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.
Charlie Plimpton with bee balm, which has yet to bloom. It's flowers are very attractive to hummingbirds.
This ruby throated hummingbird enjoys drinking the nectar from this Pink Lemonade honeysuckle.
Hanging basket with fuchsia, which is another hummingbird friendly annual.
These Red Hot Poker stalks will flower in about a week's time. This perennial is native of South Africa.
Coral honeysuckle, which is a relatively common and non-fragrant variation of honeysuckle.
Quite fittingly, this red flowering annual is called cardinal flower and is a hummingbird favorite. Native to the Northeast, cardinal flower typically grows in marshy areas. Therefore, make sure it gets plenty of water in your garden.
Charlie lives on a branch of the Saugatuck River. For the past few summers, he's transformed the river into a beautiful oasis for people and hummingbirds alike. Here he is next to Canna lily, which is a tropical annual, and a mix of other hummingbird friendly plants.
Charlie's river garden is alive with ferns, canna lily, fuchsia, and lantana.
Red salvia and "black and blue" salvia. Both are relatively common annuals that you should be able to find at your local nursery. Blue salvia is one of hummingbird's favorite flowers to feed from as it has a particularly high sugar content in the nectar.
Hummingbirds love the showy fuchsia flowers, which are excellent to grow in hanging baskets. To the right is more "black and blue" salvia
This beautiful plant is cardinal vine, a fast growing annual that's very easy to grow on trellis or fence. You can find it at you local nursery or, if you're feeling more ambition, grow it from seed.
This Pink Lemonade Honeysuckle is beautiful and fragrant. Plus, it's a hit among the hummingbirds when in bloom from late spring to mid-summer. It's a little trickier to find than the other plants featured in this blog, but definitely not impossible with a little calling around! It needs support like a trellis or fence to grown on.
As you can see, this Red-throated hummingbird is happy to dine on the Pink Lemonade Honeysuckle.
A close up of the more common Coral honeysuckle, which Charlie purchased and Town & Country nursery in Wilton.
Charlie showing a pot of lantana, which is a lovely red, hummingbird friendly annual. He also has cardinal vine growing on an old wine rack.
This is cigar flower, a native annual of Mexico that blooms all summer long. Hummingbirds adore this plant!
Just about all the the hummingbird friendly annuals are lovely to mix with other plants. Here is cigar flower planted with coleus, petunias, and more.
Hummingbird Mint Tango, or agastache aurantiaca. This is a slightly less common annual that Charlie grew from seeds he purchased online.
Another hummingbird dining on the honeysuckle.
This is an exotic variety of salvia that Charlie found at a nursery in Long Island. It's often called "Hot Lips"
This is manettia, nicknamed candy corn. It's a slightly less common annual vine that Charlie found it at Wilton's Town and Country Nursery. Hummingbirds enjoy the plant's interesting looking one-inch blooms.
Butterfly bush that's not quite in bloom. In a couple of weeks it will produce fragrant dark purple flowers that hummingbird, butterflies and bees love.
Agastache is a unique annual with tall blooming flower stalks. Charlie found it at Oliver's Nursery in Fairfield.
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
- Agastache varietals, such as Hummingbird Mint Tango
* 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)