Feed hummingbirds the easy way.
Below are ten flowers to naturally attract hummingbirds to your Oklahoma yard. Hummingbirds remain a delightful part of the Oklahoma landscape until the females finally leave in October. Hummingbirds arrive in my garden in late March through early April, and my garden is ready for them.
It isn’t difficult to attract hummingbirds.
To attract hummingbirds, you simply plant those flowers they like best. Although hummingbirds love tubular red flowers, they are also attracted to plants with flowers in other colors as long as they provide high nectar content. [Click on the pictures in the gallery to make them larger.]
In my garden, the party starts with native coral honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens, not to be confused with Asian honeysuckle that is invasive throughout much of the southern U.S. I grow two named varieties of this coral honeysuckle, ‘Major Wheeler’ and ‘Dropmore Scarlet.’ Why two types? Because they bloom at different times. ‘Major Wheeler’ flowers first, starting in mid-April. ‘Dropmore Scarlet’ blooms usually right after ‘Major Wheeler.’ Coral honeysuckle is also the host plant for Snowberry Clearwing moth, which is one of my favorite beautiful moths.
Penstemon and Crossvine
Also blooming in spring are the penstemons. P. ‘Dark Towers’ and P. smallii ‘Violet Dusk’ both bring the hummers and bees a lot of happiness. I found ‘Violet Dusk’ at Lowe’s one year. It does spread some by seed. So do ‘Husker’s Red’ and ‘Dark Towers’ for that matter.
Crossvine, Bignonia capreolata, is the native plant alernative to trumpet vine. Please don’t plant trumpet vine. I had a gorgeous crossvine that the hummingbirds loved, but, being only hardy to USDA Zone 6, it died in last winter’s extreme cold. Would I plant ‘Tangerine Beauty’ crossvine again? Oh yes. In the meantime, I’ve replaced it this summer with Vigna caracalla, corkscrew vine.
I grow Monarda didyma ‘Jacob Cline,’ scarlet bee balm. Note that bee balms are part of the mint family so they will spread. However, you will love it so much you probably won’t care, and it is easy to pull up and share with other gardeners. While researching this post, I noted that there is a compact variety called ‘Fireball.’ It looks pretty cool too. I sit at my kitchen table or my desk and watch the hummingbirds play in the mixed perennial border just outside my door. Hummingbirds love bee balm, and they are attracted to our native bee balm, Monarda fistulosa too.
Russian sage and Hummingbird mint
We don’t hear about Russian sage, Perovskia atriplicifolia, much anymore, but it’s one of the easiest plants to grow, and it attracts many different pollinators including hummingbirds. I think it’s so easy to grow it’s fallen out of fashion. Grow it anywhere in your garden where the soil is dry and don’t plant it in clay.
Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’ is a nectar powerhouse, and if you deadhead it mid-summer, it will put a fresh set of flowers just in time for fall.
Autumn sage and others
Salvia greggii, autumn sage or Greg’s sage, is a wonderful hummingbird plant. I’ve grown both the red and pink varieties. They love them all. ‘Pink Preference’ is one of the best pink varieties. Salvia ‘Wendy’s Wish’ is another wonderful late-blooming salvia, but it doesn’t overwinter in my garden. I must replace it each year.
Tall garden phlox
Phlox paniculata is one of the best summer-blooming pollinator plants I grow. ‘Jeana’ is supposed to be a hybrid that has especially high nectar content, but I find that butterflies, hummingbirds, and carpenter bees all like my passalong phlox and ‘Bright Eyes’ best. I do appreciate that ‘Jeana’ blooms for a very long time.
Coral bells, especially those with red flowers.
Coral bells, Heuchera spp. like ‘Firefly’ attract hummingbirds if they are planted in partial shade. Heuchera flower better in partial shade instead of full shade. Hummers especially love red-blooming heucheras.
Although I wrote about planting fall-blooming flowers for pollinators, I’ve never focused on attracting hummingbirds before. Hummingbirds, like butterflies, bees, and hoverflies, are also pollinators. We don’t think about them as such, but they are.
Why not just use feeders to attract hummingbirds?
Well, you can, but I think it is better for hummingbirds to naturally get their nutrition from plant nectar. Also, if you have feeders, you must keep the sugar water–I don’t like to call it nectar because it isn’t–and the feeders as clean as possible. You will also attract other creatures besides hummingbirds to your feeders like ants and honey bees if they find them. It’s just my opinion, but I think it’s always better for a creature to get its food from as natural a source as possible. Even beekeepers will tell you that sugar water is not as good for bees as foraged nectar and pollen. We just use it to keep them going during times of death–no nectar.
This hummingbird post came from a phone call from my sister-in-law and my brother-in-law because they had a problem with honey bees recently robbing their hummingbird feeders, and they wanted to know how to make them stop. Unfortunately, this time of year, honey bees are very hungry. The easiest way is to bring the feeders indoors for a couple of weeks to break the waggle dance communication chain.
If they decide to place their feeders back outside, I suggest they place them in a different spot. The fall honey flow hasn’t really started, but I did notice goldenrod blooming in my garden yesterday so it’s beginning. Honey bees and ants will seek any sweet source they can find. Goldenrod is probably the most important plant you can grow for pollinators of all kinds. It is both full of nectar and a wonderful source of pollen. If you have a wild place in your garden, plant goldenrod. Be aware that many varieties do spread.
I told them about several plants to grow for hummingbirds, and though you would all appreciate it too.
Not a hummingbird expert
I don’t profess to be a hummingbird expert so here are more tips about designing a hummingbird garden from the Audubon Society. You can make hummingbirds happy pretty easily and without messy feeders, and here are the three hummingbird species which you may see in your Oklahoma garden.
Plus, most of the plants in this post are perennial so you can order them now to plant in September. Fun, huh? While you’re waiting for your plants, check out our latest Gardenangelists podcast episode. If you like it, would you please share it with your friends and perhaps, give us a five-star review on Apple podcasts? It is the best way to get the word out there. Thanks!