Many Californians put up hummingbird feeders to attract hummingbirds to gardens, but trees and plants provide all the nectar hummingbirds love. Build a design that pairs a nectar-producing tree with other plants that have similar horticultural needs. Many California natives attract hummingbirds and are drought tolerant. Introduced species also have wildlife value and many provide year-round interest.
Silk Tree Companion Plantings
Silk tree, also called mimosa tree, (Albizia julibrissin) is a medium-sized deciduous tree native to Asia that has fern-like foliage and produces light pink to rose-colored fluffy flowers in spring. Hummingbirds flock to the blooms. Silk tree benefits from moderate water. The leaves fold up in bright sun.
Pineapple Guava (Feijoa sellowiana) is native to South America. It is a medium size multi-trunked shrub that has an open growth habit. Its bark is smooth and creamy gray. White flowers have large red stamens that attract hummingbirds. The petals are edible.
Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha) has gray-green leaves and long stems. Fuzzy violet wands appear in warmer months. The plant does well with some afternoon shade in hot areas. Honeysuckle (Lonicera) varieties perfume the air with sweet fragrance and drape over retaining walls and fences.
Buckeye Companion Plantings
California Buckeye (Aesculus californica) is native to Southern California. The deciduous tree bears candelabra shaped blooms in the spring after the tree leafs-out. Bees and hummingbirds both visit the flowers. The tree loses its leaves in summer and survives arid conditions.
Red-hot poker (Kniphofia uvaria) also does well with dry-summer soils. The plant has coarse grass-like leaves and sprouts long stalks covered with bright red, orange or cream colored spike-shaped flowers. Cut back the plant in Autumn.
Crocosmia (Crocosmia crocosmiiflora), also called montbretia, reproduces by spreading underground via corms, and can form large mature clumps. Scarlet, orange or cream colored flowers attract hummingbirds. The foliage is fan-shaped and thick. Crocosmia plants go dormant in the winter.
Mimulus, or monkey flower, has bright-orange or yellow flowers on sticky soft stems. The plant survives intense heat and aridity by going dormant in the late summer.
Live Oak Companion Plantings
Live Oak trees provide shelter and forage to many birds, insects and mammals. Hummingbirds visit oak flowers in spring and seek shelter in oak branches. Grow varieties of coral bell (Heuchera) around oaks. The round-leafed perennials send out spikes of nectar filled flowers in spring. The plants thrive in semi-shade or shade and dry conditions, making them ideal for live oak companion plantings.
Aloe varieties also do well in shady dry conditions. The flower stalks attract hummingbirds for weeks during bloom.
California lilac (Ceanothus) is native to California. It has small deep green leathery leaves that resist heat and dry conditions. Shrubby varieties thrive near the coast or inland, and all bear profuse white, violet or cobalt-blue flowers in late winter or early spring. White California lilac can grow up to 12 feet in height.
White sage (Salvia apiana) has pungent white-gray foliage and white flowers in spring. Place the white sage in full sun on well-drained hillsides, next to purple sage (Salvia leucophylla). Both plants are California natives.