You may have heard that hummingbirds like bright flowers, and it’s true that flowers don’t come much brighter than Celosia!
But it isn’t only the dazzling array of colors that attract hummingbirds. There are several other factors needed to make the perfect match, and Celosia doesn’t possess all of them.
While Celosia will draw in a few passing visitors to stop off and feed, it isn’t the ultimate hummingbird magnet that some other plants prove to be.
Let’s find out why.
What Are Celosia?
Celosia is a small genus of flowering annual and short-lived perennial plants, often with very brightly colored pink, red, or yellow flowers. As a cousin of the Amaranth, Celosia shares a similar style of fluffy flower spike and produces the same copious amounts of seeds.
Both the seeds and leaves are eaten in certain cultures, making it an already popular or potentially important food crop in the tropics.
Most experts agree that the Celosia genus is originally from Africa, although due to its usefulness as a human food and ornamental flower, it has long been grown throughout the world.
The most important Celosia species as garden plants are Celosia argentea (aka. Celosia plumosa) and Celosia cristata. They are also sometimes grown indoors in sunny conservatories, porches, and greenhouses.
Why Hummingbirds May Sometimes Visit Celosia
Source of Nectar
Like other flowers that need to attract pollinators, Celosia flowers produce nectar as a sweet treat to lure in pollinators like bees, butterflies, and pollinating birds such as hummingbirds.
When grown in warm temperatures and plenty of sun, Celosia can produce fairly significant amounts of nectar, meaning that passing hummingbirds will sometimes stop off to feed on their blooms.
As well as being a source of nectar for hummingbirds, Celosia displays some of the brightest, most vibrant colors of any garden plant. Bright flowers work like shining beacons to pollinators, advertising the plant’s promise of a sweet, nectar-rich reward.
Hummingbirds are particularly fond of the color red, which is one of the most popular colors for ornamental Celosias.
Are Red Celosia More Popular With Hummingbirds?
Because hummingbirds seem especially drawn to red flowers, you might be wondering if red Celosia cultivars are the best choice to attract hummingbirds.
The answer is that choosing red varieties could help, but it’s not the only factor.
Scientists studying hummingbird preference for color discovered that it’s the quantity of nectar and not the attractive flower color that makes the biggest difference to a hummingbird’s feeding preference.
How To Grow Celosias
Celosias have a reputation for being one the easiest plants to grow in tropical regions. To do well in temperate climates, they need warm temperatures and moist but not waterlogged soil.
Because Celosias are frost-tender, all species need to be treated as annual flowers in temperate regions. Either sow seeds on a warm windowsill or propagator in spring at 70-75°F, or buy seedlings from a nursery. Note that seedlings may grow very slowly before the weather warms up!
Plant out Celosias in warm, sheltered flower beds that receive at least 6-8 hours of sun per day. The colorful flowers look particularly stunning when arranged in bold drifts with lots of plants grown close together.
When they’ve finished flowering, Celosias will begin dying back to the ground. At this point, they can either be dug up and composted, or allowed to stand to provide seeds and shelter for wildlife over the autumn and winter.
Can Celosia Be Grown in Pots and Containers?
As well as growing well in flower beds, Celosias can be grown in pots, containers, and window boxes, as long as they receive enough sun.
It can be especially rewarding getting hummingbirds to visit containers right beside your backdoor or window, but there are some better species for this purpose.
One of the best container plants for attracting hummingbirds even in shady positions is Impatiens, a plant we explore more fully in this article.
Other Flowers That Attract Hummingbirds
While hummingbirds may occasionally stop off to forage on Celosia blooms, there are plenty of better flowers to attract the elusive winged jewels to your backyard!
Here are some of the very best flowers for hummingbirds:
- Cardinal flowers – The striking red color of the cardinal flower appears to have evolved alongside ruby-throated hummingbirds for the perfect pollination partnership. Find out more here!
