The return of hummingbirds each year brings new energy and life to your garden. Although their first appearance varies by region, here in northeastern Pennsylvania, we can expect to see them in early May. Filling your hummingbird feeder with some extra-strength food helps these busy bird recover from their long migration, but later in the growing season, nectar sources from your garden can provide their food. These five flowers will prove to be an excellent source of nutrients for hummingbird and will keep your garden bustling with new life all season.
Butterfly bushes are unbeatable in providing food for hummingbirds and butterflies, as well as a huge range of other insects. Unfortunately, they can be invasive in many areas, so choose sterile hybrids that don't produce seeds, such as Miss Ruby, which can grow five foot by five foot, or Lo & Behold Lilac Chip, which can grow to be 30 inches by 30 inches. Where butterfly bushes are not invasive, choose Butterfly Heaven, which grows to be six foot by six foot, or Peacock (Peakeep) in the English Butterfly Series which can grow to be five foot by five foot.
Native trumpet vine is a vigorous and flamboyant self-clinging vine. You can grow this vine on a trellis or sturdy arbor, or allow it to scramble through established shrubs and small trees because it will cling to bark like ivy. Its vivid orange summer flowers are much loved by hummingbirds, as are the yellow flowers of Flava and its dark salmony hybrid Madame Galen. However, plant this attractive vine with caution because trumpet vine is an aggressive spreader.
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 my flower beds are always popular with hummingbirds. They provide nectar and vivid red coloring over a long season. In order to keep the flowers coming, deadhead carefully as each spike fades.
Hummingbirds enjoy both the bushy California native tree lupine, with its short yellow spikes, and perennial hybrid lupines such as the Popsicle Series and Russell hybrids in a dazzling array of colors and bicolors. All lupines love sun and hate wet soil, and as ever, deadheading extends the display and prolongs the food supply.
This is another tough native that 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 will help to prevent this problem. Try one of the newly introduced mildew-resistant varieties, or the even hardier, Lavender-Flowered Bee Balm.