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15 Nectar Plants That Attract Hummingbirds & Butterflies

When planning a garden, the most important plants you should consider including are nectar plants! Not only will they attract pollinators like hummingbirds and butterflies, but they’ll help the rest of your garden thrive.

When there are more pollinators in your garden, they also find flowering plants like cucumbers, tomatoes, beans and more that need pollination to bear fruit.

So the more pollinators, the better!

Before we explore over 15 nectar plants that attract hummingbirds, butterflies and other pollinators, lets learn a little more about nectar plants themselves.

What Is a Nectar Plant?

Butterflies, pollinating birds (like hummingbirds), moths, and other pollinating insects visit certain flowering plants to sip up the delicious energy-rich nectar they produce.

Nectar is a great source of energy. It contains water, antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, protein, and about 15-25% sugar.

While all flowering plants produce nectar, certain varieties are particularly great at providing a higher concentration of nectar. This is better for larger pollinators like hummingbirds.

Different pollinators also have different preferred sources of where they get their nectar. Monarch butterflies, for instance, prefer milkweed and zinnia.

For the purposes of this article, I’m going to outline plants that hummingbirds particularly love, and which other pollinators will likely come by for a visit.

Plants That Attract Hummingbirds

Who isn’t attracted to the beauty of hummingbirds? Whether it’s their bright colors or the fact that they beat their wings 10-15 times per second, these birds are a long-time favorite of many.

Hummingbirds prefer blooms that are rich and bright in color (especially the color red). They also prefer flowers that have long tapered shapes that fit the length of their bills.

Hummingbirds will be most familiar with native plants, so it’s important to put a focus on native wild flowers, instead of those that are cultivated.

Flowers with a long blooming period or repeat blooming will also provide the birds (and other pollinators) with a consistent food supply for weeks to come.

It is also best to plant a variety of nectar plants opposed to just one type. Variety is key. Just like you don’t eat the same meal each day, it’s best for hummingbirds to get a variety of nutrients from different nectar sources.

In addition to the above tips, you can also keep in mind other landscaping aspects of your yard to suit the needs of hummingbirds:

  • Provide enough space between your nectar plants so that hummingbirds can navigate easily around your garden or yard.
  • Consider adding in other trees, shrubs, and vinery that grow at various heights to provide a safe habitat for the birds.
  • Hummingbirds love running water, so if you have a running water birdbath, that’s a bonus!

Keep in mind that you can also attract hummingbirds and pollinators to your deck or porch if you don’t have a very large yard or if you live in an apartment. Try adding a few of these nectar-rich flowers into a large hanging pot, vertical planter or window box.

Also, if you choose to use a hummingbird feeder, be sure to keep in mind that they must be washed regularly to prevent mold growth. Hummingbirds are extremely sensitive to mold, and the red dye that is often added to sugar water mixtures is highly toxic to the birds.

15 Nectar Plants That Attract Hummingbirds & Other Pollinators

There are a variety of nectar plants that attract hummingbirds, butterflies, and other pollinators to your garden.

For each of the plants, I’ll outline why they’re beneficial for pollinators, and some growing tips for each. When I mention companion plants, I am talking about plants that support the growth of one another in some mutually beneficial way.

If you want to witness the beauty of these birds or simply want to provide an energy source for pollinators, consider planting some of these flowers that produce high amounts of nectar:

1. Bee Balm (Monarda didyma)

bee balm nectar plant

Bee balm is a nectar plant native to North America that attracts pollinators of all sorts including best, butterflies, and hummingbirds.

The flower has an open daisy-like shape with tubular petals that can accommodate a hummingbirds long beak. 

You won’t have to keep planting this flower year-round either. It is a perennial, meaning all you need to do is plant it once, and it will keep coming up year after year. 

The plant should be divided every three to four years, and the flowers should be frequently picked to encourage flower production. 

Bee Balm Growing Tips:

  • Type: Perennial in zones 4 to 9
  • Soil Needs: Rich, moist soil
  • Light: Full sun to partial shade
  • Spacing: 18 to 24 inches apart
  • Plant Size: 3 to 4 feet tall; 18 to 36 inches wide
  • Companions: Phlox, eupatorium, rudbeckia, echinacea

2. Calibrachoa (Calibrachoa parviflora)

Calibrachoa (also called Million Bells) grows and flowers at an incredibly fast rate. They make a great flower for hanging baskets or containers where the flowers can cascade and hang over the edge. 

