Gardening for Hummingbirds

Notes on growing hummingbird plants by Lori Hubbart, CNPS Dorothy King Young Chapter president, based on list originally compiled by Ellie Gioumousis, CNPS Santa Clara Valley.


  • Black sage (Salvia mellifera) Big, handsome shrub with modest, lavender flowers and lime green, aromatic leaves. Needs sun, good drainage, as do all the native shrubby sages.
  • Chaparral currant (Ribes malvaceum) Hanging clusters of bright pink flowers bloom in winter or early spring, when nectar is scarce. Needs sunny, dry chaparral conditions.
  • Cleveland sage (Salvia clevelandii and its hybrids) Shrubs ranging from three to five feet in height. The true species has deep purple flowers in whorls; the hybrids have lavender-blue flowers. Wide shrubs with aromatic leaves, need full sun. The leaves are edible, with good deer resistance.
  • Fuchsia-flowered gooseberry (Ribes speciosum) Long, tubular, bright red flowers hang along the stems. Excellent winter nectar source. It has fierce thorns.
  • Island snapdragon (Galvezia speciosa) Flowers are miniature, rose-red snapdragons. This shrub is wide and sprawling, but easily controlled by pruning in February. Won’t take heavy freezes.
  • Manzanita (Arctostaphylos species) Available in many sizes. The small, white or pinkish lantern flowers are a vital source of nectar for hummers during winter.
  • Pink flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum var. glutinosum) Hanging clusters of bright pink flowers in early to mid-spring. Full to filtered sun, some water. Later, berries good for songbirds.
  • Pitcher sage (Lepechinia calycina) A big, woody sage relative with fat, tubular flowers of white or lavender. Needs sun, occasional water.
  • Tree mallow (Lavatera assurgentiflora) Channel Island native that grows very fast to become a ten-foot shrub. Hummers like the magenta flowers, once they learn how to get at the nectar.
  • Twinberry (Lonicera involucrata) A very large, shrubby honeysuckle, with pairs of yellow-orange flowers. Needs full to filtered sun, lots of moisture.
  • Western honeysuckle (Lonicera hispidula) Actually a woody vine, usually grown for its autumnal red berries. The pink, summer flowers are not flashy, but hummers do find them.
  • Woolly blue curls (Trichostema lanatum) Lovely, fuzzy purple-blue flowers, long, narrow, aromatic leaves. Needs hot, dry conditions, good drainage.


  • Bee plant< (Scrophularia californica) Large, coarse perennial with tall stalks of tiny maroon flowers. Takes sun or light shade, dry or wet conditions.
  • California fuchsia or zauschneria (Epilobium canum) Profusion of bright, orange-red flowers in late summer and fall. Needs sun, tolerates some drought.
  • Cobweb thistle (Cirsium occidentale & related species) Biennial or short-lived perennial, not invasive. Lovely gray foliage, heads of bright red flowers. Needs warm, dry conditions.
  • Hummingbird sage (Salvia spathacea) Robust perennial sage with large, sweetly aromatic leaves, whorls of magenta flowers. Grow in full or filtered sun. Looks best with some water.
  • Indian pink (Silene californica) Low, spreading perennial with vermilion, fringed flowers. Grows in filtered shade, often under pine trees. If snails are a problem, plant in hanging basket.
  • Penstemon (Penstemon species). From the compact ‘Blue Bedder’ to larger types, the tubular flowers are red, pink, purple, or true blue. Needs warm, sunny, dry conditions. Cut spent flowers to induce more blooming.
  • Red savory (Satureja mimuloides) Perennial with soft orange flowers, all summer. Tolerates a variety of conditions.
  • Scarlet larkspur (Delphinium cardinale, D. nudicaule) The first is a robust perennial, the second is a smaller perennial for rock gardens. They need full or filtered sun, no water in late summer.
  • Scarlet lobelia (Lobelia cardinalis) Vivid red flowers. Actually native in mountains of southern California, it needs sun and damp conditions.
  • Scarlet monardella (Monardella macrantha) Perennial with large whorls of red-orange flowers. Irresistible, but hard to grow – try a container with gravel in the mix.
  • Scarlet monkeyflower (Mimulus cardinale) Perennial with bright, orange-red flowers needs sun and damp conditions.
  • Sticky monkeyflower (Mimulus aurantiacus) Shrubby perennial, flowers usually orange, but can be red, maroon, pink, or yellow. Blooms all summer, occasional water, needs some pruning.
  • Western columbine (Aquilegia formosa) Prefers filtered shade, some watering. Blooms in spring, with nodding, bright red, yellow-tipped flowers.