- A hummingbird visiting a cardinal flower.
Hummingbirds are unparalleled pollinators. Their elongated, curved beaks are tailor-made for flowers with long or narrow blooms, which can be difficult for bees and butterflies to reach. Adding native plants with tube or bell-shaped blooms in a variety of striking colors can attract these petite pollinators and ensure abundant flowers year after year.
"Hummingbirds have a circuit they fly around to, like going shopping," says John Messerschmidt, a specialist in native gardens and owner of Hudson Valley Native Landscaping. "Once they find your garden, they will remember it and by next year, as they pass their route on to their offspring, your garden will be a regular stop.”
Below, are five native varieties he recommends that are sure to attract hummingbirds to your garden all season long.
Beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis)
A relative of the foxglove, this drought-tolerant plant produces an abundance of flowers in shades of pink and white on its upright stalks from April to June. The plants can also grow up to five feet tall making them easy for hummingbirds to access. Plant them densely to add vertical interest to any sunny part of your garden.
Coral Bells (Heuchera americana)
This shade-tolerant plant is beloved for both its striking blooms and lush, ruffle-edged foliage, which can provide ground cover through early winter. The tiny white to pink blossoms appear on tall wispy stalks that emerge from the foliage from May to June. Removing the stems of faded flowers can encourage additional blooms and more hummingbirds too.
Blue Wild Indigo (Baptisia australis)
Blue wild indigo, also called false blue indigo, is a hardy upright perennial that produces blue-purple flowers from May to July. It can grow up to four feet tall and does well in full sun to partial shade. The plant can take a few years to establish itself, but will reward you with showier blooms each successive year. It's also a type of legume, so it stores nitrogen and adds natural fertility to the soil.
Turk's Cap Lily (Lilium superbum)
The tallest of the lilies native to North America, this showy cultivar produces large orange-red blooms especially attractive to humminbirds from July to August. The flower’s petals fold back on itself to form the “Turk’s cap” that gives it its name. It likes moist soil conditions that replicate the wet meadows and shady forests it naturally grows in. A little patience is required with this variety since it can take a while to establish good roots and start providing abundant blooms.