This flower is a sun-loving annual and come in a wide variety of colors – think oranges, pinks, yellows, purples, red and whites!

Calibrachoa’s are usually in constant bloom, so they do great with a little organic fertilizer here and there. If the plants look like they’re starting to lag or die off, clip them back to encourage new growth.

Calibrachoa Growing Tips:

  • Type: Annual in zones 9 to 11
  • Soil Needs: Rich, moist soil
  • Light: Full sun to partial shade
  • Spacing: 6 to 12 inches apart
  • Plant Size: 8 to 10 inches tall; 12 to 14 inches wide
  • Companions: Angelonia, coralbells, loosestrife

3. Cleome (Cleome Hassleriana)

cleome hassleriana

Cleome (or Spider Flower) is a large, fast-growing annual herb that is particularly attractive to swallowtail butterflies, hummingbirds, and other pollinators. 

This plant flowers for months on end, so it will provide a nectar source for long throughout the growing season. You can deadhead any flowers that look like they’re dying to ensure continuous, full-season bloom time. 

The plants tend to reseed themselves from one year to the next, that is, if the birds don’t get to the seeds first.

Some varieties of cleome have thorns, so beware and handle with care (also, avoid planting in high-traffic areas).  

Cleome Growing Tips:

  • Type: Annual in zones 10 to 11
  • Soil Needs: Dry to medium moisture and well-drained
  • Light: Full sun
  • Spacing: 18 to 24 inches apart
  • Plant Size: 3 to 6 inches tall; 1 to 2 inches wide
  • Companions: Tomatoes, dahlias, cosmos, echinacea

4. Columbines (Aquilegia spp.)

columbines

The columbine plant is a perennial that is easy to grow for any beginner gardener. It comes in a variety of colors with bell-shaped flowers that attract hummingbirds and other pollinators. 

These plants are started easily from seed and will multiply on their own once established. 

Be sure to deadhead them regularly to encourage consistent blooming throughout the growing season. If you’re growing a species that grows tall, be sure to add staking.

Columbine Growing Tips:

  • Type: Perennial in zones 3 to 8
  • Soil Needs: Average, well-drained soil
  • Light: Full sun to partial shade
  • Spacing: 12 inches apart
  • Plant Size: 14 to 20 inches tall; 12 to 20 inches wide
  • Companions: Phlox, rhubarb, ferns, hostas

5. Day Lilies (Hemerocallis)

day lilies

This hardy, drought-tolerant perennial is a beautiful addition to any garden, and comes in a variety of colors like orange, yellow, purple, red and even a combination of all three in one flower. 

This plant requires minimal fuss and can essentially be planted and forgotten and it would still grow.  

Daylilies have a relatively short blooming period, and each flower lasts no more than 24 hours, upon which it is often replaced by another one on the same flower stalk the next day. For this reason, it is wise to plant other flowers with longer blooming periods alongside them.

Day Lily Growing Tips:

  • Type: Perennial in zones 3 to 9
  • Soil Needs: Moist, well-drained soil
  • Light: Full sun to partial shade
  • Spacing: 24 to 36 inches apart
  • Plant Size: 24 to 36 inches tall; 24 to 36 inches wide
  • Companions: Tomatoes, squash, gladiolas, eggplant

6. Flowering Tobacco (Nicotiana)

flowering tobacco

As an easy way to liven up your garden, consider planting some flowering tobacco. The towering stalks are covered with star-shaped flowers in shades of lavender, white, pink, red, maroon, yellow, and green. 

Some varieties of flowering tobacco like Nicotiana sylvestris have an incredible floral scent in the evening and attract giant moths when they bloom at night. 

The flower is also highly preferred by pollinators during the day like hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies. 

Nicotiana Growing Tips:

  • Type: Perennial in zones 2 to 10
  • Soil Needs: Moist, well-drained soil
  • Light: Full sun to partial shade
  • Spacing: 12 to 24 inches apart
  • Plant Size: 3 to 5 feet tall; 1 to 2 feet wide
  • Companions: Lettuce, cabbage, cauliflower, kohlrabi, broccoli, collards, portulaca, lobelia

7. Fuchsia (Fuchsia magellanica)

Fuchsia

Fuchsia is a stunning, exotic flower that is extremely delicate and comes in a variety of two-tone colors. They’re often found planted in hanging baskets, but can also be a colorful display in beds and borders.

