Native Plants & Hummingbirds
Native plants are extremely important for hummingbirds. During spring migration in February and March, the Rufous Hummingbirds need native plants for their survival as they make their way northward. In our area, the first plants to bloom are Indian Plum, salmonberry and red-flowering currants. Hummingbirds also find small insects on pussy willows for their needed protein intake.
Stephen Kress, from the National Audubon Society wrote, "Native plants, which have co-evolved with native wild birds, are more likely to provide a mix of foods - just the right size, and with just the right kind of nutrition - and just when the birds need them."
Creating Hummingbird Flower Islands
Hummingbirds love islands of flowers where various hummingbird plants are grouped together. We have many flower islands in our backyard wildlife habitat allowing many hummers their own flower island which they vigorously defend against intruders.
Remember when designing your hummingbird garden, hummingbirds prefer flowers shaped like ice-cream cones while butterflies prefer flowers shaped like pizzas. Try planting flowers that bloom in succession so they have something to feed on all year. The following is a sample list of seasonal bloomers for our beloved hummingbirds.
Some spring plants are apple blossom, bleeding heart, blueberry blossom, chokecherry, columbine, currant, elderberry, huckleberry, Indian plum, lilac, salmonberry, serviceberry, snowberry and wood hyacinth.
Some summer plants are begonia, bee balm, california fuchsia, coral bells, crocosmia, foxglove, fuchsia, gladiola, honeysuckle, iris, lantana, monkey flower, nicotiana, penstemon, petunia, red-hot poker, rosemary, scarlet runner bean and woolly blue curls.
Some fall plants are balsam, cardinal flower, climbing bleeding heart, fuchsia, hollyhock, larkspur, monkey-flower, nasturtium, paintbrush, petunia, phlox, rosemary, salvia, spider flower and zinnia.
Our Favorite Hummingbird Flowers
If you live in the Pacific Northwest, some very important natives are Red-flowering Currant, Salmonberry and Indian Plum. Because these plants bloom very early, they are an extremely important food source for the early migrating Rufous Hummingbirds.
Every year we continue to add to our list of hummingbird plants. As of 2005, we have the following native and non-native plants:
- Abelia grandiflora - Abelia
- Amelanchior alnifolia - Serviceberry
- Aquilegia formosa - Western Columbine
- Aquilegia sp. - Columbine
- Ascelpias tuberosa - Butterfly weed
- Buddleia davidii - Butterfly bush
- Callistemon lanceolatus - Bottlebrush
- Campis grandiflora - Trumpet creeper
- Catoneaster sp. - Catoneaster
- Ceanothus sp. - Wild Lilac
- Chaenomeles sp. - Flowering quince
- Cornus stolonifera - Red-twig Dogwood
- Crataeagus douglassii - Black Hawthorne
- Crocosmia sp - Montbretia
- Dahlia sp. - Dahlia
- Delphinium elatum - Delphinium
- Dicentra formosa - Pacific Bleeding Heart
- Digitalis purpurea (Biennial) - Foxglove
- Fuschia arborescens - Fuschia tree
- Fuschia hybrida - Fuchsia
- Gaultheria shallon - Salal
- Gladiolus sp. - Gladiolus
- Heuchera sanguinea - Coral bells
- Ipomoea quamoclit - Cardinal climber
- Iris douglasiana - Douglas' Iris
- Kniphofia uvaria - Red hot poker
- Lilium columbianum - Tiger lily
- Lobelia cardinalis - Cardinal flower
- Lonicera ciliosa - Orange Honeysuckle
- Lonicera sp. - Honeysuckle
- Mahonia sp. - Oregon Grape
- Mimulus cardinalis - Red Monkeyflower
- Monarda didyma - Bee balm
- Oemleria [Osmaronia] cerasiformis - Indian Plum
- Pelargonium species - Geranium
- Penstemon sp. - Penstemon
- Phaseolus coccineus - Scarlet Runner Bean
- Rhododendron occidentale - Wild Azalea
- Rhododendron sp - Azalea
- Ribes divaricatum - Wild Gooseberry
- Ribes sanguineum - Red-flowering Currant
- Rubus parviflorus - Thimbleberry
- Rubus spectabilis - Salmonberry
- Salvia elegans - Pineapple sage
- Salvia officinalis - Sage
- Salvia splendens - Scarlet sage
- Sambucus - Elderberry
- Sidalcea sp. - Checkermallow
- Solidago canadensis - Goldenrod
- Sorbus sitchensis - Sitka Mountain-ash
- Spiraea sp. - Spirea species
- Symphoricarpos albus - Snowberry
- Syringa sp. - Lilac
- Trichostema lanatum - Woolly blue curls
- Tropaeolum majus - Nasturtium
- Vaccinium ovatum - Evergreen Huckleberry
- Weigela rosea - Weigela
- Zauschneria californica - California Fuchsia
According to Attracting and Feeding Hummingbirds, the Trumpet Creeper (Campsis radicans) produces the highest volume of nectar per blossom. If you have a Trumpet Creeper, make sure to trim the vines of back each fall in order to create a short plant with many blooms.
Native Plant Nurseries & Societies in the Pacific Northwest
Some of our favorite native plant nurseries and societies are Northwest Plants located in Salem, Oregon. You can pickup the plants or have them delivered. This web site is packed with an incredible amount of information on native plants.
Another favorite is Rainy Side Gardeners because it has a gallery and growing guide on native plants called Native Plants of the Maritime Pacific Northwest. They also have a page on how to pronounce botanical names.
The Washington Native Plant Society's Pacific Northwest Native Plants For Western Washington Gardens is a favorite because it includes pictures, growing conditions and comments.
To complete a hummingbird habitat, provide a source of water. Hummingbirds love to take baths and showers. They need very, very shallow areas to bathe. They also love flying through sprinklers and misters. We've watched them rolling in the grass under a mister and sitting on fences taking a rain shower. They are one of the cleanest birds. Even the babies expel their feces outside the nest. Read more about providing water for your wildlife habitat.
We feel it is important to have home-made nectar especially since blossoms don't produce enough nectar during inclement weather. We have 12 feeders placed throughout the property during spring migration and after the first hatch. When the hummer activity slows down, we reduce the number of feeders to 9 in late summer and early fall. After the Rufous hummingbirds leave in late fall, we keep 3 feeders going for our winter Anna's hummingbirds.
Despite their small size, hummingbirds are hardy. They can survive sub-freezing temperatures, and even blizzards, by going into torpor-a sleeplike state that saves energy. When not in torpor, however, hummingbirds use energy quickly. Its heart beat is more than 10 times per second. By providing food, you may help a hummingbird survive at a time of year when insects and nectar are difficult to find.