say that wild colonies act as vital refilling or refueling stations for the rufous hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus), Costa’s hummingbird (Calypte costae), and more.

Resistant to grazing by rabbits or deer, the beardlip penstemon is set apart by lush, upright stems that grow to about 2 – 3 feet (61 – 91 cm) tall. Its blooms arise in late spring to summer. In optimal environments, a second bloom period may occur in the fall. The deep red, tube-shaped blooms are loosely distributed along erect spikes that rise far above the foliage.

11) Columbia lily (Lilium columbianum)

Columbia lily flower
The Columbia lily should be planted in a fully sunlit location with a slightly acidic and consistently moist substrate. Don Henise / CC BY 2.0

Native to western North America

The Columbia lily is a decorative perennial found along the moist edges of forests and in lowland meadows. It has erect, unbranching stems that grow to about 2 – 4 feet (61 – 122 cm) tall in USDA hardiness zones 5 – 9. Whorls of lanceolate leaves arise around the nodes of the stem, which is anchored to the ground by an edible bulb. In summer to fall, well-established plants become irresistible to hummingbirds as they send out striking racemes of bright yellow to orange blossoms.

The individual blooms of the Columbia lily are noticeably downward-oriented. Measuring about 2 inches (5 cm) long, each with an emerging tuft of powdery anthers, they may look as though they are nodding in the wind. The bright petals, heavily speckled close to the opening of the flower’s main tube, characteristically curve outward. For maximum flowering rates, situate this eye-catcher in fully sunlit locations with slightly acidic and consistently moist substrates.

12) Scarlet hedgehog cactus (Echinocereus coccineus)

Scarlet hedgehog cactus
The hummingbird’s ability to hover allows it to pollinate scarlet hedgehog cactus blooms while avoiding its sharp spikes. Andrey Zharkikh from Salt Lake City, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to North and Central America

Yes, even a flowering cactus can provide hummingbirds with nectar as they migrate over arid landscapes! The scarlet hedgehog cactus, named both for its spiky exteriors and its scarlet blooms, typically grows in USDA hardiness zones 8 – 11. If you intend to cultivate a xeriscape or desert garden, consider planting this clumping species to attract hummingbirds and bees. Over time, it should spread to produce a colony of columnar stems that produce buds from spring to summer!

The morphology of this hedgehog cactus’s flower is compatible with long, specialized beaks that can reach its chamber of rich nectar. As the hummingbird is adept at hovering, it can pollinate the blooms without once having to alight on the sharp spikes. Successfully fertilized blooms develop into edible, juicy fruits. Packed with moisture, these are incredibly nourishing treats for small animals found in dry environments.

Angeline L
About the author

Angeline L

I'm a passionate researcher and scuba diver with a keen interest in garden plants, marine life, and freshwater ecology. I think there’s nothing better than a day spent writing in nature. I have an academic and professional background in sustainable aquaculture, so I advocate for the responsible production of commercial fish, macroinvertebrates, and aquatic plants.

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