These flowers grow great when sheltered from cold Northern winds. To adequately flower, they need fertile, moist, and well-drained soil.

To keep plants flowering continuously, deadhead them regularly to remove old and faded flowers and the developing seedpod/fruit behind them.

Fuchsia Growing Tips:

  • Type: Tender perennial in zones 6 to 11
  • Soil Needs: Moist, well-drained soil
  • Light: Full sun to partial shade
  • Spacing: 24 inches apart
  • Plant Size: 12 to 24 inches tall; 12 to 24 inches wide
  • Companions: Hostas, nasturtiums, lupines, cosmos

8. Hollyhocks (Alcea rosea)

hollyhocks

Hollyhocks belong to the mallow family, which includes over 1500 different species. Many varieties are biennials, meaning they complete their lifecycle over 2 years. The first year they store their energy by growing foliage. In the second year, their stalks grow tall, flower bloom and seeds form. 

Hollyhocks come in a variety of colors like blue, pink, purple, red, white yellow, and even black. The flowers resemble that of a small hibiscus (which isn’t surprising, given they’re apart of the same family of plants).

Beware as the stems and leaves can cause skin irritation when the glass-like fibers are touched or brushed against. 

Hollyhock Growing Tips:

  • Type: Perennial in zones 3 to 8
  • Soil Needs: Moist, well-drained soil
  • Light: Full sun to partial shade
  • Spacing: 24 inches apart
  • Plant Size: 3 to 8 feet tall; 1 to 3 feet wide
  • Companions: Yarrow, bellflowers, daisies, marigolds, sunflowers

9. Impatiens (Impatiens walleriana)

impatiens

Impatiens or touch-me-nots are a tender herbaceous perennial that can be grown as an annual in most areas of North America. 

Impatiens need to be watered regularly and are not drought-tolerant. Without regular waterings, the plants will wilt. A good way to avoid this is by applying a layer of mulch to the top of the soil where the flowers are grown. 

After pollination, impatiens create little fruits that will explode from internal pressure and disperse in the area. The seeds are dust-like, so they will often float away from the immediate area so there is no competition with the mother plant. 

Impatien Growing Tips:

  • Type: Annual in zones 9 to 11
  • Soil Needs: Rich, well-drained soil
  • Light: Full shade
  • Spacing: 8 to 12 inches apart
  • Plant Size: 1 to 3 feet high; 1 to 3 feet wide
  • Companions: Ginger, coleus, caladium, ferns

10. Lantana (Lantana camara)

lantana camara nectar plant

With tightly packed tiny flowers, there is plenty of nectar in lantanas to attract both hummingbirds and butterflies. 

Lantanas are vine-like in appearance because of their branches, so they are often grown in hanging pots so their arms can spill over the sides. 

The tiny packed flowers come in mixed colors of yellows, oranges, whites, reds, and purples. This bi-colored effect make them popular amongst gardeners. 

Later in the fall and growing season, lantanas produce little black berries that are eaten by songbirds. 

Lantana Growing Tips:

  • Type: Perennial in zones 8 and higher
  • Soil Needs: Moist, well-drained soil, but will tolerate poor soil
  • Light: Full sun to partial shade
  • Spacing: 2 to 4 feet apart
  • Plant Size: 6 feet high; 8 feet wide
  • Companions: Salvia, angelonia, pentas

11. Lupines (Lupinus x hybridus)

lupines nectar plant

Wild lupines are difficult to grow and often do not perform well in gardens (unless permaculture is taken into consideration). That doesn’t mean you can’t grow them, though! Many hybrids have been developed that make beautiful, short-lived perennials. 

Lupines are early-blooming and are an ideal plant for attracting hummingbirds and other pollinators before other flowers have had a chance to emerge. 

Most lupines are 3 to 4 feet tall, but some dwarf varieties exist that are 2 feet tall.

They come in a variety of colors from white to pink, yellow, purple, blue and even red. 

Lupine Growing Tips:

  • Type: Perennial in zones 3 through 8
  • Soil Needs: Moist, well-drained soil (prefers slightly acidic soil)
  • Light: Full sun to partial shade
  • Spacing: 12 inches apart
  • Plant Size: 1 to 5 feet tall; 1 to 2 feet wide
  • Companions: Roses, irises, Shasta daisies, columbines, oriental poppies

12. Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia)

mexican sunflower nectar plant

The Mexican sunflower is a bushy annual and perennial native to Mexico and Central America. They have large, brightly colored daisy-like flowers on thick stems. 

