The Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) has an affinity for a few different plant species.
Pennsylvania is home to an abundance of incredible bird species. Yet many, if not most, go overlooked. One such species is the Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris). Every spring/summer, they migrate north from Central America to participate in the breeding season. It might be surprising to know they even exist in Pennsylvania, as their diminutive size, swift movements, and busy lifestyle make them difficult to spot. Luckily, there’s more than one way to make these birds slow down. The most popular method is to put out hummingbird feeders, but another option (and one that benefits more than just hummingbirds) is to provide them with plants that they find attractive. Here’s a short list of 5 plant species that have the potential to bring hummingbirds to your yard.
1. Musclewood (Carpinus caroliniana)
Musclewood is a favorite nesting tree for Ruby-throated Hummingbirds and is the only woody plant to make this list. It’s a slow-growing tree, so it might not attract them immediately should you plant a small one. Even so, while your Musclewood tree is growing, it can add to the structural diversity of your property, giving a variety of birds and insects a nice place to hang out. Once the tree matures, you’ll have a potential nesting site for some spectacular little hummingbirds.
2. Wild Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis)
Wild Columbine is a beautiful spring ephemeral that blooms right around when Ruby-throated Hummingbirds return from their winter vacation. They adorn wooded hillsides with ornate red flowers containing nectar, beloved by Ruby-throated Hummingbirds.
3. Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds seem to have an affinity for warm-colored flowers (i.e., Wild Columbine, mentioned above). Concerning warm-colored flowers, few plants sport a more eye-catching red than the Cardinal Flower. They bloom in late summer when Ruby-throated Hummingbirds prepare for their long migration back to Central America.
4. Coral Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens)
Photo by Tyler Kovacs
Coral Honeysuckle is a proven hummingbird magnet. Its flowers are tubular and, you guessed it, red (or “coral,” as its name suggests). While this species is most commonly found in the south, it is native to Pennsylvania. But remember that, like most vines, it can spread and readily take over an area if left unchecked, not that the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds would mind!
5. Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis)
While Jewelweed doesn’t have red flowers, as numbers 2-4 on the list do, they do have beautiful orange flowers, which are just as attractive to Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. Like Coral Honeysuckle, Jewelweed grows densely and can spread throughout an area. A fun fact about this plant is that people can use it to treat poison ivy and stinging nettle rashes! So not only would planting Jewelweed in your garden benefit the hummingbirds, but it’ll also provide a sense of security should you run into a pesky ivy or nettle.
This list of attractive plants for hummingbirds is by no means exhaustive. There are many more native plants that can provide Ruby-throated Hummingbirds with food and shelter. Also, remember that putting out a hummingbird feeder alongside your plants will increase your chances of attracting them to your property. If you’re interested in adding any of these species to your yard, reach out to a local native plant nursery to see if they carry them.
I hope this article has been helpful. Happy birding, and thanks for reading!
Sebastian Harris, Heritage Conservancy