I've posted several times about the significance of of feeders in attracting adult hummingbirds and eventually the juvenile hummingbirds, but the value of flowers cannot be denied. They serve multiple purposes. Clusters of flowers are viewed by hummingbirds as restaurants are viewed by us. Large masses of flowers can be far more visible than a hummingbird feeder and can draw hummingbirds in from great distances, so it's important to not only plant flowers, but to plant them in large clusters. Although colors make a big difference in attracting hummingbirds, there aren't a lot of red perennials in my region that survive the winters, so I make it up in annuals. In addition to the flowers, I like to use brighter colored pots to plant them. A 3 foot red pot can be visible from a very long distance and prove to be a better attraction than a small hummingbird feeder. Color means everything!
Young hummingbirds from the nest are naturally drawn to flowers. It's not quite as easy to get them to feeders because they don't look quite as natural. They will oftentimes fly up to it to admire the colors, but they have little understanding of them. Trust me, once they learn their value they'll return. But until they learn the importance of feeders, it is extremely important to have large amounts of flowers to provide enough food up until the time they solve the feeder.
Even more importantly than having flowers, are having the right ones. Although my planting zone proves to be a challenge with my bitterly cold winters, I've still managed to figure out a good selection of perennials that repeatedly do well in my climate. Then I provide a good selection of annuals to fill in the gaps. The difficulty in listing good annuals and perennials is that many of these same flowers would not do well in every climate. Many of you in the far south grow flowers that I only wish would survive in my region. I will list some flowers as a suggestion, but it'll take a bit of work on your part to figure out which flowers successfully attract hummingbirds in your own climate. Although colors closest to red in the spectrum are extremely popular, it doesn't mean they will provide a lot of nectar. When it comes right down to it, it's the food within the flower that matters the most. I also have a page on this website listing annuals and perennials and how they rate for hummingbirds. If you would like to suggest a flower of importance, then please do. If you would like it included on my website, please attach a clear picture of the flower, its name, and how good you would rate it for hummingbirds out of 5(5 being best). I would post it on the website, available for everyone to view.
Here is my short list of flowers that I find invaluable:
Fuchsia(mild perennial in the south), Nasturtium, Zinnia, Million Bells(Calibrachoa) and Scarlet Runner
Honeysuckle, Delphinium, Salvias, Maltese Cross, Columbine, Hostas, and Ligularia
Flowers matter! I can't tell you how many times I've had young hummingbirds around my yard for several days until they finally figured out a feeder. If I didn't have a significant amount of alternative food sources in flowers, many of those young birds would have moved on. When you figure out a flower that tops your list on the hummerscale, go heavy on them. It's better to have half a dozen great clusters of flowers around your yard than to have hundreds with little value. When it comes right down to it, we plant primarily for the hummingbirds. Give them enough choices to stick around, and I promise you they will.
Author of Jewel of the North. Please post your comments and questions.