3 Types Of Heat-Tolerant Geraniums That Will Attract Hummingbirds To Your Yard

Hummingbirds are arguably the most celebrated garden visitors in North America. They offer hours of entertainment for backyard birders as they quickly flit from feeder to flower. However, attracting them takes more effort than hanging any old nectar station from the hardware store in the nearest tree or under a patio overhang. You need to cultivate a garden full of flowers that hummingbirds love and that will bloom late into the summer when our wee-winged friends are in most need of food. Geraniums fit the bill nicely, especially cultivars from the vibrant, red spectrum-hued Maverick, Ivy League, and Fantasia series. Whereas many geranium varieties need some amount of shade to thrive, these hybrids and varieties are highly heat tolerant. They also, and perhaps most importantly, boast lots of attractive (to us and the hummers) red, pink, and orange blooms. Think of them as flashing "come hither" signs in your garden.

When talking about geraniums in North America, most gardeners mean the species Pelargonium — the plant Pelargonium zonale and its offspring Pelargonium x hortorum (commonly called zonal geraniums), in particular. Though they look superficially similar to one another, Pelargonium cultivars, varieties, and hybrids aren't true geraniums (genus Geranium) in the botanical classification sense, though they are close cousins. As you can probably already tell, geranium cultivation is a complicated business! Pelargonium hybrids are not typically as hardy as Geranium species varieties, but certain cultivars do well even right up to the highest USDA hardiness zones — we're talking 10 and 11.

Choose your cultivars

The Maverick F1 series is an OG collection for geranium aficionados. Cultivars bloom from June through September and, due to their drought tolerance, do as well in containers as they do in garden beds. If you're after the ultimate hummingbird attraction potential, Harris Seeds sells packs of 25 Geranium Maverick F1 Red seeds for $9. Or, get 10 seeds of Maver­ick Scarlet Picotee for $5 from Swallowtail Garden Seeds.

Ivy League is also popular with gardeners seeking heat-tolerant plants cultivated for use in hanging baskets and patio containers. They'll also, of course, thrive if planted directly into your garden beds. Blooms range from white to deep burgundy — focus on the brightest colors for a hummingbird garden. Pink Prairie Gardens has Geranium Ivy League Cherry Blossom plants in 4.5-inch pots for $6.50. Other Ivy League cultivars to consider include Red, Hot Coral, and Arctic Red.

The third geranium series to consider is Fantasia, heralded by Texas Master Gardener and Extension Horticulturist David Rodriguez as "the most heat tolerant geranium plants EVER grown in Texas," per an article he authored for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. In particular, he names Strawberry Sizzle and Violet as the top cultivars for blooming strong through the summer heat. Get 1-quart pots of Geranium Fantasia for $8 from Berns Garden Center & Landscaping or, as with most Pelargonium x hortorum collections and cultivars, keep an eye on your favorite local nursery for seeds and plants when the sale season begins in early May.

How to attract the most hummingbirds

It's well-known that red is the color you should add to the garden to help attract hummingbirds. By this logic, geranium flowers in this color will undoubtedly lure hummingbirds into a backyard. However, it's less understood by plant nursery owners and home gardeners alike that these particular flowers hold little nectar. While the geranium blooms may invite hummers to visit, they're poor hosts — at least for a drink. The hummingbirds quickly lose interest. Does this mean you shouldn't plant geraniums? Not at all. Think of them more like highway billboards, and make sure there's more than one hummingbird feeder or plants with more satiating blooms nearby, like begonias or salvias.

Once you have your geranium cultivar of choice in your garden bed or patio planter, you'll need to optimize blooming. Make sure the plant sees at least six hours of sun daily, and consider this when deciding on your planting location. Once the hot season is in full swing, feed your geranium with a fertilizer designed to encourage flowering twice a month — or per the manufacturer's directions. Walmart sells a 1.5-pound box of Miracle-Grow Bloom Booster Flower Food for $8, or get a 24-ounce organic Flower Girl Bud & Bloom Booster concentrate for $15 from Dr. Earth. To keep a flowering geranium vigorously blooming, you also need to deadhead the plant regularly. The best method for deadheading geraniums involves picking or snipping wilting or brown flowers off at the stem.