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Hummingbird Plants for Your Garden

By Lynn Hassler, Garden Volunteer Captain; photos by Lynn Hassler
In general, hummingbirds prefer long, slender tubular flowers in the red-orange range. Thin tubular flowers generally have more nectar at the base, which is difficult for bees and other insects to reach. These types of flowers and the long bills and tongues of tiny hummingbirds have evolved together over time. And as hummingbirds flit from flower to flower, carrying pollen and nectar, they also play an important role as pollinators. Hummingbirds will certainly visit flowers of other colors—purple is popular—and other shapes as well. Plants with staminate flowers turn out to be quite enticing. Visit our Paton Center for Hummingbirds to see a lot of these plants in action!

Take your Hotspot to the next level by joining our Habitat at Home program! Use this page as a guide to your hummingbird plant selections.

Autumn Sage: An All-Star Hummingbird Plant

salvia_Lynn_hasslerScientific name: Salvia greggii
Family: Laminaceae (Mint)
Native range: Western Texas south throughout much of north-central Mexico, 4000–10,000 feet
Wildlife value: Flowers attract hummingbirds, quail, lizards, and sulphur butterflies

This small, sprawling, evergreen shrub grows 2-3 feet high and wide, and is well used in patios and around pools in southwestern landscapes. One-inch long, pinkish red flowers appear on 6–10 inch spikes on and off throughout the year but especially in spring and fall. There are other color forms—purple, white, orange, yellow—but the magenta are my favorite.

Autumn sage is a moderately fast grower and moderate water user (it looks better in summer with weekly supplemental water). Plant these hardy (to 5 degrees F) shrubs from one gallon containers in fall or spring. Morning sun or light shade is the best orientation in Tucson; full sun is appropriate at higher elevations. Good drainage is essential since plants have a tendency to rot out. Dismiss any pruning phobias because autumn sage invariably becomes woody over time and needs to be cut back hard in early spring in order to regenerate new growth. The nectar-filled tubular flowers are irresistible to hummingbirds and also attract sulphur butterflies. Gambel’s quail enjoy picking off the blooms and feasting on them, as do desert spiny lizards.

The genus is from the Latin salvus (“safe,” “unharmed”) referring to certain salvia species with medicinal virtues. The species name is after Josiah Gregg (1806–1850), plant collector who explored and wrote about the Southwest.


Agastache rupestris, licorice mint hyssop
If you like fragrance in the garden, this perennial is for you.   Brush or touch the foliage for a wonderful licorice and mint aroma.  Smoky orange hummingbird-luring flowers bloom all summer long.  Sphinx moths are also attracted to the blossoms.  Does fine in large containers.


Anisacanthus thurberi,  desert honeysuckle
You’ll see hummers at the rusty orange flowers, but this native is also the larval foodplant for the Elada Checkerspot butterfly.  Slightly rangy looking, these medium-sized shrubs are deciduous in winter and/or during periods of drought .  Reseeds readily.


Anisacanthus quadrifidus  var. wrightii,  flame acanthus
Bright red-orange tubular flowers appear in late summer and coincide with hummingbird migration.  Grows 3-4 feet high and wide and is extremely drought tolerant.  Plants are deciduous; cut to the ground every year in late winter.  Does well on a north side.


Calliandra californica, Baja fairy duster
Scarlet tassel-like flowers are an orgy of pollination, attracting hummingbirds, Verdins, butterflies, and all manner of iridescent bees and flies.  Ceraunus Blue and Marine Blue butterflies use this plant as a larval host.  Plants are cold tender so place in full sun, against a south-facing wall, or in a protected patio.


Calliandra eriophylla, fairy duster
Beautiful flowers, with sprays of stamens resembling tiny dusters, are sweetly attractive to hummingbirds. And you just might get tickled by seeds that fling out from exploding seedpods following the blooms.


Chilopsis linearis, desert willow
This tough native tree produces light pink to deep purple (occasionally white) funnel-shaped flowers.  Try one of the brightly colored cultivars and watch for hummers, Verdins and orioles to visit the blooms late spring-fall.  Plant in full sun and give it room as trees may eventually reach 20-30 feet high and wide.


