Hummingbird Plants

The definitive website on plants & horticulture

The Registry of Nature Habitats - Hummingbird Plants

Components of a Nature Habitat 



Not everyone will be blessed with all sixteen Habitat Components on their property.  This does not mean that introducing as many as possible will not enhance wildlife.  The key is to understand each of the components, what they are, how they assist in nature and what wildlife will be assisted by their availability.


Hummingbird Plants - Four species of hummingbirds are found in Nebraska, one in the east and three in the west. Ruby-throated hummingbirds migrate through eastern Nebraska in spring and fall, and some nest here, mostly along the Missouri river valley. Typically, ruby-throat migration in Nebraska peaks about May 5-17 and September 2-18, but northward migration may occur from April to June and southward flights from August to early October. Broad-tailed and rufous hummingbirds are seen in the Nebraska panhandle during fall migration from late July to early September with most sightings in early to mid-August. Calliope hummingbirds are seen rarely in the panhandle area. These four hummingbird species spend winter in Mexico and Central America.

What They Eat

The natural diet of hummers is flower nectar, tree sap, and small insects and spiders that are often captured in or near flowers. This natural diet can be supplemented by hummingbird feeders, which dispense a sugar water solution. Flowers blooming through the season, however, are needed when hummingbirds are present to attract them and to provide the natural foods required for a complete diet.

Planting for Hummingbirds

 Flowers add beauty and a place where hummingbirds can find both flower nectar and insects to eat.

Table I  lists recommended herbaceous plants that can provide a variety of flowers for hummingbirds when they are present in your rural or urban community. These landscape plants provide beauty as well as a natural foraging area where hummingbirds can find both flower nectar and small insects to eat. Select plants that provide flowers throughout the season, especially at times when you expect hummingbirds. Include red varieties of the plants listed because red tubular flowers appear to be especially attractive to hummingbirds. Some of the plants listed occur both as wildflowers and as cultivated varieties. Where these wildflowers are growing naturally, maintaining them can benefit hummingbirds. For planting, check with nurseries for availability of either wildflowers or cultivated varieties.

Trees and shrubs form the framework of your landscape and these also can benefit hummingbirds. Common flowering shrubs favored by hummingbirds include Coralberry (Symphoricarpos orbiculatus and other species), Weigela (Weigela florida), and Rose-of-Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus). Other shrubs used include Honeysuckle (Lonicera spp.), Beauty Bush (Kolkwitzia amabilis), Currant (Ribes odoratum), and Gooseberry (Ribes speciosum). Trees used by hummingbirds include Flowering Crab (Malus spp.), Hawthorne (Crataegus spp.), Horsechestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum), Tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipifera), and Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia). In maintaining flowering plants, it's best to avoid insecticide use around the flowers, because hummingbirds depend on small insects as part of their diet.

Table I. Herbaceous plants that attract hummingbirds

Plants Sun
Hibiscus syriacus
Full sun to partial shade Moist; well-drained Late summer to early fall Perennial shrub that may die back to the ground each year.
American columbine
Aquilegia hybrids
Full sun to partial shade Moist; well-drained Late spring early summer Short-lived herbaceous perennial. In full sun locations, protect from hot afternoon sun.
Bee balm
(Oswego tea, or Scarlet bergamot)
Monarda didyma
Full sun Moist Summer Herbaceous perennial. Many cultivars - select powdery mildew resistant types. Remove faded flowers (dead head). Not drought tolerant.
Blazing stars
Liatris spp.
Full sun or light shade Moist; well-drained Midsummer to late fall Perennial. Several species and cultivars available.
Buddleia davidii
Full sun Moist; well-drained; cool Early summer Behaves as a herbaceous perennial in our climate. Many cultivars.
Clematis jackmanii and other species
East exposure; sun Moist; well-drained; cool soil Early summer Perennial. Many cultivars - some natives; mulch soil to keep cool; avoid hot afternoon sun.
Coral bells
Heuchera sanguinea
Sun to partial shade Moist; well-drained Late spring Herbaceous perennial; Needs high organic soils - avoid clay
Hemerocallis spp. and hybrids
Sun to partial shade Moist to dry, well-drained Late spring to summer Herbaceous perennial. Many hybrids - use different hybrids and species to obtain season long bloom.
Digitalis purpurea
Semi-shade Moist; well-drained Spring Biennial; self-sows and maintains itself.
Garden phlox (Perennial phlox)
Phlox paniculata
Sun Moist; well-drained Summer Herbaceous perennial. Requires site with good air movement; avoid overhead watering, or water in early morning; many cultivars; mildew a serious problem.
Gladiolus spp.
Sun Moist; well-drained Summer Perennial, but store corm indoors over winter; protect from wind
Hardy fuchsia
Fuchsia riccartoni
Sun in morning; shade in afternoon Moist; well-drained Summer, fall Not hardy in Nebraska; grow in a container and bring indoors in winter.
Alcea Rosea (Althaea rosa)
Sun Moist; well-drained Summer, fall Biennial. Self-sows; maintains single flower type
Honeysuckle Trumpet
Lonicera sempervirens and hybrids such as Brown's honeysuckle.
Sun to shade Moist; well-drained Spring; sparsely thereafter Perennial vine.
Hosta spp.
Semi-shade Moist; well-drained Early summer to late summer Herbaceous perennial.
Moss pink
Phlox subulata
Full sun Moist; well-drained Early spring Herbaceous perennial.
Tropaeolum spp.
Sun; avoid hot sites Dry, low N soils Summer, fall Annual.
Penstemon gloxinoides and other species
Sun Dry; well-drained Spring to summer Herbaceous perennial.
Petunia hybrida
Full sun Well-drained Summer to frost Annual.
Salvia or sage (red and others)
Salvia splendens and others
Sun to light shade Moist; well-drained Spring to frost Annual to herbaceous perennial. Tolerates some moisture stress, but with reduced flowering.
Flowering tobacco
Nicotiana alata
Full sun to partial shade Moist; well-drained Summer, fall Annual.
Scarlet runner pole bean
Phaseolus coccineus
Sun Well-drained Summer Annual vine.
Scarlet trumpet creeper
Campsis radicans
Sun Well-drained Summer Annual vine.
Wild blue phlox
Phlox divaricata
Shade Moist; well-drained Spring Herbaceous perennial.
Zinnia elegans
Full sun Well-drained Summer, fall Annual.