Whether the calendar says summer or fall, these flowers such as Russian Sage, Bee Balm and Sunflowers, will attract butterflies and hummingbirds until the first frost – and sometimes beyond. It’s important to keep flowers blooming as long as possible to help butterflies and hummingbirds later in the season. With thousands of monarchs and hummingbirds migrating south for the winter, these amazing fliers still need good nectar sources to fuel their journeys. While some hummers and monarchs start their flights south as early as late July, many of them are still passing through in late October or even early November.
To make it easier to choose the right plants, we put together this “Sweet 16” list of blooms to grow in your yard this time of year. We chose them because they are some of the hardiest plants you can find – and they also happen to be gorgeous. Enjoy the late season color while attracting hummingbirds and butterflies galore!
- Paula W Borek
Joe Pye Weed
Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum, Zones 3 to 9)
This tall perennial (grows up to 7 feet) definitely deserves a spot in your flower bed. It has large medium-pink blooms and interesting foot-long, whorled leaves (see photo above). As a bonus, the flowers smell like vanilla; it’s no wonder they’re great at attracting butterflies!
- Cheryl Turner
Russian Sage (Perovskia, Zones 4 to 9)
Big and showy, the purple blooms of Russian sage are butterfly magnets. Plant just one of these perennials in your garden, and you’ll see a difference in a single season. With its silvery foliage and bursts of small purple blooms, it’s a great accessory anywhere.
- Mike (racingbear88)
Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia, Zones 3 to 9)
Hummingbirds and butterflies nectaring on these flowers start the wildlife parade followed by seed-eating birds. It’s common to see butterflies at these yellow, orange and russet blooms. As a bonus, these are some of the most drought-tolerant blooms you can find.
- Linda Sue Mohrmann
Chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum, Zones 5 to 8 or annual)
When it comes to great fall flowers, the list wouldn’t be complete without chrysanthemums. Whether you start with bare-root mums in spring or buy container-grown plants in late summer, these stunners are a great nectar source. They’re one of the last blooms in the garden attracting butterflies in the fall.
- Susan Whitney
Bee Balm (Monarda didyma, Zones 4 to 9)
Hummingbirds love the tubular blooms of this bright red flower, which grows up to 4 feet tall. Many think of it as predominantly a summer plant, but it also offers a great nectar source through early fall, too.
- Marilyn Samwich
Aster (Aster, Zones 3 to 9)
Growing up to 6 feet tall (dwarf varieties are shorter), asters sport dozens of blooms on a single plant. If you plant early in the season, they’ll have plenty of time to get established for winter. Or try your luck by picking up some end-of-season deals. You’ll be glad you did.
- Lily (lywalker)
Autumn Joy Sedum
Autumn Joy Sedum (Sedum ‘Autumn Joy,’ Zones 3 to 8)
Fall is the peak time for this backyard favorite, which grows up to 2 feet high and is a popular choice for attracting butterflies. The star-shaped blooms start out pale green and then become a rich burgundy color as the leaves change and finally turn a rust color after frost.
- Peg (pegpix)
Coreopsis (Coreopsis species, Zones 3 to 11)
This two-for-one bloom attracts both seed-eating birds and butterflies. Skippers, buckeyes, painted ladies and monarchs often stop by for the plant’s sweet nectar, especially in late summer when it’s growing strong while other blooms are wilting away.
- Margie Skaggs
Dahlia (Dahlia, Zones 9 to 11)
Big and beautiful, a dahlia is a shining star in the garden. Though in most regions gardeners have to dig up the tubers in late fall and replant in spring, the effort is well worth it. The end result is huge blooms (some as big as 10 inches) that are excellent for attracting hummingbirds and butterflies.
- Teri (TD21)
Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus, annual)
You can find this beauty in shades of pink, white, red and purple, growing as high as 6 feet tall. It lasts well into fall and is like a bright beacon to hummingbirds and butterflies passing through on their migrations.
- Julie Finley
Purple Coneflower (Echinacea, Zones 3 to 9)
Birds, bees and butterflies all love this perennial. While birds will pause to snack on its drying seed heads, butterflies and hummingbirds will stop for its nectar in fall.
- Ann Marie Brzezinski
Goldenrod (Solidago species, Zones 3 to 9)
This is another plant for which a little deadheading goes a long way. Be sure to give these beauties plenty of room to spread. They grow up to 48 inches high and 30 inches wide, with a beautiful golden shade.
- Richard Nicklas
Zinnia (Zinnia, annual)
Another surefire annual, this beauty is guaranteed to extend the season until the first frost. If you’re looking for variety, zinnias are the perfect flower for you. You can find bloom shapes in daisy- or dahlia-like configurations and in just about any color, and nearly all are excellent when attracting butterflies and hummingbirds.
- Cynthia Lockwood
Petunia (Petunia x hybrida, annual)
Get your pinchers ready—deadheading these blooms will keep them going all the way until frost in beautiful shades of pink, red, pale yellow, violet-blue, white and various combinations. A favorite for hanging baskets, petunias attract hummingbirds in late summer and early fall.
- Mark Strohl
Pansy (Viola x wittrockiana, perennial in Zones 8 to 11 or annual)
If you live in a cooler climate, pansies are perfect for you. Many cultivars are specifically developed to survive spring and autumn temperatures. Some even work as winter annuals.
- Linda Sue Mohrmann
Sunflower (Helianthus annuus, annual)
Summer wouldn’t be complete without giant stalks of sunflowers. They are a favorite among seed-eaters, but since they last into early autumn, they’re a great nectar source as well. Though the classic sunflower is yellow, you can now find varieties in red, brown and more. Gardeners are often surprised to find these are flowers that attract butterflies and hummingbirds as well as songbirds.
- More From Birds & Blooms