Epilobium canum (formerly Zauschneria californica), hummingbird trumpet
Spectacular red-orange flowers appear in the late summer and fall.  This perennial spreads by underground rhizomes so give it a wide berth.  Plants usually reach 2-3 feet tall.  Cut to the ground following bloom.


Erythrina flabelliformis , coral bean
This mostly leafless shrub looks like a bunch of dead sticks for much of the year, but in spring stunning 6-inch-long red tubular flowers burst forth, attracting passing hummingbirds.  Bright green leaves appear in late summer, but then turn yellow and drop as cooler weather sets in. Red seeds are poisonous.


Fouquieria splendens, ocotillo
With its distinctive shape, ocotillo makes a bold focal point in the landscape. Tall, arching branches reach high to the sky and provide ideal spots for perching birds. Flame-colored blooms in spring attract hummingbirds as well as Verdins and orioles.


Hesperaloe parviflora, red-flowered yucca/red hesperaloe
Bulletproof!  Notice it growing on roadway median strips with excessive heat, exhaust fumes, and next-to-no water and you’ll realize how tough this plant really is.  Stemless and clumping in nature, it sends up 3-7 foot tall flower spikes in summer with waxy red tubular blossoms.


Justicia californica, chuparosa
Chuparosa literally means “hummingbird” in Spanish. Plant this red-flowering shrub with its green photosynthesizing stems next to a south-facing wall for nearly continuous bloom. There is also a yellow-flowering form, but the hummers don’t seem to find that hue quite as attractive.


Justicia candicans, red justicia
Plant this upright growing perennial in full sun or partial shade. The bright green leaves are soft to the touch, and with its sprinkling of red tubular flowers makes a nice backdrop to a perennial flower garden.  May bloom on and off for much of the year if not nipped by frost.


Justicia spicigera, Mexican honeysuckle
Plant this switch hitter in either sun or shade for nearly year-round bloom.  Lush velvety green leaves lend a tropical feel to the landscape, and the bright orange tubular flowers are visited by hummingbirds and Verdins. It’s also a larval food plant for the Texan Crescent butterfly.


Lavandula pinnata, lace leaf/ fern leaf lavender
Hummingbirds love purple!  Any species of lavender will do, but this one does particularly well in the Tucson area.  Whorled purple flower heads occur nearly year-round.  These aromatic plants do not like wet feet, so are not very happy during monsoon.  Cut back hard to regenerate new growth following the rainy season.


Maurandya antirrhiniflora, snapdragon vine
The short tubular purple flowers of this delicate little vine attract hummingbirds. Bloom season extends from spring to fall, and is encouraged by rainfall or irrigation. Give this plant a fence or trellis to climb on, and it may reach 8-10 feet high. Dies to the ground in winter, but generally comes back strong. Reseeds like crazy. There is also a red-flowering form.


Penstemon baccharifolius, rock penstemon
Here’s a penstemon that produces scarlet-red blooms all summer long.  Low growing to 1-2 feet high and 2 feet across.  Because of its small size, it’s perfect for tight spaces, narrow entry ways, planters, etc.  Hardy to the mid-teens.


Penstemon eatonii, firecracker penstemon
This penstemon stays green all year.  Small mounds of dark green leaves grow to about 1 foot high and 2 feet across.   One-inch long fiery scarlet-red blooms flowers are densely clustered along the stalks and appear in late winter and early spring.


Penstemon parryi, Parry penstemon
The best penstemon for planting in the Tucson Basin, and it’s a show stopper. Captivating pink flower displays are a sign of early spring. Plant en masse for optimal visual effect and for visiting hummers.


Salvia coccinea, tropical sage
This dependable summer bloomer is on the thirsty side and is not suitable for cold microhabitats, but it will reward you with visiting hummingbirds at the flowers.  Another plus is that Lesser Goldfinches relish the seeds—and they are prolific so you’re likely to get some volunteer plants.


Salvia farinacea, mealy cup sage
What a common name!  This perennial grows 1-2 feet high and wide, and spikes of densely clustered violet-blue flowers bloom spring-fall.  Cut to the ground in winter.


