Hummingbirds are primarily adapted to sip nectar from flowers that are tubular or pendulous. While strongly attracted to red flowers, they will feed from flowers of any color. There are a number of trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants that hummingbirds favor and grow well in our climate. Here are just a few suggestions:
Trees: Texas olive (Cordia boissieri), desert willow (Chilopsis linearis), red buckeye (Aesculus pavia), huisache (Acacia farnesiana), southern catalpa (Catalpa bignonoides), Mexican orchid tree (Bauhinia mexicana).
Shrubs: esperanza (Tecoma stans), cenizo (Leucophyllum frutescens), cape honeysuckle (Tecoma capensis), flame acanthus (Aniscanthus wrightii), firebush (Hamelia patens), golden dewdrop (Duranta repens), scarlet bouvardia (Bouvardia ternifolia), flamingo plant (Justicia carnea) butterfly bush (Buddleja davidii), lantana (Lantana camara), and members of the hibiscus family.
Herbaceous: batface cuphea (Cuphea llavea), cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis), firecracker flower (Russellia equisetiformis), Egyptian starflower (Pentas lanceolata), red yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora), shrimp plant (Justicia brandegeana), flowering tobacco (Nicotiana spp.), Mexican milkweed (Asclepias curassavica), zinnia (Zinnia elegans), and virtually any verbena or salvia.
Vines: coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens), cross vine (Bignonia capreolata), trumpet vine (Campsis radicans), cypress vine (Ipomea quamoclit), sky flower (Thunbergia grandiflora).
In addition to flowers, the sparkle and refreshment of moving water, such as that found in a fountain or garden pool waterfall, is very attractive to hummingbirds. Did you know that they also eat pesky insects like gnats, aphids, midges, mites and mosquitos? They are even known to pluck bugs from spiders webs, eat the spider and use the web to build a nest!
Darrin Duling is the director of Mercer Botanic Gardens in Humble. He holds The Royal Horticultural Society of England Certificate of Training, The Royal Botanic Gardens; Kew Diploma of Horticulture; and a Master of Science Degree in Plant Taxonomy from the University of Reading, England. He has worked in botanic gardens in England, Thailand, Florida and New York.