Few garden events are as exciting as a visit from a hummingbird, a tiny bundle of iridescent energy zooming from one flower to another. Red flowers are well-known as favorites, but other colors are also visited. Plan for flowers throughout the months hummingbirds are in your area, a mixture of shrubs, perennials and annuals that will provide a constant source of nectar. Overhanging branches provide safe places for the birds to rest, and many shade-tolerant flowers are favorites.
Trees, Vines and Shrubs
Start off the hummingbird season with red-flowering currant, a hummingbird favorite, and continue through spring with flowering quince, elderberry and weigelia.
Summer blooms could include silk tree, Albizzia julibrissin, a medium-sized tree with puffy pink clusters of flowers, abelia trumpet vine and honeysuckles, including the coral honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens. Fuchsias, both tender and hardy sorts, are well-loved by hummingbirds and will often bloom right up until frost.
Though few perennials bloom for more than three weeks, their lavish display makes up for the limited season. Plant a succession for best results, perhaps beginning with columbines (especially the red and yellow Aquilegia canadensis) and continuing into summer with hollyhocks (usually said to need sun, but quite shade-tolerant) and foxgloves.
Lobelia cardinalis, a native plant with scarlet flowers that likes moist soils, and bee balm, in red, pink or purple varieties, are considered to be classic hummingbird plants, but don't neglect the Veronicas and coral bells, both fairly low growing.
For late summer or fall flowers, plant the various types of crocosmia, each flowering at a slightly different time. The first one to come into bloom is the magnificent "Lucifer," tall and brilliantly red.
Annuals have the advantage of providing flowers through fall, often right up to frost, if cut back after the first flush of bloom, so plant lots to fill in gaps between perennial flowers.
Snapdragons, especially the tall rocket snaps, are excellent hummingbird plants, and come in a wide variety of colors. Flowering tobacco is often white, but also comes in pink, red and purple shades. Nasturtiums, of course, come in reds, including the beautiful "Empress of India" variety. For pink to rose shades, choose ivy geraniums or impatiens.