Many plants that do well in California attract hummingbirds with their nectar-rich flowers, and many plants that we consider foliage plants also attract hummingbirds to their emerging leaf buds, from which nectar can be taken by hummingbirds in spring. If you're gardening in a small space like many urban Californians, you may prefer to select dwarf varieties of plants to attract hummingbirds, so that you can fit a variety of plants into your space.
Blue Chip Dwarf Butterfly Bush
Blue Chip Dwarf Butterfly Bush (Buddleia "Blue Chip") is the most compact version of Buddleia available, growing only 2 to 3 feet tall and wide. It makes an excellent container plant, and the lavender-blue flowers attract hummingbirds in summer. It thrives in USDA zones 5 to 10, prefers full sun, and loves California's coastal and inland climates.
Lion's Head Japanese Maple
Lion's Head Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum "Shishi Gashira") grows very slowly and is a dwarf variety of Japanese Maple, which thrives in California's many climates. Hummingbirds drink nectar from emerging leaf buds in March, and if this Maple is planted on a tall terrace, it may even provide a habitat for nesting hummingbirds.
Lion's Head Japanese Maple does well in USDA zones 5 to 9, and prefers full sun and regular water. It has medium green leaves and a compact growth habit that makes it ideal for growing in a container.
Oxana Princess Lily
Oxana Princess Lily (Alstroemeria x "Staprioxa") has bright pinkish-red blooms with yellow markings inside. The hot red color attracts hummingbirds, and the nectar in the blossoms feeds them from spring through fall.
This plant is a dwarf variety of Princess Lily, which only reaches 1 foot tall and wide. It prefers full sun on the California coast, or partial shade inland, and it does well in USDA zones 8 to 11.
Blue Springs Foothill Penstemon
Blue Springs Foothill Penstemon (Penstemon heterophyllus "Blue Springs") does well in gardens that offer no summer water. This California native plant has profuse sky-blue and purple blooms all summer long, and is a petite grower to only 2 feet tall and wide. The nectar-rich flowers attract hummingbirds and butterflies. The Penstemon needs full sun and thrives in USDA zones 6 to 10.
Coastal Gem Grevillea
Coastal Gem Grevillea (Grevillera lanigera "Coastal Gem") is useful as a hummingbird-attracting plant because it has cheerful red blooms all year round that are full of nectar. It is a dwarf ground-covering plant that reaches only 2 feet tall and spreads to 5 feet wide.
The Coastal Gem Grevillea prefers full sun and needs good drainage, and like many Australian plants, it does well in California's climate. Coastal Gem Grevillea grows in USDA zones 8 to 10, and does particularly well on the California coast.