If Hummingbirds Aren't Attracted To Your Flowers, This Could Be Why

Once you've planted a garden full of beautiful flowers, it feels like it should be inevitable that hummingbirds flock to your yard. Unfortunately, it's not always as simple as that. If hummingbirds are ignoring your gorgeous gardens, it could be that you've planted the wrong types of flowers to attract them. In addition to having preferences for specific flower colors and shapes, hummingbirds are generally most attracted to native flowering plants.

Hummingbirds originate from the Americas, and while there are over 300 different species of these tiny birds, they all belong to the family Trochilidae. Despite their small size, hummingbirds are voracious eaters, consuming their weight in nectar and insects daily. All states except Hawaii are home to hummingbirds for at least part of the year, though most hummers migrate south to Mexico or South America for winter, returning north in spring for their breeding season. In addition to being fascinating to watch, hummingbirds are also quite beneficial to have in your yard, as they eat insects like mosquitoes, gnats, and aphids.

Why hummingbirds are attracted to native flowers

If hummingbirds are steering clear of your yard despite your best efforts, it could be that you've simply planted the wrong flowers. Given that hummingbirds are native to the Americas, it shouldn't be surprising that the hummingbirds from the region prefer flowers that are indigenous to the region. The University of Wisconsin Madison notes that hummingbirds and their favorite nectar-rich plants evolved together over millions of years, with the plants feeding the birds and the birds helping to pollinate the plants. This coevolution can play a big role in which flowers hummingbirds love

As beautiful and fragrant as flowers like dianthus (Dianthus spp.), sweet peas (Lathyrus odoratus), and lilacs (Syringa vulgaris) are, they all hail for Europe and hold little appeal for hummingbirds. By including native plants like trumpet honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) in the Eastern U.S., redflower false yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora) in Texas, and cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) and wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) throughout the U.S., you can create a garden that appeals to hummingbirds no matter where you live in the contiguous United States.

Hummingbirds prefer certain flower colors and shapes

Hummingbirds aren't just concerned with finding familiar flowers. They also have strong preferences in flower shape and to a lesser extent, color. Hummingbirds tend to gravitate to flowers with a tubular or trumpet shape, as that's the perfect shape for their long beaks. It's no coincidence that hummingbirds adore the tube-shaped flowers of jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) but have little interest in the conically shaped echinacea, even though both plants are native to the continental United States.

While hummingbirds don't choose flowers based on smell, they do have color preferences, generally gravitating towards red and orange flowers. When looking for flowers to attract hummingbirds, be sure to consider when the flowers bloom as well, and try to provide a range of flowers that bloom at different times. The Smithsonian's National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute suggests using a combination of red buckeye (Aesculus pavia), trumpet vine (Campsis radicans), and jewelweed in your garden to provide your fast-moving feathered friends with nectar all season long.