10 Best Flowers to Attract Hummingbirds (With a Homemade Nectar Recipe)

Hummingbirds are among the most enchanting visitors to any garden, their iridescent feathers and rapid wingbeats adding a touch of magic to outdoor spaces. Planting the right flowers and plants is essential to attract these tiny avian jewels. We’ll explore the ten best flowers and plants that will entice hummingbirds to your garden, providing them with the nectar they need and enhancing the beauty of your landscape.

Whether you have a sprawling yard or a cozy balcony, these plant selections will create a hummingbird haven. Plus, at the end, I’ll share a simple recipe for homemade hummingbird nectar to keep your feathered friends coming back for more. You can transform your space into a hummingbird haven.

Hummingbirds Are Fascinating

Hummingbird.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Hummingbirds are a delightful sight in Canada and the USA, particularly during the warmer months. The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is the most widespread species in these regions, commonly found east of the Mississippi River. At the same time, the Rufous Hummingbird is prevalent in the western parts, including Alaska.

These tiny birds migrate incredible distances, with some species traveling over 2,000 miles from their breeding grounds in North America to their wintering habitats in Central America and Mexico. Hummingbirds prefer habitats that offer abundant food sources, such as gardens, meadows, and forests. They are known for their incredible hovering ability and can beat their wings up to 80 times per second.

Hummingbirds have a high metabolic rate and need to eat frequently, visiting hundreds of flowers daily to consume nectar and catch insects. They are also known for their brilliant iridescent feathers, which can appear to change color with different angles of light. In addition to their stunning appearance and impressive aerial skills, hummingbirds play a vital role in pollination, helping to maintain the health and diversity of ecosystems in Canada and the USA.

Mandavilla Flower

Mandavilla flower.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Mandavilla flowers, known for their large, trumpet-shaped blooms, are a magnet for hummingbirds. These vibrant flowers come in shades of pink, red, and white, and their sweet nectar is a favorite of these tiny birds. Mandavilla plants thrive in warm climates and can be grown as annuals in cooler regions or as perennials in zones 10-11. They prefer full sun to partial shade and well-drained soil.

The climbing nature of Mandavilla makes it perfect for trellises and arbors, providing both a beautiful display and a consistent food source for hummingbirds.

Salvia

Salvia.
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Salvia, or sage, is a diverse genus of plants with many species that attract hummingbirds. These plants produce spikes of tubular flowers in colors like red, purple, pink, and blue, which are highly attractive to hummingbirds. Salvia thrives in full sun and well-drained soil, making it a versatile addition to any garden.

These hardy perennials are drought-tolerant and can thrive in USDA zones 4-10, depending on the species. Regular deadheading of spent flowers encourages continuous blooming, ensuring a steady supply of nectar throughout the growing season.

Trumpet Honeysuckle

Honeysuckle.
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Trumpet honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) is a vigorous climbing vine with clusters of tubular red or orange flowers. These blooms are particularly appealing to hummingbirds due to their shape and rich nectar content. This honeysuckle variety is native to the eastern United States and can be grown in USDA zones 4-9. It prefers full sun to partial shade and moist, well-drained soil.

Trumpet honeysuckle blooms from spring through summer, providing an extended feeding period for hummingbirds. Additionally, its berries attract other wildlife, making it a valuable plant for biodiversity.

Eastern Red Columbine

Eastern red columbine glass.
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Eastern red columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) is a delicate perennial native to North America, known for its distinctive red and yellow flowers. The nodding, bell-shaped blooms have long spurs filled with nectar, which hummingbirds find irresistible. This plant thrives in partial shade to full sun and prefers well-drained, slightly acidic soil. It is hardy in USDA zones 3-8.

Eastern red columbine blooms in early spring, providing an important nectar source when few other plants are in flower. Its foliage is also attractive, with blue-green, fern-like leaves that add texture to garden beds.

Hosta

Hosta.
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Hostas are shade-loving perennials prized for their lush foliage, but their flowers also attract hummingbirds. Hostas produce spikes of lavender, purple, or white tubular flowers that hummingbirds visit for nectar. These plants thrive in USDA zones 3-9 and prefer partial to full shade and well-drained, fertile soil.

While the primary appeal of hostas is their broad, variegated leaves, the summer blooms add an extra dimension to their attractiveness for both gardeners and hummingbirds. Regular watering and mulching help hostas thrive, ensuring healthy plants and plentiful blooms.

Penstemon

Penstemon.
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Penstemon, also known as beardtongue, is a group of perennials with tubular flowers that are a favorite of hummingbirds. These plants bloom in various colors, including red, pink, purple, and blue, with some varieties displaying bi-colored flowers. Penstemons prefer full sun and well-drained soil and are hardy in USDA zones 3-9. They are drought-tolerant once established, making them suitable for xeriscaping.

Penstemons bloom from late spring to early summer, and deadheading spent flowers can encourage a second round of blooms, providing extended nectar availability for hummingbirds.

Bee Balm

Bee balm.
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Bee balm (Monarda) is a native North American plant that produces vibrant, tubular flowers in shades of red, pink, purple, and white. The flowers are rich in nectar, making them highly attractive to hummingbirds. Bee balm thrives in full sun to partial shade and prefers moist, well-drained soil.

It is hardy in USDA zones 4-9. This perennial blooms from mid-summer to early fall, providing a late-season food source for hummingbirds. Bee balm also has aromatic foliage that can be used in teas, adding another layer of usefulness to this beautiful plant.

