Hummingbirds require half their weight in nectar per day. While the majority of their food comes from flowers, they also eat insects and tree sap. The only hummingbird to occupy the eastern U.S., the ruby-throated hummingbird, migrates to the north and east in the warmer months. They feast on several plants using their long bills and tongue. Hummingbirds appear to prefer reds and deep, trumpet shaped blooms.
Canna, bee balm and cardinal flower attract numerous ruby-throated hummingbirds. The Canna lily grows almost anywhere, but in climates cooler than USDA Zone 7, dig the rhizomes after the first frost and store them in the winter; an unheated garage or basement works well.
Cannas bloom throughout the summer and fall providing an abundance of nectar for the hummingbirds. Bee balm (Monarda didyma) has distinct red flowers that attract hummingbirds. Bee balm performs best in full sun and nutrient rich soil. The cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) also has red blooms in the summer months. The cardinal flower requires similar conditions to bee balm, but needs to be divided every few years to thrive.
Zinnias (Zinnia elegans) are an easy to grow annual flower that attracts hummingbirds. The flowers range in color from red to white. They grow readily from seed sown in the spring and if kept deadheaded, bloom prolifically. Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis), an annual native to the eastern U.S., grows in naturalized areas. The somewhat leggy plant has small, trumpet-shaped flowers in hues of orange with red spots. For a vining annual, choose scarlet runner beans (Phaseolus coccineus). Although they are commonly planted in the vegetable garden---the beans are edible---runner beans make attractive vines anywhere. The scarlet runner bean needs support, such as a trellis. Red blooms cover the fast growing vine and provide food for hummingbirds.
Known best as focal points and foundation plants in the landscape, shrubs also provide food for wildlife. To create a hummingbird garden choose shrubs such as butterfly bush, weigela and rose of Sharon. Butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii) grows to 10 feet high and wide. The plant blooms from spring into summer in several colors: red, purple, pink, white and yellow. Weigela (Weigela florida) flowers in shades of red, white, pink and lavender. The blooms cover the large shrub in the spring. The rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) grows upright to 15 feet or more. Its flowers attract hummingbirds all summer with hues of pink, purple, white and red.