Backyard Birding

Unusual Plants for Hummingbirds


One of the joys of the summer garden is those winged, iridescent jewels we all call hummingbirds. They bring vibrant life and delight as their tiny forms zip through the garden making frequent stops at their favorite flowers.

If you want to attract more hummers, then selecting almost any plant that has red or purple tubular-shaped flowers is a great way to start. Some of their favorite plants include almost any flowering sage, scarlet runner bean, trumpet honeysuckle, weigela, and hummingbird mint.

Unusual Plants for Hummingbirds

There are quite a few more plants on the list and the following is a shortlist of those plants that aren’t often thought of as hummingbird plants but which are worth considering as they are also excellent garden plants.

Parrot lily (Alstroemeria psittacina) – Perennial
Parrot lily for Hummingbirds

Parrot lily / Manfred Richter-Pixabay

Tall stems bear small megaphone shaped red flowers over soft foliage of rich emerald green edged with pure white. Worth growing for just the foliage as the flowers are just sort of “meh”, but the hummers enjoy them. On the plus side, this one is easy to grow and undemanding. It looks great in spring and fall. On the downside, it pouts in summer and tends to go dormant. I also like it for its non-pushy way of wending itself around other plants. Morning sun and afternoon shade are ideal.

Hosta (Hosta hybrids) – Perennial
Hummingbird plant Hosta

Hosta / Heidelbergerin-Pixabay

Everyone loves hostas. It’s impossible to ignore or dislike such splendid foliage. Many hostas also have a pretty good floral interest. Tubular white or lavender blooms, sometimes fragrant, are held aloft over the leaves in mid to late summer, and it’s common to see the hummingbirds visiting them.

Gaura (G. lindheimeri) – Perennial
Hummingbird plant Gaura

Gaura / Tina Mast

Airy clumps of foliage with wand-like stems are topped with orchid-like white or pink flowers that resemble butterflies. The effect is rather dainty for such a sturdy plant. Being deer resistant and long-blooming makes gaura a heavy hitter in the plant department. Give it good drainage by planting high or amending soil and don’t baby it with compost or fertilizer. Cut off old flower heads to promote more bloom. Full sun.

Cypress vine (Ipomea quamoclit) – Annual

This darling little vine should be grown much more. The foliage is airy and finely divided into thread-like leaves. While it can grow to 20 feet, it’s a vine that won’t take over the world. In fact, I once saw one trained around a doorway and blooming away to wonderful effect. Red, tubular flowers flare out into 5-pointed stars and the hummers absolutely love them. These are easy to grow from seed. Full sun to part sun.

Cigar Plant (Cuphea ignea) – Annual
Hummingbird plant Cuphea

Cuphea / Proven Winners

Bright orange flower tubes tipped in white explain the name. Blooming all summer, cigar plants provide a regular source of nectar for your hummingbirds, and they are easy to grow. Besides, who doesn’t want to grow a plant called cigar plant? Full sun.

Glossy Abelia (Abelia grandiflora) – Shrub
Hummingbird plant Abelia

Abelia Sunny Anniversary / Proven Winners

The dense, semi-evergreen glossy foliage is studded all summer and into early fall with fragrant white tubular flowers, sometimes tinged with pink. Grows to about 8 feet tall or more and 5 or more feet wide, it makes for a good shrub for a mixed border or low screen.

Other Plants Hummingbirds Like

Here are more common plants for hummingbirds.

Bee Balm (Monarda spp.)

Red Hot Poker (Kniphofia uvaria)

Butterflybush (Buddleia davidii)

Pentas (P. landeolata)

Red Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)

Indian Pink (Spigelia marilandica)

Trumpet vine (Campsis radicans)

Featured image: Gaura Ballerina Blush / Tina Mast

Tina Mast is Communications Director for Homewood Nursery in Raleigh, NC, and likes hellebores so much she even has a hellebore tattoo. You can reach her at or 919-847-0117.

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