Salvia leucantha, Mexican bush sage
Try this fast-growing (to 3-5 feet high and wide) perennial which produces purple (sometimes white) flower spikes in fall.  Stems die back when temperatures hit the low 20s, but the roots and crowns tolerate much lower temperatures. Cut to the ground following bloom.


Tecomaria capensis, Cape honeysuckle
Bright green foliage and orange tubular flowers give this woody shrub a lush, tropical look.  Pleasing to the eye especially when the blooms, which occur in fall and early winter, are visited by hummingbirds and Verdins.  May be trained into a vine-like shape. 


Tecoma stans, yellow bells
Tired of so much red and orange in your hummingbird garden?  Try this native shrub that sports large yellow flowers resembling little trumpets.  Blooms all summer long.  Instead of feeding front first as they do at other more slender tubular flowers, hummers are more likely to pierce the bases of the blooms in order to garner nectar.  Ditto for Verdins.  Carpenter bees love the large blossoms.


©Lynn Hassler, January 2017

Habitat at Home

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Tucson Audubon Society
300 E University Blvd. #120 Tucson, AZ 85705

Mason Center
3835 W Hardy Rd.
Tucson, AZ 85742

Paton Center for Hummingbirds
477 Pennsylvania Ave.
Patagonia, AZ 85624
520 415-6447


Tucson Audubon Society
300 E University Blvd. #120
Tucson, AZ 85705

Mason Center
3835 W Hardy Rd.
Tucson, AZ 85742

Paton Center for Hummingbirds
477 Pennsylvania Ave.
Patagonia, AZ 85624
520 415-6447


Tucson Audubon Society
300 E University Blvd. #120
Tucson, AZ 85705

Mason Center
3835 W Hardy Rd.
Tucson, AZ 85742

Paton Center for Hummingbirds
477 Pennsylvania Ave.
Patagonia, AZ 85624
520 415-6447

Michael T. Bogan (he/him)

Michael is an Assistant Professor of Aquatic biology at the University of Arizona. Originally from California, he earned his PhD at Oregon State University, where his research focused on stream ecosystems of the Madrean Sky Islands and Sonoran Desert. He is well-known for his work on Santa Cruz River Heritage Project, and his beautiful photos of dragonflies. His research topics include Arid Lands, Conservation Biology, Invasive Species and Population and Community Ecology.

Michael serves as the faculty advisor for the UA chapter of the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos Hispanics and Native Americans in Science, a national Diversity in STEM organization. Michael is a partner on our Santa Cruz River Heritage Project work and has contributed to the Vermilion Flycatcher in the past year.

Michael has a hard time choosing a single favorite bird, but says that Curve-billed Thrashers are pretty hard to beat. “I could watch them goofing around through the leaf litter and be entertained for days!”


Alberto Búrquez

I currently work at the Instituto de Ecología, Department of Ecology of Biodiversity, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM). I got my bachelor and master’s degree at UNAM, and my PhD at the University of Cambridge, UK. I do research in Ecology, Evolutionary Biology and Ethnoecology. Drylands ecology and societal use of resources in water-limited systems have been an ever-present passion through my life. It might be because I am a Sonoran Desert born person. However, my personal theory is that once someone experiences the desert landscapes they are smitten for life. I am passionate about bird and honorary bird species like bats and hawkmoths, particularly in their mutualist interactions with plants. My current projects include: 1) Columnar cacti: ecology, evolution, societal services. 2) Effects of extreme events on vegetation, 3) Species Distribution and Biogeography, 4) Indigenous lands and ecosystem processes, and 5) drought and freezing resistance in plants at the edges of distribution.


Jeanne Calhoun

Fascinated by wilderness and everything wild since growing up backpacking with her family in the Sierras, Jeanne pursued a diverse environmental career over the past 30+ years.  With a Bachelor’s in Biology (Carleton College) and a Master’s in Geology (Oregon State University), she pursued multiple aspects of environmental protection, with the last 23 years focused on ecological conservation in Arizona, working for The Nature Conservancy, US Fish & Wildlife Service, and the US National Park Service.  During her ten years at TNC, Jeanne was responsible for on-the-ground conservation in four ecoregions in Arizona, management of TNC’s preserve system, land management and restoration, government relations, and water policy.

