Certain plants will make your garden irresistible to Hummingbirds. There are some good sites for reliable information about hummingbirds. We recommend Hummingbird Society (Hummingbirds 101) and Par A Sol (who offers a wide range of feeders that are made from blown glass and other recycled material). But when it comes to choosing Florida Friendly Plants, the Transplanted Gardener is best served by a LOCAL grower who knows what grows best here. So I am going to share what I have learned over the last 5 years about which Florida Friendly Plants will serve best attracting Hummingbirds into my garden.
The first on my list of must-haves is powder puff. You can choose the dwarf or the full size, but make sure you have at least one Calliandra species in your Hummingbird garden. I prefer the full-sized Calliandra heamatocephala, or Red Powderpuff. This substantial bush becomes a 10x10ft ball in the corner of your yard, that in addition to providing beautiful color, a visual focal point and a good bit of privacy for you, offers flowers that are globes of nectar-filled straws for the hummingbirds! Plus the sparsely plumed inner branches offer protected roosting space for birds to rest their busy wings. Its size makes it visible to birds who might have passed your garden by, but for this lovely “Welcome” sign.
Some alternative plants that serve similar purpose are Tecoma capensis (Cape Honey Suckle)
Full-sized Firebush (Hamelia patens), Dwarf varieties of Firebush and Powder Puff can serve as understory plantings, scattered about below a stand of pines, palms or oaks you may already have.
Firespike (Odontonema stricta) is another highly recommended understory plant. It thrives in dappled light, has a columnar (or upright) habit and sports a bloom in the red color so typically associated with Hummingbird attracting plants. And while I will explain “Why Red?” later, right now I want to emphasize that there are many colors of blooms that appeal to hummingbirds.
Early on in my quest for a Hummingbird-friendly plants, my friend Heather turned me on to the humming-attractive properties of several species of perennial salvias in shades of blue, rose, violet and yellow*. Far from red, these plants all tremendous draw for the birds. But remember, salvias will require Full Sun to bloom, and bloom is essential to nectar. This requires a tad of consideration in Florida because we have the audacity to grow things in the shortest days of the year! So pay attention to lengthening shadows on the North side of things, and make sure “Full Sun” today will still be “Full Sun” at Christmas Tide. Remember “Full Sun” means 6 hours of direct sunlight per day.
If shade is what you have to work with, don’t lament the loss of salvia spp. from your options. You have the perfect spot for Red Shrimp plant (Justicia brandegeana). I believe this plant holds some powerful of all hummingbird juju–they find it irresistible. You will, too, since its care amounts to “mindful neglect”. Layered in front of the salvias can be a splash of color in the form of petunias, whose velvety beds of bloom have the added benefit of being cold hardy.
I have discovered that pendulous flowers (those that hang down) are well suited to the upturned head of a foraging hummer. My favorite for a shady spot is Abutilon pictum (Parlor Maple).
For sun, Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus) is undeniable the best choice.
And speaking of “caps” another highly attractive plant is the Mandaran Hat (Holmskioldia sanguinea) which is well suited to training up an arbor.
Other vines with Trumpet shaped flowers will be a draw, but few are as unusual as the Monkey’s Brush Vine Combretum aubletii) whose flowers are similar to those of the Calliandra spp.
So with so much flora to sustain these petite winter guests, why bother with a feeder? Well, a strategically located feeder-properly maintained- will provide you with a golden opportunity to observe the fast-moving birds as they will remain at a feeder mouth long enough for you to shout to your companion: “Hey, come and look quick! It’s a hummingbird!” The key to a feeder’s efficacy is whether it is kept clean, full and ready when the hummingbirds pass through on their daily foraging trips. Personally, I like to choose a feeder that looks pretty as the light moves through it, that way I enjoy it whether I get around to filling it or not.
By offering plants and supplementing with nectar you are creating a reliable food supply for them, but to be a sustainable environment one that will encourage the hummingbirds to spend their entire winter holiday, you must consider a couple of other elements in your garden design. Shelter is key as protection from the tiny creature’s many predators (wild & domesticated cats, owls, hawk and snakes) is essential. Lastly, make sure you provide hummingbirds with a water source (nectar is sticky business!) I have found a fine misting device that is easily assembled and hung in the crook of a tree makes for joyful relief for those that dine with me.
Hummer’s are scouting our yards for potential winter feeding grounds right now. Will your garden make the Hummingbirds’ list of 4-Diamond resorts? Stop by for help designing your hummingbird garden today!
*Salvia. longispicata x farinacea ‘Mystic Spires Blue’, S. vanhoutii, S. greggii, S. luecantha, S. madrensis.