Even though it takes some planning and effort to design a hummingbird-friendly yard, it’s a rewarding challenge. When you get the payoff of many hummingbirds visiting the flowers in your yard, you’ll know it was worth it!
After all, we would all love to see more hummingbirds in our yards, buzzing from flower to flower, hovering just long enough that we can see their beautiful colors before they move on to the next bloom.
The main components of a hummingbird’s diet are nectar and insects. Most of their nectar comes from flowers, but they will also drink from store-bought hummingbird feeders as they are provided.
What about azaleas, a subcategory of rhododendrons? Yes, hummingbirds do like azaleas! They’re a great choice, and they provide plentiful blooms that have the perfect shape for collecting nectar. Let’s learn more!
Why Do Hummingbirds Like Azaleas?
Hummingbirds relish visiting azalea blooms! But why? Azaleas produce abundant sweet nectar and bloom when hummingbirds are most active.
The nectar is easy for hummingbirds to reach because they can stick their long bills – and even longer noses – into the tubular-shaped blooms to slurp it up. There are also so many blooms that they provide a great nourishment source for hummingbirds without them needing to fly all over their territorial range.
Hummingbirds need to visit 1000-2000 blooms a day to fuel their very fast metabolism, so azalea bushes make a great option!
What Are Azaleas?
Azaleas are flowering shrubs in the genus Rhododendron, and they belong to the Ericaceae family.
They bloom in spring (April-May in the temperate Northern Hemisphere and October-November in the Southern Hemisphere), and flowers often last for several weeks. Azaleas prefer living near or under trees as they are shade-tolerant.
Azaleas have been selectively bred by plant enthusiasts for hundreds of years, producing over 10,000 different cultivars! Azalea seeds can also be collected and germinated.
Azaleas are generally slow-growing and thrive best in well-drained acidic soil (4.5–6.0 pH). They don’t need much fertilization, but some varieties of azalea do require regular pruning.
Do Azaleas Offer Good Nectar?
Absolutely! Azaleas give hummingbirds excellent nectar.
In spring and summer, azaleas produce thousands of blooms. Hummingbirds eat every 10-15 minutes and visit 1,000-2,000 flowers daily, so azaleas are ideal! The plants provide plentiful blooms to forage among.
The abundant nectar tempts hummingbirds, which busily dart among the flowers. Planting azaleas will certainly attract hummingbirds during the summer, especially when busy hummingbird females are raising their young.
Other Benefits of Planting Azaleas in Your Yard
In addition to drawing in hummingbirds, azaleas provide many other perks! These include:
- Climbing varieties quickly cover structures like pergolas, arbors, and fences.
- Their fragrant spring blooms give the air a lovely smell.
- They attract pollinating bees and butterflies too — and our ecosystems need as much pollination as they can get!
Tips for Growing Azaleas That Attract Hummingbirds
Plant your azaleas in a sheltered area with partial shade or full sun. Most varieties thrive best in a shaded or woodland border, or in pots. Their shady placement is also ideal for hummingbirds who need to cool off in the heat.
If you are planting azaleas indoors, choose a cool, well-ventilated area like a conservatory. It should be well-lit, but these colorful flowers do not like to be in direct sunlight.
All azaleas need humus-rich, neutral to acidic soil that is kept moist. However, it should drain well, rather than holding a lot of water. You can either test your soil’s pH or look at neighboring gardens to see if azaleas or other acid-loving plants flourish in your area. Unfortunately, you’ll need to avoid azaleas if you have alkaline soil.
Use peat-free ericaceous compost for potted azaleas. Hummingbirds like potted azaleas, too, so if your soil is too alkaline to plant them in the garden, a container azalea may be a good compromise!
Azaleas have shallow roots, so place the rootball just below the surface when planting. Dig a hole that is wider than it is deep, and backfill the hole with leaf mold and peat-free ericaceous compost. Water thoroughly after planting.
In the spring, mulch your azalea bed with acidic material like leaf mold, peat-free ericaceous compost, or even conifer bark. It is recommended to avoid mulching in the fall. For those potted azaleas, replace the top layer of compost or repot completely in spring. You can feed it with some more ericaceous fertilizer. Water with rainwater when possible, as tap water can sometimes be too alkaline for truly healthy azaleas. Pruning is typically not needed, so you can put your pruning shears away.
This is important: azaleas and rhododendrons are toxic if ingested. They cause nausea, vomiting, breathing issues, depression, and even coma in pets. They can be fatal to dogs if eaten in large quantities. Many dog owners choose not to grow azaleas for these reasons.
Great Azalea Varieties for Hummingbirds
Most azaleas will appeal to hummingbirds, but red and pink kinds often do better than cool colors. Here are some top options and how big they get!
- Amethyst Falls – lavender blooms; 8-12 feet
- Aunt Dee – pink blooms; 15-25 feet
- Blanche Sandman – white blooms; 10-15 feet
- Carroll Mackinder – blue blooms; 12-18 feet
- Clara Mackinder – purple/white blooms; 12 feet
- Kentucky Azalea – pale blue blooms; 25 feet
- Pink Ice – pink blooms; 10-15 feet
- Professor Sischo – blue blooms; 10-15 feet
- Royal Purple – purple blooms; 25 feet
Other Hummingbird-Friendly Flowers by Region
Most hummingbird gardens are successful when multiple hummingbird-friendly flowers are planted together. You’ll want to choose flowers that are nectar-rich, colorful, and ideal for your geographic area.
Here are some options to consider, based on where you live:
Prickly Pear Cactus
Baja Fairy Duster
|Great Plains:||Black-Eyed Susan|
Bird of Paradise
|Pacific Northwest:||Indian Paintbrush|
Using Hummingbird Feeders
Although azalea blooms give hummingbirds plenty of food, clean feeders are extremely helpful too, particularly during migration. Hummingbirds will visit your feeders as they migrate between their summer and winter territories. We recommend that you position your feeders near azaleas and hummingbird flowers but spaced apart to prevent territorialism.
Opt for feeders specifically made for hummingbirds, with red parts that attract them. Change the sugar-water mixture every few days and clean feeders weekly with vinegar water. We recommend that you avoid red food dye because it’s not necessary and it may even make hummingbirds sick.
Putting out hummingbird feeders is a big commitment because you have to keep them full and clean.
Plant Some Azaleas & Enjoy the Show!
Azaleas and feeders support the dietary habits of hummingbirds. With the right plants and some smart gardening, you can easily turn your yard into a popular fueling spot for migrating and nesting hummingbirds!
Once you have your azaleas blooming, all you have to do is sit back and appreciate the show!