Hummingbird Garden Part 2: Set the stage

Welcome to Part 2 of Building a Hummingbird Garden!

Photo Credit: Stephanie Wallace Photography on flickr   

Photo Credit: Stephanie Wallace Photography on flickr


The snow has almost all melted into the ground here at Silverwood and it's time to choose which flowers we will plant to entice hummers to drop by and stay awhile.

Here are the basic guidelines for a garden hummingbirds will find irresistible:

  • Red or Orange tubular flowers
  • Plants with many small blossoms pointing sideways or down
  • Plants with long bloom periods
  • Plants that bloom profusely during August and September
  • Tall plants (by which we mean plants over 75 cm or 30")
  • Mass plantings of flowers

You may be feeling a bit thrown off by that last criteria. Don't worry! Several of the plants recommended below reproduce vigorously, self-seed with ease and can be started from seed quite easily. For this reason mass plantings (also referred to as large drifts) are a breeze. Remember: It is very common for hummingbirds to sample the nectar from every single blossom in the vicinity! The more blossoms = a better chance of observing them in action! (Even if you don't have a lot of space plant some hummer favourites anyway and give them a reason for occasional visits.)

I'm a big proponent of the gardening saying "Friends don't let friends plant annuals". At least not until their garden is well stocked with perennials. Sure there are plenty of annuals to draw hummers to the yard. By all means plant them if you like. Perennials just happen to be a better long term investment.

Here are some plants that are sure to magnetize hummers to your yard. We have the first few in our garden already, and they do a stellar job of bringing in hummers and even bees. The latter few are new to our garden this year, but I have selected them after fairly extensive research:

Photo Credit: disownedlight via Compfight cc


(Monarda didyma, aka Bee Balm, Oswego Tea)

Perennial : zone 3 - 8

This plant has sooo much to offer! It is easily my top pick. (Rachel's note: Aaron is OBSESSED.) Hummingbirds love this flower for its bright red, profuse, nectar-rich and long lasting blossoms. Bergamot comes in many colours. For best results look for the red variety. While the others may provide nourishment, the red varieties act as the best calling card. On hot, sunny days its pleasant fragrance wafts around the garden. Bergamot is super easy to grow. So easy in fact that it can begin to take over a garden if left unchecked. Like mint it has a tendency to spread and can be divided easily. Bergamot is also good for attracting butterflies.

[Fun fact! Ever tried Earl Grey Tea? If yes, then you have sampled Bergamot. It happens to be the key flavouring ingredient in that popular tea blend. It also has many other uses us bipeds enjoy. Try it as a minty herbal tea, or an olfactory treat added to bath water.]

Photo Credit: sniffette via Compfight cc

Red Columbine

(Aquilegia canadensis, aka Columbine)

Perennial : zone 3 - 8

Native to North America

These flowers have a really unique look - unlike any other flower I can think of. They make me think of spaceships and comets. Columbines are available in just about every colour and colour combination you can think of. To best attract hummingbirds, it is important to choose Aquilegia canadensis.

Aquilegia are super easy to sow from seed & self-seed readily. They like semi-shaded areas - this is nice since so many other plants demand front row seats in the sun. They grow equally well in a wooded setting or in a window box. They are reliable germinators, easy to establish from seed. Simply scatter seed in disturbed soil in the fall or early spring. Once established, Columbine will tend to self-seed and persist.

Cardinal Flower

(Lobelia cardinalis)

Perennial : zone 3 - 9

Native to North America

This bright red flower is a late summer bloomer. This will help ensure a food source that is available well into the fall. It requires part shade and soil that will remain relatively moist. Planting near water will help ensure long term success. Propagation is easy by dividing since the young plants spread from the base of older plants.

Photo Credit: edgeplot via Compfight cc


(*several varieties* A. foeniculum, A. aurantiaca, A. cana, A. ruprestris, etc., aka Hummingbird Mint, Anise Hyssop,)

Perennial : zone 4 - 11

Native to North America

Agastache is classic plant for both herb gardens and borders. These plants are characteristically composed of erect branches, spires of several small flowers and minty-licorice-scented leaves. They are especially eye catching when planted in large drifts or groupings. Agastache is also a very attractive plant to bees.

Campsis radicans, photo modified from SamwiseGamgee69 on Flickr
Photo Credit: SamwiseGamgee69 via Compfight cc

Trumpet Vine (Campsis radicans, aka Trumpet Creeper, Hummingbird Vine)

Perennial : zone 4 - 9

Native to North America

This vine is so good at attracting hummingbirds with its summer-long clusters of red, orange, or yellow flowers that you'll sometimes see it sold as hummingbird vine. This plant requires some planning because it can climb to a height of 30 feet or more, needs a strong support and room to grow. To support the plant, consider a robust trellis, a pergola or a south-facing exterior wall of your house. It's worth mentioning that Trumpet Vine can exhibit a very aggressive growth pattern that quickly overtakes its supports (sometimes destroying them in the process). This is especially the case in warmer zones. For this reason, it is considered an invasive species in some areas . However, this is not the case in the cooler zones. It can take several years to flower so patience is also required. It likes full sun to part shade and moist, well-drained soil. It is tolerant of poor soils.

Photo Credit: Nemo's great uncle via Compfight cc

Honeysuckle Vine

(Lonicera sempervirens)

Perennial : zone 4 - 9

Native to Northern Hemisphere

This vine has showy clusters of tubular flowers. It blooms through the summer and autumn. There are different varieties available. Each has with their own blossom colour range - but all should do the trick of enticing hummingbirds to the garden. It requires support of a trellis or arbor and can grow to a height of 15 feet.

Most of these are quite common and easy to find in your local nursery. If you can't find them there, a quick online search will yield tons of online seed stores.

Next post we will be share photos of our hummingbird garden in process! We'd love to see pictures of your garden, too. Send them to us at blisscraftandbrazen [at] gmail [dot] com.

Happy gardening!