Butterflies and hummingbirds are wonderful friends to have around your garden or orchard. They not only pollinate your plants and trees but also give you a reason to sit outside and enjoy the view. You can give these beautiful creatures a warm welcome by planting plenty of flowers that attract hummingbirds and plants that attract butterflies and caterpillars — the bees will be delighted, too!
Flowers that Attract Hummingbirds
Finding plants that attract these gorgeous, hovering birds is all about the nectar. Hummingbirds rely on nectar’s high sugar content to give them the energy boost they need to keep their wings fluttering at rapid speeds. Flowering plants with a high nectar content that hummingbirds will love include bee balm, columbine, and foxglove.
Long, Tubular Flowers
Hummingbirds have long, pointed beaks that have adapted to reach a fair distance into tubular-shaped petals. This eliminates competition from some insects that can’t reach the nectar, so these birds have these plants mostly to themselves. Long, tubular flowers like trumpet vines, cardinal flowers, and sage are some of the best flowers to attract hummingbirds to your garden.
Choosing native plants is the key to attracting native hummingbirds. No matter where you are, as long as the hummingbird is native, you can find a plant that it is sure to love. For example, flowers like tiger lilies attract rufous hummingbirds in the western United States and Carolina lupine will attract ruby-throated hummingbirds in the eastern United States.
Hummingbirds’ minds move as fast as their wings, so they can’t devote much mental effort to finding their next meal. They gravitate towards brightly-colored blooms, especially reds, making hollyhock and daylilies two of the best plants for attracting these iridescent beauties.
Plants that Attract Butterflies
Host Plants vs. Nectar Plants
In contrast to flowers that attract hummingbirds, keeping butterflies in your garden or orchard requires providing food for caterpillars, too! Feeding butterflies at every stage of their life cycle — from egg to caterpillar and chrysalis to butterfly — is essential for keeping these lovely pollinators in your garden all year round. To meet the needs of butterflies and their caterpillar counterparts, plan to have host plants — plants that provide food for caterpillars — as well as nectar plants — blooming plants that produce nectar for butterflies.
Best Host Plants for Caterpillars
- Milkweed: When you think of the plants that most commonly get eaten up by caterpillars, you usually think of milkweed first. This is the preferred host plant of the monarch butterfly, and the yellow-and-black striped caterpillar form of this striking butterfly is just as lovely as its full-grown counterpart.
- Verbena: Both caterpillars and adults are drawn to verbena, a hardy, versatile plant that produces clusters of vibrant blooms. Verbena is the host plant for several species of butterflies.
- Spicebush: Spicebush is a shrub that acts as a host for many different kinds of caterpillars. It has “spicy” fragrant stems and blooms in April.
- Pipevines: If your garden allows for it, consider growing pipevines along your trellis, garden wall, or arbor. These plants not only look lovely, but also host the larvae of the pipevine swallowtail butterfly.
Best Nectar Plants that Attract Butterflies
Just as with flowers that attract hummingbirds, flowers for butterflies need to be rich in nectar:
- Butterfly Bush: The most obvious plant for nectar that butterflies will love is the butterfly bush (buddleia). It’s even in the name — butterflies love these big, fast-growing shrubs with vibrant purple blooms and ample nectar.
- Asters: Asters are a pollen-rich favorite of butterflies, coming in many different colors and sizes that can fit beautifully into any garden.
- Phlox: Phlox is a low-growing plant that spreads out into a gorgeous blanket of flowers when planted across a wide space.
- Echinacea: Coneflower or echinacea attracts butterflies with its rich colors and prominent stamens. Other perks to these flowers are that they are fairly drought-resistant in hot climates and have seed-filled flowers that attract birds (apart from hummingbirds) after the petals have fallen off.
Other Ways to Attract Birds and Butterflies
Planting flowers that attract hummingbirds and butterflies will provide habitat and food for them and pollination for you, but there are also several other things that you can do to invite these creatures to your garden or orchard:
- Birdbath: Give pollinators a place to rest with a shallow bath of water filled with pebbles, sand, and stones of different shapes and sizes.
- Habitat: Provide plenty of shelter for pollinators in the form of trees, shrubs, ornamental grasses, and twigs to give these beauties a place to hide. You can also make your own pollinator houses from pallets and add hollow twigs to welcome beneficial insects.
- Pollinator-Friendly Pesticides: Pesticides are important for controlling the pests that eat your produce but can sometimes kill off beneficial wildlife too. Choose the gentlest and most organic products that effectively get rid of your pests while protecting your pollinators from unwanted harm.
- Seasonal planting: Just as growers plant their crops seasonally to keep the land productive all year round, a savvy gardener or orchard-grower will plant flowers that attract hummingbirds and bloom across the longest season possible. This will maximize nectar and pollination. You can generally find species to keep your garden blooms going from early spring to late fall.
Become a Pro Grower with Fruit Growers Supply
While you’re thinking about planting flowers that attract hummingbirds and butterflies, be sure to check out the full range of growing and irrigation equipment that we offer at Fruit Growers Supply in our California and Arizona retail stores. With niche parts and growing solutions for a project of any size, you’re sure to find something to make your life just a little bit easier.
Contact our team to talk with a representative about how we can help you with your garden or orchard today!