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It’s Hummer Time!


By Paul James

I’m fascinated by hummingbirds. Have been since I was a kid. On a trip to Jamaica back in the 80s, I saw my first red-billed streamertail, one of the most beautiful hummers of all. Just last week, while eating my way through Charleston, SC, I spotted a ruby-throated male at an area botanic garden. I should spot one any day in my backyard since they’re the most common species in eastern Oklahoma. And here are the plants they’re looking for, from A to Z.

Agastaches

Also known as Hyssop or Hummingbird Mint, this plant tops the list not just alphabetically, but preferentially as well. Hummers love this easy to grow perennial, and you will too. Available in a variety of colors.

Asclepius

Butterfly Weed is well known as the host plant for Monarch Butterfly larvae, but its flowers are also prized by hummingbirds.

Azalea

Yep. Hummers take to Azaleas as much as we do, and the repeat-blooming varieties will keep them coming back.

Buddleia

Better known as Butterfly Bush, it’s also a hummingbird magnet, one that makes a bold statement in any garden, regardless of which color you choose.

Calibrachoa

Also known as Million Bells, this annual can be grown in pots or in the ground. Either way, hummingbirds will find their way to the flowers.

Columbine

This early spring bloomer is one of the first flowers hummers feast on, and they love it. It’s a great shade-loving perennial, one that combines beautifully with hostas and ferns.

Daylilies

Small hummingbirds practically disappear as they try to get to the nectar inside daylily flowers, which is truly a sight to see.

Desert Willow

The tubular, orchid-like flowers of Desert Willow seem custom made for hummers, and they flock to them in droves. This large shrub (or small tree) can get up to 20’ tall, but that’s not a problem for winged creatures.

Echinacea

Coneflowers attract lots of different pollinators, including hummingbirds. And although they’re most attracted to red flowers, they’ll feed on any color.

Esperanza

I have two of these tropical shrubs flanking the entrance to a rock path, and every year, without fail, they attract hummingbirds. Lots of them. 

Gaillardia

The native Blanket Flower is another perennial that’s a perennial favorite among hummers. And it’s both carefree and drought tolerant.

Heuchera

The world of Heucheras or Coral Bells is vast, and you can’t go wrong with any of them. They too require shade, and while we tend to prefer them for their foliage rather than their flowers, hummers would argue the opposite.

Hibiscus

Hummers love both the tropical and hardy Hibiscus flowers, and they can spend more than an hour slurping the nectar from the dinner plate-sized blooms on a mature plant.

Honeysuckle

This vine also features totally tubular flowers, and hummers love its nectar as much as we did when we were kids. (Okay, so I still like sucking the nectar out of the flowers.)

Hosta

Yes, it’s the foliage that draws most people to hostas, but it’s the flowers that bring on the hummingbirds. 

Lantana

This heat-lover is available as both an annual and a perennial, and hummers don’t seem to care which one you plant.

Mahonia

You may know this shade-loving shrub by its common name of Oregon Grape, but hummingbirds know it as a great source of nectar.

Monarda

Bee Balm is its more familiar name, and while it does indeed attract bees, it’s also a hummingbird favorite. And it’s a carefree perennial.

Nepeta

Catmint, in its many forms, makes every list of hummingbird-friendly plants, and this one is no exception. 

Penstemon

You may know it as Beardtongue, but hummingbirds don’t care what it’s called. To them, it’s among their top three favorites, and it’s a carefree perennial that’s available in several colors.

Petunia

Another great choice among annuals, and the new varieties deadhead themselves, which means less labor for you and a continuous supply of flowers for the birds.

Phlox

Pick a Phlox. Any Phlox. Then sit back and wait for the hummingbirds to show their appreciation. Yeah, they pretty much flock to phlox.

Red Hot Poker

This stunning perennial is prized by butterflies and hummingbirds alike, and it deserves to be planted more. On that hummingbirds and I agree.

Rosemary

It’s a popular culinary herb we love to add to all sorts of dishes, and when it’s in flower, hummers love to dine on its nectar. Talk about a win-win!

Salvia

There are too many types of salvia to list here, but all of them attract hummingbirds as well as butterflies and bees. Perhaps the best of the lot are the Salvia greggii, including ‘Furman’s Red.’

Trumpet Vine

If you’ve got room to let this vine take off, you’ll be rewarded with more hummers than you can shake a stick at, not that you’d ever want to shake a stick at the little cuties.

Weigela

This shrub has been around for years, and these days there are far more varieties to choose from. Good for you, and good for hummers.

Zinnia

Most flowers that attract hummingbirds are tubular. Zinnias aren’t, and yet hummingbirds love them. 

One of the great things about this list is that not every plant blooms at the same time, which means hummingbirds will be hanging out in your yard for several months to come. And that’s important, because to sustain their supercharged metabolisms, they must eat once every 10 to 15 minutes and visit between 1,000 and 2,000 flowers a day!

And I thought I was a glutton.

Happy gardening, ya’ll.

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