Create a Hummingbird Friendly Garden

Though I grew up in Fairfield County, CT, I had no idea about the abundance of Ruby-throated hummingbirds that venture up this way for the summer. This changed when my younger brother, Charlie Plimpton, completely opened my eyes to an incredible world that exists right in our backyard. Charlie, who is completing his bachelor’s degree in wildlife and conservation biology at the University of Rhode Island this winter, has loved hummingbirds since he was a boy. Initially, he began hanging sugar-water feeders around the yard for these magnificent little creatures. A few years ago, he began cultivating a passion for gardening, which led him to create an ever-expanding oasis of hummingbird friendly flowering plants.

I never cease to be inspired by Charlie and was so happy when he offered to share some of his hummingbird garden wisdom in this blog.  Almost all of the annuals featured here are easy to find, plant, and maintain. They grow well in pots, hanging baskets, window boxes, or in the ground.  If you’re looking for an engaging and rewarding summer project to undertake with your kid(s), this may be it!  We’ve also included notes on some easy-to-grow perennials, as well as a few eccentric varietals for slightly more experienced or ambitious gardeners (I’m slowly working into this category!).

Before we continue, I also wanted to express that this blog is also about something Charlie always reminds me of – the invaluable and meditative act of slowing down in order to be more in tune with nature. It’s incredible how much more perceptive and observant you can become in a matter of minutes.  I can’t believe, for example, that all these elegant little hummingbirds were right under my nose for years.

Now, here are some tips and tools for creating your own hummingbird friendly garden:

As Charlie taught me, there are a few things that make certain plants appealing to hummingbirds.  First and foremost, they gravitate towards ones whose flowers have a high amount of sugar in their nectar, as these are richer in nutritional value.  Of the plants listed below, black & blue salvia has the highest sugar content.  Hummingbirds are also attracted to tubular shaped flowers, such as cigar flower or honeysuckle.

Below is a list of plants that are a hit with hummingbirds.  Just about all of them are easy to find at your local nursery.  We’ve also included captioned photos of each plant.

 Hummingbird Friendly Annuals

  • Cardinal Vine
  • Cigar Flower
  • Red Salvia
  • Black & Blue Saliva
  • Red & White Saliva, aka “Hot Lips”*
  • Other Salvia varietals
  • Manettia
  • Agastache varietals, such as Hummingbird Mint Tango
  • Fuchsia

* Plant slightly less common

 Hummingbird Friendly Perennials 

  • Cardinal Flower
  • Honeysuckle (Pink Lemonade* & Coral)
  • Red Hot Poker
  • Bee Balm
  • Butterfly Bush

As for how to make your garden thrive – make sure to read each plant’s care label in detail.  This will help you determine where to position the plants and how often to water them.  If you choose to grow cardinal vine or honeysuckle, you’ll need a supportive structure for it to wrap around, such as a trellis or fence.  As the plant gets larger, gently train the vine around the structure.

If you have any questions about these hummingbird friendly plants, you can find Charlie at the Arogya stand every Thursday at the Westport Farmers’ Market from 10:00am until 2:00pm.  He also provides private gardening services in and around Westport and can be reached via email.

Stay tuned for another blog on hummingbird feeders!



by Sophie Slater & Charlie Plimpton

Photos by Charlie Plimpton & Sophie Slater  (Charlie took the active hummingbird shots)