- Columbine – Elegant, edible, trumpet-shaped flowers that are rich in nectar. A short-lived plant that will often self-seed around the garden.
- Salvias (true sages) – The violet-blue flower spikes of salvia are a magnet for all kinds of pollinators, providing nectar over a long season.
- Butterfly Bush (Buddleia) – One of the ultimate shrubs for attracting pollinators. Its fragrant flowers also offer a subtle honey aroma to passers-by.
- Fuschias – Prolific and exotic-looking red flowering shrubs. Most species evolved alongside hummingbirds in South America.
- Lupins – Grow well in poor soils and offer an early source of nectar before many other plants have begun flowering.
- Bee Balm – Bee balm or Monarda is a beautiful member of the mint family. Its red, tubular, nectar-rich flowers can be eaten, and the whole plant can be used for tea.
- Petunia – A popular choice for good reason. Few flowers bloom for as long as petunia. They’re also perfect for hanging baskets.
- Zinnia – Zinnia are brightly colored and grow fairly tall, making them a perfect match for hummingbirds!
Are Flowers or Feeders Better for Hummingbirds?
Aside from growing flowers, another way to attract hummingbirds to your garden is to offer them a hummingbird feeder. But which is better for the birds?
The answer is complex. While hummingbird feeders certainly provide a popular fueling station for hungry hummers, some people argue that hummingbirds have evolved to feed on plant nectar rather than sugar syrup.
On the other hand, many parts of North America are now deprived of the native plants that hummingbirds would have naturally thrived on. The unpredictable weather we’ve seen in recent years only adds to the uncertainty of sufficient nectar sources.
Perhaps the answer is to provide both feeders and flowers for the hummingbirds, to ensure they always have enough. Whichever way you decide to go, it will always be beneficial to add some more wildflowers to your garden to attract hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies.
Why Native Plants Are Important for Hummingbirds
Planting exotic types of flowers like Celosia to attract hummingbirds is a good way to increase diversity in the garden, but the most beneficial plants for hummers are usually native species.
Native flowers are excellent for hummingbirds because the plants and birds have evolved together over thousands of years. Since hummingbirds don’t occur away from the Americas, plants from other continents haven’t often developed the ideal qualities that hummingbirds are looking for.
Additionally, native plants support a much higher number of insect species than foreign plants. Insects are important to hummingbirds, because as well as nectar, these winged jewels feed heavily upon invertebrates such as bugs, mites, midges, mosquitoes, and spiders for protein.
If you want to provide a rich protein supply as well as a nectar-rich garden for hummers, then be sure to plant plenty of native flowers. Some of the best native perennials for hummingbirds are:
Eastern Columbine, Turtlehead, Blazing star, Cardinal Flower, Blue Lobelia, Wild Lupine, Virginia bluebells, Monarda species, Beards Tongue, False Dragonhead, Bowman’s Root, and Wild Petunias are among a few of the dozens of excellent native flowers for hummingbirds.
A Native Wildflower Meadow
Perhaps the very best habitat to attract and support hummingbirds is a wildflower meadow. Even if you only have a small backyard, planting a small area of wildflowers can do wonders for native birds, as well as insects, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals.
A great way to establish a wildflower meadow is to sow seeds on bare ground on poor-quality soil. In these conditions, wildflowers are likely to outcompete grasses and bloom heavily.
Nowadays, several seed companies have made it easier than ever to choose the right wildflowers for hummingbirds by putting together specially selected mixtures of wildflower seeds to attract hummingbirds.
Last update on 2023-12-10 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
The bright flame-like flowers of Celosia are sometimes visited by hummingbirds as a source of nectar, but there are plenty of better hummingbird plant species out there.
Some of the very best species of flowering plants for hummingbirds are native wildflowers, and these tend to be better for other wild animals, too.
To discover even more beautiful flowers that are loved by hummingbirds, check out our dedicated guide to hummingbird plants, here.