These flowers have a large landing pad, so they are preferred by butterflies, bees and hummingbirds. 

If you deadhead any of the older, lifeless flowers, you’ll prolong blooming and have flowers for much of the growing season. But by doing this, you’ll get rid of the seeds that are produced by the flowers and loved by songbirds later in the year.

These black seeds are easy to collect and save for growing in subsequent years. 

Mexican Sunflower Growing Tips:

  • Type: Annual in zones 9 to 11
  • Soil Needs: Moist, well-drained soil
  • Light: Full sun to partial shade
  • Spacing: 6 inches apart
  • Plant Size: 3 to 8 feet tall; 2 to 3 feet wide
  • Companions: Cosmos, zinnias, goldenrod, dahlias, sunflowers

13. Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum)

nasturtiums

Nasturtiums are a beautiful flower that make excellent companions for many plants in the vegetable garden. The flower’s nectar attracts a wide variety of pollinators, hummingbirds as one of them. 

These flowers are easy to grow as long as they get watered on the regular. Some grow short to the ground while others grow tall and along fences. 

Plant nasturtiums in containers or as ground cover. Their beautiful fragrance can be enjoyed in the garden, or in your home as cut flowers. You can also consume the flowers in salads – but if you’re wanting to attract pollinators, leave the flowers on the plants. 

Nasturtium Growing Tips:

  • Type: Annual in zones 9 to 11
  • Soil Needs: Poor to average, well-drained soil
  • Light: Full sun to partial shade
  • Spacing: 12 to 24 inches apart
  • Plant Size: 6 to 12 inches high; 12 to 18 inches wide
  • Companions: Brassicas, cucumbers, melons, radishes, tomatoes

14. Wild Foxglove (Digitalis)

wild foxglove

Wild foxgloves are an excellent nectar plant to attract hummingbirds. They’re easy to spot and have large, purple-pink spikes of trumpet flowers that fit the long beak of hummingbirds. 

This plant works great in shadier parts of the garden, but it will still grow well in the sun. It comes in a variety of colors with some beautifully spotted and speckled in contrasting colors. 

The seeds should be sown in early August for the next year. Alternatively, you can plant foxglove seeds in march, so they come up in spring. 

Just beware that foxgloves contain the chemical digitalin, which is used in medicine to treat heart conditions. All parts of the plant are toxic if consumed. 

Wild foxglove Growing Tips:

  • Type: Biennial in zones 4 to 10
  • Soil Needs: Well-draining, loamy soil
  • Light: Full sun, partial sun, or partial shade
  • Spacing: 1 to 2 feet apart
  • Plant Size: 2 to 5 feet tall; 1 to 2 feet wide
  • Companions: Salvia, hollyhock, ferns, snapdragons, zinnias

15. Zinnia (Zinnia elegans)

zinnia

Nectar-filled zinnias come in a wide range of colors and heights and make a wonderful addition to any backyard. 

These flowers are simple to start from seed, but should be sown outdoors as they do not like to be transplanted. They bloom quickly, and attract pollinators of all types. As plants mature, seeds develop that attract several varieties of sparrows, finches and juncos. 

There are hundreds of cultivars available, with heights ranging from 6 inches to 5 feet. They make great cut flowers if you want to pick a few to brighten up your home. 

Zinnia Growing Tips:

  • Type: Annual in zones 2 to 11
  • Soil Needs: Humusy, moist, well-drained soil
  • Light: Full sun
  • Spacing: 4 to 24 inches apart
  • Plant Size: 2 to 8 feet tall; 12 to 18 inches wide
  • Companions: Cucumbers, tomatoes, marigolds, dahlias, petunias

The Bottom Line

Adding nectar plants that attract hummingbirds and other pollinators to your garden will liven up your backyard space and yield a more bountiful harvest at years-end.

Choosing nectar plants that attract hummingbirds will also lure other pollinators like hummingbirds and bees. In the end, they’re all after the same nectar sources. You may notice, however, that butterflies prefer flat, wide flowers, while hummingbirds are drawn to tube-shaped ones.

Flowers like lupines, zinnia, wild foxglove and bee balm are among a few favorites of hummingbirds and pollinators alike.

If you’re tight on space, consider some hanging planters – these pollinators aren’t picky, and some even prefer foliage that is higher up!

hummingbird sitting on a stick with moss with text - 15 plants that attract hummingbirds and other pollinators

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