Hummingbirds are one of the most curious, fascinating birds to be seen. Famous for their quick darting movements, their ability to fly sideways and backwards, and to hover motionless at will, hummingbirds can be a perfect living ornament to your perennial garden. Below are some suggestions for hummingbird attracting plants that do well in Northern zones.
The most common hummingbirds in the Northeast are the Ruby-throated and Rufous. Rubys are very curious and may even try to investigate brightly colored clothing. Rufous may have the ideal size-to-weight ratio among North American hummingbirds. This bird out flies all other species, and usually gets its way at feedings at the expense of slower, less-maneuverable hummers.
It’s a little-known fact that hummingbirds have a carnivorous side. Small insects and spiders make up one-fourth of their diet. Hummingbirds also depend on the quick energy provided by flower nectar to fuel their turbo-charged lifestyles. Red, especially, acts like a beacon to hummingbirds.
It’s best to build your hummingbird heaven slowly. Start with three or four flowering plants and add a few more each year. ‘Nigra’ hollyhock shows maroon flowers so dark they can appear black, making a striking statement in the garden. Butterfly weed has brilliant orange blooms and five nectar cups each with concave horns. The ‘Happy Returns’ daylily is a wonderful transitional bloomer that will show lovely soft lemon yellow flowers right into fall. Lastly, the Cardinal Flower, a lobelias, illuminates shady spots with red spikes. Check with your nursery to find out your soil type and sun requirements for any perennial you choose.
To encourage hummingbirds to return to your garden, provide a succession of blooms from spring through early fall. Hanging baskets and early-flowering perennials work well in early spring. In the fall, hummingbirds build up a fat layer for migrating with heavy nectar producers like orange honeysuckle and trumpet creeper vine.
There are many perennials to choose from in a variety of colors. Stick with single and non-hybrid types to attract hummingbirds. As an added benefit: a hummingbird garden appeals to many kinds of butterflies and moths.