Jeanne spent seven years with the USFWS where she oversaw threatened and endangered species issues in southern Arizona. She enjoyed the challenges of dealing with controversial issues such as the international border, proposed mining projects, energy infrastructure, wilderness management and climate change.

Most recently, she worked for Grand Canyon National Park as Chief of the Science and Resource Management Division, where she oversaw all science research as well as natural and cultural resource management activities in the park.  During her years at the Grand Canyon, Jeanne initiated the first Paleontological Resources Inventory for the park, led a Climate Change Analysis for the park’s watershed, reinitiated the effort to designate 94% of the park as Wilderness, and led publication of the Natural and Cultural Resource Condition Assessment for the park.

Recently retired, Jeanne has a passion for water sports, hiking and exploring Arizona’s spectacular landscapes, and is learning how to play the saxophone.


Colleen Cacy

Colleen is a partner with the firm Gadarian and Cacy, PLLC, a Tucson law firm specializing in professional Tax Strategy, Estate Planning and Asset Protection law.

  • J.D. from the University of Kansas School of Law (1986)
  • President of the Board of the Southern Arizona Estate Planning Council
  • Elected member, American College of Trust and Estate Council
  • Memberships: Executive Committee of the Probate and Trust Section of the State Bar, the State Bar of Arizona, the Probate and Trust and Tax Sections of the State Bar, the American Bar Association, and the Pima County Bar Association.
  • Past President of the Board of ZUZI Dance Company


Richard Carlson

Richard started birding as a child in Minnesota 70 years ago. After a brief interlude at Harvard, where he majored in caving, mountain climbing, winter mountaineering and economics, he began birding again in Washington DC with the Maryland Ornithological Society. He was one of Chan Robbin’s volunteers in establishing the first Breeding Bird Surveys. Bribed by the Nixon administration to leave town with a fellowship to Stanford, he moved West in 1969. He worked at Stanford Research Institute, where he co-authored “Solar Energy in America’s Future” and led field trips for the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society. He became President of the San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory and expanded his birding to Latin America. He has birded throughout the Neotropics and in Africa, Australia, Antarctica, India, China and Europe. He hopes to ultimately see at least half the birds of the world. He and his wife Pat now migrate between homes in Tucson and Lake Tahoe depending on where the birds are.


Tricia Gerrodette

Tricia never wound up with a career but instead had a variety of jobs and life experiences. She's been a bookkeeper, a typist, a proofreader and then a test analyst for a defense contracting company. She was a tour guide for trips into Mexico's Copper Canyon for Elderhostel (now Road Scholar). The trips focused on Mexican and railroad history as well as the history and culture of the Rarámuri (Tarahumara) natives.

Secretary of the board for Tucson Audubon, member of the board for Friends of the San Pedro River, president of the now-defunct Huachuca Audubon Society, treasurer for Sky Island Unitarian Universalist Church, Water Sentinel with Sierra Club Water Sentinels, Steering Committee for Sustainable Water Workgroup.

When Huachuca Audubon Society disbanded in May 2016, Cochise County became part of the "assigned" territory for Tucson Audubon Society. That was a huge amount of land, although not too many people, to absorb. I was invited to be on the Tucson Audubon board to help with that effort, and to help protect the San Pedro River. That work still continues! Photo by Mark Levy.

Kathy Jacobs

Kathy Jacobs is a professor of Environmental Science at the University of Arizona and Director of the Center for Climate Adaptation Science and Solutions (CCASS). CCASS is a component of the Arizona Institutes for Resilience, and builds capacity to accelerate adaptation and on-the-ground solutions to climate issues.  She is currently a member of a team that is building the Indigenous Resilience Center at the UA.  From 2010 – 2013, Jacobs worked in the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the White House. She was director of the Third National Climate Assessment, and the lead advisor on water science, policy, and adaptation. From 2006-2009 Jacobs was Executive Director of th

e Arizona Water Institute, a consortium of Arizona’s three universities focused on water sustainability. She worked 23 years for the Arizona

Department of Water Resources, including 15 as the director of the Tucson Active Management Area.  She was engaged in multiple aspects of implementing Arizona’s Groundwater Management Act, including development of water conservation programs and the Assured Water Supply Rules.  Jacobs has served on nine National Academy panels; she earned her M.L.A. in environmental planning from Berkeley.


