Plants to Attract Hummingbirds

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This article was written by Gail Griffin, Extension Master Gardener Volunteer in Lee County.

Within a few weeks, the first of our hummingbirds will arrive scouting out the landscape with others soon to follow as the weather warms and plants begin to bloom. Their migration has brought them across the Gulf of Mexico into our backyards and they will be our visitors for months to come. After such a long journey, shouldn’t we offer them more than just granulated sugar and water? After all, making a guest feel welcome is the sign of a good host.

Hummingbirds are our tiniest birds, most weighing less than a nickel. They come from Central America and Mexico to raise their young, only to return round trip in the fall. In the meantime, they need places to nest and perch, shelter, and most Ruby-throated Hummingbirdimportantly, a supply of food. They are attracted to red or orange tubular flowers, but do not feed on them exclusively. Their long bills allow them to reach nectar deep inside the bloom. As they travel from flower to flower, they inadvertently spread pollen as they go, making them important contributors to pollination.

A landscape that provides varieties of trees, shrubs, vines and perennials that have a succession of blooms throughout the spring and summer will help ensure a continuous supply of nectar. Native trees such as red buckeye, hawthorn and yellow poplar not only produce blooms, but also provide nesting areas. Shrubs that have bloom times that range from early spring to mid and late summer include wild azalea, rhododendron, and buttonbush. Some of our native vines also fill the bill with their color and tubular flowers like coral honeysuckle and trumpet vine. Bee balm, jewelweed and cardinal flower are only a few of the perennials that can be grown in mixed borders along with annuals like petunias and salvias. Native plants are emphasized as they produce a greater amount of nectar than hybrids or exotic species. There are many plants that can be grown in containers for smaller spaces. For a more complete list of plants that attract hummingbirds, go o or explore the extension gardener toolbox at

So grab the popcorn, find a front row seat and be prepared to watch the boys and girls of summer. They are coming soon to a backyard near you.

Gail Griffin is an Extension Master Gardener Volunteer for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County.