Attract Hummingbirds to Your Small Garden

You're just a few plants away from hosting loads of hummingbirds! Here’s how to welcome them with even the smallest hummingbird gardens.

hummingbird photosCourtesy Sharon Sauriol
Female ruby-throated hummingbird in a patch of scarlet beebalm

Hummingbirds are tiny but mighty—and the same can be said for some hummingbird gardens. In fact, small yards can be a gift. Unlike large spaces, it doesn’t take much effort, time or money to transform a bit of yard or patio into a hummingbird-friendly habitat.

And an added bonus: You’re more likely to have a front seat to the action when the fliers come to visit. Whether using containers or growing native plants or both, here’s how to welcome hummingbirds to a small garden.

Use Potted Plants in Your Hummingbird Garden

Pots and containers are excellent choices if you have concrete, paved or wooden spaces that you want to jazz up with some greenery. Flower boxes add a charming aspect to balconies, while deck boxes and tiered plant stands liven up decks and patios. Here’s a roundup of potted flowers and plants that attract hummingbirds. Even a side of your house can become a hummingbird garden when made into a “living wall.” Consider hanging baskets, too—just opt for large ones, as they accommodate bigger prolific bloomers.

hummingbird and penstemonCourtesy Katherine Poulsen
A black-chinned hummingbird visits penstemon blooms.

Plant More Native Plants for Hummingbirds

What you plant in containers can make all the difference. “A container garden is a wonderful way to provide more habitat for hummingbirds, particularly if you use native plants,” says John Rowden, senior director for bird-friendly communities at the National Audubon Society.

What are native plants? Here’s what you need to know.

Consider adding penstemon, for starters. And don’t overlook several varieties of native columbine found across the U.S., along with cardinal flower. “The amazing thing about these plants is they’ve developed tubular blooms over time,” says John. “Hummingbirds adapted to sticking their bills into those blooms for nectar, which aids in pollination. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship.”

John notes that native plants act as fantastic hosts for native insects, too. While hummingbirds are known for their nectar needs, they also eat and feed insects to their young. “When planting native plants, you are supporting the life cycle of other species,” John says. “This helps provide an additional boost of resources for hummingbirds.”

Check out the top 10 easy-to-grow native plants.

Another popular way to attract hummingbirds to a garden of any size is with a sugar-water feeder. “Hummingbirds’ needs regarding nectar are so specific and quite regular, so they’ll always take advantage of those kinds of resources,” explains John, who notes that feeders should ideally be used in addition to native plants in a hummingbird garden to help fulfill a bird’s nutritional needs.

A lush patio garden with potted plants, trellises and perennials.HannamariaH/Getty Images
A lush patio garden with potted plants, trellises and perennials will attract hummingbirds.

Grow a Vertical Hummingbird Garden

Look around a tiny yard and you may not see much real estate at first. But the options are nearly unlimited if you just think higher. Consider vining plants. Plant a purple passionflower near a pergola placed over a cafe table and chairs, which could prove to be the best seats in the house to view hummingbird activity. Or create a privacy wall by securing lattice panels to deck railing. Then coax trumpet honeysuckle, which is another hummingbird favorite, to climb it. A pyramid trellis trained with clematis is sure to bring in birds, too, while also brightening a dull corner of the yard or patio.

Check out the top 10 vines for hummingbirds.

John reminds small-space dwellers to think deliberately about the plants they provide to hummers. “Be sure to think about the timing of flowers,” he suggests. “Consider when certain plants flower and space out the blooming cycle so the birds get those resources throughout the time period they are there.”

Learn how to make a vertical pallet garden.

A female Anna's hummingbird plays in the water of a fountain.Courtesy J.B. Smith
A female Anna’s hummingbird plays in the water of a fountain.

Add Water and Shelter for Hummingbirds

Like most other birds, hummers are skittish. While they don’t perch for long, they like places to hide as they zoom back and forth between hummingbird garden plants and feeders. Because of that, consider a small potted conifer shrub where they can have a quick rest. Many dwarf shrubs can be planted in containers. Hummingbirds also love a water source such as a birdbath for a quick drink or to cool off in the heat of summer. Consider a mister or water feature with a fine spray (keep it off the ground or near a shrub to provide safety from predators). They love both the noise and water movement.

Our Top 15 Hummingbird Garden Plant Picks

Choose the best flowers and grow a small-space hummingbird garden guaranteed to attract more of these tiny pollinators.

Native Plants for Hummingbird Gardens

  • Cardinal flower
  • Columbine
  • Lupine
  • Penstemon
  • Trumpet honeysuckle

Vining Plants for Hummingbird Gardens

  • Mandevilla
  • Passionflower
  • Pinkshell azalea
  • Scarlet runner bean
  • Trumpet vine

Container Plants for Hummingbird Gardens

Looking for even more ways to entice hummingbirds to your garden? Follow these 10 expert tips to attract hummingbirds.

Rachael Liska
Rachael Liska is a freelance writer and editor specializing in birding, gardening, food and family. She has over 20 years of writing, editing, content strategy and project management experience in the parenting/family, food, gardening, home decor/goods, travel and birding niches.