Cardinal Flower

Cardinal flowers.
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Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) is a striking native perennial known for its bright red, tubular flowers that are perfectly suited for hummingbirds. This plant thrives in moist, rich soil and prefers full sun to partial shade. It is hardy in USDA zones 3-9. Cardinal flowers bloom from mid-summer to early fall, providing a crucial nectar source during this period.

These plants are often found in wetlands and along streams, but they can also be grown in garden beds with adequate moisture. The vivid red blooms are not only attractive to hummingbirds but also add a dramatic splash of color to the garden.

Zinnia

Zinnia flowers.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Zinnias are vibrant, easy-to-grow annuals that are highly attractive to hummingbirds. These flowers come in a wide array of colors, including red, pink, orange, yellow, and white, and their open, daisy-like shape provides easy access to nectar. Zinnias thrive in full sun and well-drained soil, making them a versatile addition to any garden. They can be grown in USDA zones 3-10 and are known for their long blooming period, from early summer until the first frost.

Zinnias are also drought-tolerant and relatively low-maintenance, requiring regular deadheading to promote continuous blooming. Their bright, cheerful flowers not only attract hummingbirds but also butterflies and other pollinators, adding to the garden’s ecological diversity.

Flowering Tobacco

Tobacco flower.

Flowering tobacco (Nicotiana alata) is a fragrant annual plant known for its tubular flowers that attract hummingbirds. The blooms come in shades of white, pink, red, and green, and their sweet evening scent is an additional draw for nighttime pollinators like moths. Flowering tobacco thrives in full sun to partial shade and prefers well-drained, fertile soil. It can be grown in USDA zones 10-11 as a perennial, but it is often treated as an annual in cooler climates.

These plants bloom from late spring through fall, providing a continuous source of nectar for hummingbirds. Flowering tobacco is also relatively low-maintenance, requiring regular watering and occasional fertilization to maintain vigorous growth and abundant blooms. The tall, graceful flower spikes add a vertical element to garden beds and borders, making them a versatile and attractive choice for attracting hummingbirds.

DIY Hummingbird Nectar Recipe

Hummingbird at feeder.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Creating your own hummingbird nectar is simple and requires just two ingredients: water and granulated white sugar. Follow these steps to make a safe and nutritious nectar for hummingbirds:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of granulated white sugar
  • 4 cups of water

Instructions:

  1. Measure the Ingredients: Measure out 1 cup of granulated white sugar and 4 cups of water. This 1:4 ratio mimics the natural nectar found in flowers and provides the right balance of energy for hummingbirds.
  2. Boil the Water: Pour the 4 cups of water into a pot and bring it to a boil. Boiling the water helps to remove any impurities and ensures the sugar dissolves completely.
  3. Add the Sugar: Once the water is boiling, remove it from the heat. Add the 1 cup of granulated white sugar to the hot water.
  4. Stir to Dissolve: Stir the mixture until all the sugar is completely dissolved. This creates a clear syrup that will be safe and appealing to hummingbirds.
  5. Cool the Nectar: Allow the nectar to cool to room temperature. Do not add the hot nectar directly to your feeder, as it could harm the birds.
  6. Fill the Feeder: Once the nectar is cool, pour it into your hummingbird feeder. Be sure to fill it only as much as needed to avoid waste, as nectar can spoil if left out for too long.
  7. Store Extra Nectar: If you have leftover nectar, store it in a clean, airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Always check for signs of spoilage before using stored nectar.

Tips:

  • Do NOT Use Honey: You can kill hummingbirds by using anything other than white sugar, more on that below.
  • Avoid Red Dye: Do not add red food coloring to the nectar. The color of the feeder itself is enough to attract hummingbirds, and dyes can be harmful to them.
  • Clean Your Feeder Regularly: Clean your feeder thoroughly with hot water and a mild soap every few days, or more frequently in hot weather, to prevent mold and bacteria growth.
  • Placement: Place your feeder in a shaded area to keep the nectar fresh longer and to provide a comfortable feeding spot for the hummingbirds.

By following this simple recipe and maintaining a clean feeder, you can enjoy watching hummingbirds visit your garden throughout the season.

Caution About Using Anything But White Sugar

Hummingbird at flower.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

When making homemade nectar for hummingbirds, using only granulated white sugar is crucial. This is because granulated white sugar (sucrose) is chemically similar to the natural nectar found in flowers, making it the safest and most nutritious option for hummingbirds. Using other types of sweeteners can pose significant dangers to hummingbirds.

Honey is particularly problematic. When mixed with water, honey ferments quickly, creating a breeding ground for harmful bacteria and mold. This can lead to fatal infections in hummingbirds. Honey can contain spores of Clostridium botulinum, which produce botulism toxin. This toxin is highly dangerous and can be deadly to hummingbirds.

Brown sugar is another sweetener to avoid. It contains molasses, which adds minerals that hummingbirds cannot process efficiently. The extra minerals in brown sugar can cause health issues for hummingbirds, potentially leading to liver and kidney damage.

Artificial sweeteners and raw sugars should also be avoided. Artificial sweeteners do not provide the necessary calories and energy that hummingbirds need. Raw sugars, including organic and turbinado sugars, often contain impurities and higher levels of iron, which can be toxic to hummingbirds.

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English garden.
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Hydrangea.
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