Every year during hummingbird season, fans of these delightful little birds eagerly await their arrival.
Many of us even consider hummingbirds and their preferences when we plant our gardens and create our landscaping. Flowers in pots and containers, beautifully mulched landscaping areas, and flowerbeds in the front and back yard can all be designed to maximize hummingbird activity.
Feeders are great, but hummingbird gardens are even better.
The number one reason why hummingbirds would want to visit a particular flower is whether or not it has enough nectar. If a plant is full of nectar, hummingbirds are going to be far more interested in it! That’s why hummingbirds prefer flowers like pentas and trumpet vines over low-nectar blooms like daisies and roses.
What Are Pentas?
What about pentas? This popular garden flower is pretty, but is it also a good way to attract hummingbirds?
Pentas are native to Africa and the Middle East, but they are also grown in the US. They can be grown as an annual anywhere that has hot summers, but they are only successful as perennials in the USDA Hardiness Zones 10 and 11, which include:
- South Florida (Zone 10)
- Southeast California (Zone 10)
- Southern Texas (Zone 10)
- Most of Hawaii (Zone 10)
- Florida Keys (Zone 11)
- Most of Hawaii’s Big Island (Zone 11)
Pentas have star-shaped flowers that group together in bright blooms. Their coloring is red, lavender, white, or pink.
They can grow 18-36 inches in height.
Are Hummingbirds Attracted to Pentas?
Absolutely! Pentas are a lovely addition to any garden, and of course, they help to draw in our hummingbird friends. Hummingbirds love pentas because they are a great source of nectar, and their star-shaped tubular blooms are a perfect fit for the bird’s tiny tongues.
Let’s explore why pentas are such a popular choice for these energetic tiny birds.
What Makes Pentas So Appealing to Hummingbirds?
Pentas are warm-season annuals that produce brightly colored, star-shaped flowers in shades of red, pink, purple, and white. They bloom abundantly throughout the summer and add a tropical flair to any garden.
An important fact about pentas is they bloom prolifically during summer, providing a vital source of food for hummingbirds after spring flowers have faded. This summertime nourishment is crucial because fewer flowers are available after the spring blooms fade.
Hummingbirds have an extremely fast metabolism and must consume up to half of their total body weight in nectar each day, spread out over multiple feedings. This is why they will visit 1000-2000 flowers each day!
Hummingbirds can lick up to 15-20 times per second with their specialized long tongues. The tubular star shape of a penta’s bloom is perfectly designed to match a hummingbird’s long, slender beak!
Additionally, pentas produce an abundance of energy-rich, sugary nectar that helps satisfy a hummingbird’s extreme nutritional needs throughout the breeding season and before migration.
The nectar content and quantity of blooms are ideally suited to a hummingbird’s digestion and high energy requirements in summer.
Do Other Pollinators Like Visiting Pentas Too?
Yes, pentas also attract a range of pollinators in addition to hummingbirds. Bees, butterflies, moths, and other insects are likewise drawn to the sweet, abundant nectar inside the tubular pentas flowers.
Planting flowers specifically for pollinators is a great strategy for any gardener, as our ecosystems are healthier when we have plenty of pollinating going on!
Often, hummingbirds and butterflies are attracted to the same flowers, thanks to the presence of nectar. However, hummingbirds prefer that tubular shape for their long noses, whereas butterflies can’t dip quite as deep with their proboscis.
The good news is that if you plant a hummingbird-friendly garden, you will often encounter other pollinators, too. We always recommend that you don’t use insecticides if you are growing a hummingbird garden because this could affect the hummingbirds negatively. It also lowers the availability of the insects that make up a large part of their diet. Getting rid of other pollinators just to enjoy hummingbirds is not a good strategy at all.
How to Grow Your Own Pentas To Attract Hummingbirds
Pentas are a beloved warm-season annual that adds tropical flair and color to the garden. Let’s explore how to plant these blooms to benefit your garden — and attract more hummingbirds, of course!
Choosing the Right Pentas Varieties
Some top pentas varieties that hummingbirds love include:
Graffiti Series: Well-branched, richly colored blooms in pink, red, lavender, rose, and white. Grows 12-16 inches tall.
Lucky Star Series: Vibrant, lush flowers in pink, red, lavender, rose, white. Quick reblooming. Grows 12-16 inches tall.
Butterfly Pentas: Abundant nectar. Grows 18-24 inches tall. Received Mississippi Medallion Award.
How to Plant and Grow Pentas
Here are tips for growing pentas:
- Start seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before planting outdoors after the danger of frost has passed. Transplant seedlings 12-15 inches apart.
- Pentas need full sun (at least 6 hours of direct sun per day) and well-drained soil. Amend soil with compost.
- Water plants regularly, allowing soil to dry slightly between waterings. Too much moisture can cause issues.
- Avoid high nitrogen fertilizers, as this produces foliage over flowers. Use a balanced fertilizer.
- Pinch off spent blooms to encourage continual flowering into fall. Deadhead routinely.
- In pots, allow the soil to dry between waterings. Move containers to a sunny area outdoors.
What Else Do Hummingbirds Like?
In addition to pentas, hummingbirds also enjoy these nectar-rich flowers:
- trumpet vine
- butterfly bush
- bee balm
- cardinal flower
Plant a mix of these flowers in your garden to attract hummingbirds based on your region. Supplement with clean feeders.
Enjoy the Magic of Pentas and Hummingbirds
With the proper flowers like pentas and feeders, you’ll soon enjoy the aerial acrobatics of hummingbirds in your yard. Their swift flight, hovering at blooms, and shimmery feathers make them a joy to watch. Pentas provide essential nourishment that will entice hummers to visit!
A Few More Tips for Attracting Hummingbirds to Your Yard
We’re not quite done yet! Let’s leave you with a few more tips to attract hummingbirds to your yard!
- Provide food for the entire season, not just one part of the season. If you’re going to put out feeders, be sure to fill them consistently. If you are depending on a garden to attract hummingbirds, choose a variety of flowers that will provide blooms all season.
- Use hummingbird feeders with your own homemade nectar solution: four parts water to one part sugar. Don’t use red dye, as there are concerns regarding the safety of red food coloring. Replace the solution every 3-5 days. You may need to replace the sugar water more frequently during hot weather.
- Keep your feeders clean! Hummingbirds won’t continue to visit dirty, sticky, and dead-bug-infested feeders.
- Provide perches. Some hummingbirds like to perch on swings and other perches like branches and twigs. This allows them to rest briefly, preen, and avoid bad weather.
- Don’t forget about water sources. Hummingbirds need clean water for drinking and bathing. Install a shallow birdbath or mister in your garden to make it more hospitable.
- Avoid pesticides, which can harm hummingbirds and decimate the insects they need for their diets.
- Research which plants are native to your area. Native plants are more attractive to local species than invasive plants.
- Maintain a peaceful environment. Hummingbirds may be more likely to visit a calm, quiet garden that is free from loud noises and sudden movements. If you have active kids and pets, consider planting your hummingbird garden in a quieter part of your property.
- Keep housecats indoors! Cats are a real threat to hummingbirds.
- Be patient, as it may take some time for hummingbirds to discover your garden.
Whether you plant pentas and other flowers, use feeders, or combine feeders and flowers to create an ideal environment, if you put some effort into your garden area, you should be able to see hummingbirds soon!