Butterfly bushes are unbeatable in providing food for hummingbirds, as well as butterflies and a huge range of other insects. Unfortunately, the best-known types, the B. davidii varieties, can be invasive in many areas; check your state’s list of invasive species before planting. If in doubt, choose sterile hybrids such as ‘Miss Ruby’ and Lo & Behold ‘Lilac Chip’ that produce no seed.
‘Miss Ruby’ 5 feet tall by 5 feet wide; ‘Lilac Chip’ 30 inches by 30 inches; hardy to USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 5
Where butterfly bushes are not invasive, choose ‘Butterfly Heaven’ or those such as Peacock (‘Peakeep’) in the English Butterfly Series.
‘Butterfly Heaven’ 6 feet by 6 feet; ‘Peakeep’ 5 feet by 5 feet; Zone 5
Our native trumpet vine is a vigorous and flamboyant self-clinging vine (it clings to bark like ivy) to train on a trellis or sturdy arbor or allow to scramble through established shrubs and small trees. Its vivid orange summer flowers are much loved by hummingbirds, as are the yellow flowers of ‘Flava’ and its dark salmony hybrid ‘Madame Galen’. Plant with caution: Trumpet vine is an aggressive spreader.
30 feet by 15 feet; Zone 5
This very tough and very beautiful moisture-loving perennial is one of the most colorful of our native plants. Those growing in my garden’s little creek, and in our flower garden, are always popular with hummingbirds. They provide nectar and vivid red coloring over a long season (to keep the flowers coming, deadhead carefully as each spike fades).
3 feet by 1 foot; Zone 2
Hummingbirds enjoy both the bushy California native tree lupine (L. arboreus, 5 feet by 5 feet; Zone 8), with its short yellow spikes, and perennial hybrid lupines such as the Popsicle Series and Russell hybrids (30 inches by 16 inches; Zone 4) in a dazzling array of colors and bicolors. All lupines love sun and hate wet soil, and, as ever, deadheading extends the display and so prolongs the food supply.
Scarlet Bee Balm
Another tough native, this is a real hummingbird favorite and one of the most colorful perennials for the flower garden. Sadly, native species are prone to mildew, although keeping the soil moist helps prevent this problem. Try one of the newly introduced mildew-resistant varieties, or the even hardier, lavender-flowered bee balm, M. fistulosa (Zone 3).
4 feet by 18 inches; Zone 4
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