Planting the right flowers for your garden can determine which hummingbirds visit or reside in your area. But which blossoms should you choose? Marigolds are popular flowers with gardeners, but are they the best choice for a hummingbird-friendly garden?
Understanding this can help you develop a healthy and resilient ecosystem in the area you live. We invite you to read on in order to determine whether or not including marigolds in your garden is the right option.
Do hummingbirds like marigolds? Are they attracted to this popular flower?
The truth is that if you are keen to attract hummingbirds to your space, marigolds are not necessarily the best choice. While they may be charming additions to your garden, they are not particularly interesting to these beautiful birds.
However, this does not mean that they won’t be beneficial in attracting other wildlife.
Why Are Hummingbirds Not Particularly Drawn to Marigolds?
Hummingbirds are most attracted to bright flowers that are rich in nectar, and marigolds don’t top the charts when it comes to nectar production.
Furthermore, while marigolds do produce some nectar, they don’t have a flower shape suited to these birds. Hummingbirds have long bills and tongues, and prefer to feed on flowers that are long, tubular or trumpet-like in shape.
When looking for the nectar which makes up a large proportion of their diet, hummingbirds are particularly drawn to beautiful blooms that produce a lot of nectar, and plants with flowers they can insert their bills and tongues into.
In addition to high nectar volume, hummingbirds’ favorite plants are red. While there are marigolds in reddish and orange hues, they don’t have the amount of nectar or optimal flower shape.
Thus, they likely will not be the best choice for a source of nectar.
Why Marigolds Might Still Be a Good Addition to a Hummingbird-Friendly Garden
Marigolds can still be beneficial in a garden because they draw in certain small insects. And hummingbirds need those insects for protein and other nutrients.
The colorful flowers often lure in small insects like aphids and other sap-suckers, as well as other small insects that make up part of a hummingbird’s diet. But don’t worry, marigolds also draw in predatory wildlife that eat these pests, thus keeping the numbers down.
Hummingbirds don’t like to share their food sources with insect pollinators in larger numbers, but will often visit the area and snap up insects in mid-air.
Marigolds also attract other pollinators, like bees, so the blooms can be beneficial in boosting the overall biodiversity in your garden, as well as making sure that there are insects for hummingbirds to eat.
Other Reasons Marigolds Might Be a Good Addition to Your Garden
In addition to attracting insects, marigolds are also known for repelling certain pest species. This means that they can be a good companion plant for a range of crops in your vegetable garden.
However, whether or not marigolds are effective in pest control (such as killing nematodes in the soil, for example) will depend on the species present in your particular garden, as well as the specific variety of marigolds you choose to grow.
Which Marigolds Should You Consider Growing?
When we mention marigolds, we are usually talking about members of the Tagetes genus. These plants are native to South and Central America, and sometimes grow naturally in the southwestern United States as well as South America.
The so-called “French marigold,” Tagetes patula, are native to Central and Southern America and can be particularly beneficial as an annual companion plant in your vegetable garden.
Tagetes erecta—sometimes erroneously referred to as the “African marigold” and its cultivars are also popular garden plants.
Tagetes Lucida is grown in Mexico as a culinary herb and used as a tarragon substitute in some southern states. The fragrant petals of Tagetes minuta in South America are also used as a culinary herb.
Another beautiful plant for companion planting in a vegetable garden is the European native, Calendula officinalis—it’s often referred to as “pot marigold.”
While you do not have to steer clear of non-native species altogether, choosing native plants is typically best for a hummingbird and wildlife-friendly garden.
Enter: The Baileya multiradiata. It is native to desert areas in the southwest and can be found in California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico and Texas.
There is also Caltha palustris, the “marsh marigold,” native to many wet and woodland regions in the temperate northern hemisphere. It can be found from Newfoundland to Alaska, Nebraska, Tennessee and North Carolina.
The Best Flowers for a Hummingbird-Friendly Garden
Choose flowers that have bright colors like orange or red, and offer plenty of nectar in tubular or trumpet-shaped flowers. Hummingbirds need bugs, so plant native species that attract plenty of insect life too.
Try to choose a variety of flowers with fluted blooms that are in season as much of the year as possible. Also, think about plants that flower in spring—this is when migrating hummingbirds first arrive.
But always make sure the plants will thrive in your area’s growing conditions.
Finally, variety is key. Boosting biodiversity through the gorgeous plants that you choose will help you maintain a resilient and wildlife-friendly garden that will attract plenty of our favorite tiny birds.