Elisabeth (Lissie) Jaquette

Elisabeth (Lissie) Jaquette had been an occasional birder prior to moving to Arizona in 2018. Since connecting with Tucson Audubon, she has become increasingly passionate about birding, and is excited to give back by serving on the board. Lissie first became involved with Tucson Audubon by participating in the Habitat at Home program, then by joining as a member, and more recently by volunteering with the Southeast Arizona Birding Festival, the Birdathon, and several bird surveys.

Lissie’s education includes a BA from Swarthmore College and an MA from Columbia University. Since 2017 she has served as Executive Director for the American Literary Translators Association, a non-profit membership organization.

When Lissie is not birding, she enjoys hiking and trail running in the Sonoran Desert, and translating literature from Arabic to English (her latest book was a finalist for the 2020 National Book Awards). She lives in Tucson with her 1-year-old son, Cassin (named for the kingbird); dog, Cooper (named for the hawk); and husband, Dan (sadly not named for any birds).


Riana Johnson

Riana Johnson is a skilled researcher with experience in quantitative, qualitative, and data visualization within the energy efficiency and utility industry. She brings creativity along with strong data analysis skills to her work. She uses her background in fine art and econometrics to deftly craft data visualizations and tell data-driven stories. Riana is a new birder and loves living in Tucson where the Vermillion Flycatchers are plenty. She recently started a chapter of the Feminist Bird Club in Tucson where she can mix her passion for activism, art, and birds. Riana has degrees in Political Science and Studio Art from New York University and a Masters of Public Policy from the University of Arizona.


Linda McNulty

Linda McNultyLinda’s education includes a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Rochester, and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Arizona, where she graduated Summa cum Laude and was elected to the Order of the Coif. A recently retired partner at the law firm of Lewis and Roca, LLP, Linda was a member of the firm’s Real Estate and Finance practice group. Her law practice focused primarily on commercial real estate, business and natural resources law. Linda has served a number of board roles, including: President of the Tucson chapter of Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) and member to the board of directors of the Pima County Sports and Tourism Authority, the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest, and the Wilderness Land Trust. Early in her career, Linda worked for the Arizona Department of Water Resources and she’s maintained a connection to water policy issues in Arizona. Linda has been a member of Tucson Audubon Society since 1976 and lives with her husband Michael in Tucson.


R. Cynthia Pruett

Cynthia-Pruitt-with-raffle-tickets-by-Kendall-KroesenFor a long period I was what you might call a "lapsed birder". I started birding in college with a boyfriend who became my husband and we traveled all over the United States while he was in the service; leading to a pretty comprehensive bird list. Then suddenly, other life activity got in the way and for about 25 years birding was shelved. In the late 80's I was introduced to an avid woman birder at an environmental conference and the passion came back. My work career involved many executive jobs, some of them key environmental positions, which only reinforced my understanding of the need to protect important habitat around the world. It's (the birding) led to many trips to many countries, a joy of seeing both new and revisited birds and of course, to becoming active in Audubon chapters, both here and in Virginia.


Cynthia M. VerDuin, CPA

Cynthia began birding when she was 10 by participating with her girl scout troop create a bird-watching badge. In the 90’s she began birding with family, friends and with bird walks in various Ohio regions. Since 2010, she has enjoyed Tucson Audubon bird walks and short trips. Beginning in 2016, she has participated in the Birding Festival, serving as a volunteer in 2017-2019 and at Meet your Birds events. She served on the Gala and Finance committees in 2016-2017, and joined the board in 2018. She now serves as Treasurer and Search Committee co-chair.

Cynthia founded her accounting firm in 2007, focusing on not-for-profits, small companies and individuals, providing accounting, tax planning and reporting services, calling upon her Kent State University (BA degree in accounting with honors) and her experience at one of the “Big Eight” accounting firms (Arthur Andersen). Cynthia is also a Physical Therapist and commercial hot air balloon pilot, and enjoys hiking, birding, biking and swimming.