Having a flower-filled garden is wonderful for hummingbirds. But not all flowers attract and benefit these birds equally.
If you are looking for hummingbird-friendly flowers, geraniums will not be at the top of the list. But like most other flowers, they can often be beneficial as part of a wildlife-friendly garden. While they won’t be a hummingbird favorite, they can still bring certain benefits, and native geranium species can be great options to add to the list.
Read on to find out why Geraniums are not necessarily the best option for hummingbirds but can still benefit these birds. Find out some of the best native Geraniums to consider, why natives are best, and other flowers you might like to plant in your hummingbird-friendly garden.
Why Geraniums Are Not Necessarily The Best Flowers for Hummingbirds
Hummingbirds tend to favor flowers that offer them plenty of nectar. Geraniums will produce nectar, of course, but not in such high quantities as many other flowering plants.
Hybrid types and double flowering cultivars (which include many Geraniums and Pelargoniums grown in gardens) are often bred to be attractive to people, not wildlife.
The Geranium flower shape, which is typically flat and open, is not shaped perfectly for your feathered friends. Hummingbirds prefer flowers with a tubular form into which their beaks and tongues can easily slip to sup on the nectar inside.
When we use the term ‘Geranium’ in gardening, we are strictly talking about flowering plants in the Geranium genus. However, confusion arises because many people also refer to plants within the Pelargonium genus as ‘geraniums.’
But whether we are talking about true hardy Geraniums or Pelargoniums, these plants also bloom relatively close to the ground.
Hummingbirds won’t always fly so low when looking for nectar. So these plants may go unnoticed by these birds, who will pass on to more show-stopping species better suited in their form and nectar production.
Another reason why many Geraniums don’t stand out to hummingbirds is that hummingbirds are most attracted to red or bright orange blooms.
Geraniums (and Pelargoniums) come in a range of shades and colors – red included. But many of these plants and their cultivars are not colored to attract these amazing birds.
Why Geraniums Can Still Be Useful in a Hummingbird-Friendly Garden
While Geraniums won’t be the top attraction for hummingbirds visiting your garden, hummingbirds may well still be seen visiting them from time to time. Gardeners often see hummingbirds around spring-blooming Geraniums when migratory species first arrive.
Though it is unlikely that hummingbirds will preferentially seek them out for their nectar, they can provide a native source of nectar – especially in the springtime when Wild Cranesbill and other Geranium species are in bloom.
However, it is also important to remember that nectar is not the only thing hummingbirds eat.
Nectar provides a hummingbird with most of the energy it needs. But to remain healthy, hummingbirds need protein and other nutrients, too. So, in addition to sipping nectar, hummingbirds eat a range of insects.
They will eat a wide variety of small insects. A garden with plenty of small insects for hummingbirds to eat will also be good for these birds.
Many insects love Geraniums and will frequently congregate around them. So, by attracting plenty of insect life to your garden, these flowers can help hummingbirds.
When planning a hummingbird-friendly garden, selecting as diverse a range of plants as possible is essential. The planting schemes you choose should provide nectar and attract beneficial insects and other wildlife.
They should encourage a broad range of smaller pollinators and other beneficial garden visitors. So, Geraniums can often be a great flowering plant to add to the mix.
Flowers like Geraniums, which attract small insects to your garden, can benefit gardeners in other ways. They attract hummingbirds to eat the insects and a host of other insect-eating wildlife. They can help maintain the natural balance in your garden and help you manage pests organically in your space.
Which Geraniums Should You Choose?
To create a hummingbird-friendly garden in the United States, native plants are always the top plant options.
While non-native, exotic species will also attract hummingbirds and ensure that there is plenty of food for these birds, native species are best adapted to your area and will benefit the birds that reside or spend time in your state.
Native plants will often be the best for a place – reducing water needs, enhancing overall fertility and ecological balance, and ensuring that your space teems with life.
Pelargoniums, which gardeners call Geraniums, are mostly tender plants native to South Africa. But many hardy Geraniums, also called Cranesbills, are native to North America.
Native Geraniums the Grow in the US
Some US native Geraniums to consider include:
- Geranium maculatum – native to most of the eastern half of the United States
- Geranium carolinianum – native to eastern North America, from New England south to Central Mexico and along the east coast
- Geranium erianthum – native to some of western North America
- Geranium caespitosum – native to Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming
- Geranium oreganum – native to western North America from California to Alberta
- Geranium californicum – native to the Californian Sierras
While you might also grow a wide range of non-native Geraniums or Pelargonium in your garden, these and other native species are the best options if you want to attract and welcome native wildlife – including hummingbirds – to your space.
The key to creating a garden attractive to hummingbirds and many other insects and birds is to plant a diverse backbone of the native plants they depend on for survival.
You should always pay attention to the bloom times, adding flowers for each season so that nectar is always available.
Are Other Native Flowers Good for Hummingbirds?
Depending on where you live, you will find a range of native flowers to fill your garden with nectar and small insects for hummingbirds to eat.
Native spring bulbs and perennials like Phlox varietals, Penstemons, Verbena, and Silene, and many shrub and tree species are also great to welcome hummingbirds in spring.
Milkweeds, Echinaceas, Monardas, Helianthus, Silene and Liatris ssp., native honeysuckles, and trumpet creepers are just some of the best hummingbird-friendly blooms for the summer months.
And as fall approaches, cardinal flowers, turtlehead, obedient plant, and jewelweed are other great hummingbird-friendly plants to consider if they are native to your area.
Remember, too, that hummingbirds need more than just a meal to feel at home in your garden. They need places to perch and water to bathe in and cool themselves down in summer. Where possible, you should include plenty of trees and shrubs in your space to provide hummingbirds, other birds, and other wildlife with shelter and habitat throughout the year.