Not all flowers are popular with hummingbirds, including many that are extremely popular with gardeners across the globe.
Roses, marigolds, and tulips are staples in gardens across places with ample hummingbirds, including North America, but they’re unlikely to be pollinated often by hummingbirds.
Hummingbirds seek fragrant flowers with a high sugar and nectar content, which often includes red, tubular flowers, though they’ll visit anything that can provide them with the sweet nectar they need to meet their high metabolic needs.
According to the Peony Society, the sugar concentration of peonies ranged from 20 to 30 percent, “within the range desired by insect nectar feeders.” With that nectar concentration, peonies could supply food to hummingbirds, but it’s just not as likely for these nectar-feeding birds to stop at a peony as it is for them to stop at other flowers.
They’re often seen at long flowers for which their long bills are perfect, but they also feed from short flowers. And while they’re known to like red flowers, they’ll visit many bright colors, including pink, white, and purple flowers as they move from flower to flower in search of sustenance.
What Are Peonies?
Peonies are flowering plants in the Paeonia genus. There are apparently questions about how many species belong to that genus, but the American Peony Society takes the count of Hong De-Yuan, who listed 33 species with 15 subspecies.
Most peony species are native to Asia and Europe, but there are two species of peonies native to North America. Given the importance of native plants, these two species are highly recommended if you’re interested in planting peonies in your garden and you’re within their range.
Those two species are Paeonia brownii and Paeonia californica. The latter has a limited range in southern California and Mexico, but the former has a slightly wider range across western states from California, Washington, and Oregon inland to Nevada, Utah, and Idaho.
Peonies have large, colorful flowers that come in every color except blue, according to Better Homes & Gardens.
They’re perennial plants quite popular with gardeners for their colorful, early blooms, but are they hummingbirds’ favorites?
What Flowers Should You Plant for Hummingbirds?
Ultimately, peonies aren’t making many lists of hummingbirds’ favorite flowers, but that doesn’t mean your peonies won’t receive any visits from hummingbirds.
Hummingbirds have one thing on their minds when they’re flying through the air, and it’s food. While most of a hummer’s diet is actually insects or spiders, nectar makes up a significant portion of their high-energy diets. They’re looking for which flowers they believe will give them the most nectar for the least amount of work.
Often, that turns them to plants like cardinal flower, beebalm, hummingbird trumpet, columbine, and other tubular flowers, but hummingbirds are often seen visiting flowers that don’t quite fit the typical mold.
A hummingbird’s preference for other flowers shouldn’t disqualify peonies from earning a spot in your flower beds, but if you’re looking to plant a flower garden with the specific intention of attracting hummingbirds, here are some native plants that are sure to be hummingbird magnets.
- Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis)
- Trumpet honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens)
- Scarlet beebalm (Monarda didyma)
- Wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)
- Fire pink (Silene virginica)
- Indian paintbrush (Castilleja coccinea)
- Blue sage (Salvia azurea)
- Western columbine (Aquilegia formosa) or eastern columbine (Aquilegia canadensis)
- Fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium)
- Mountain larkspur (Delphinium glaucum)
- Hummingbird trumpet (Epilobium canum)
- Golden currant (Ribes aureum)
- Canada lily (Lilium canadense) or tiger lily (Lilium lancifolium)
- Wild lupine (Lupinus perennis)
- Trumpet vine (Campsis radicans)
What About Other Pollinators and Wildlife?
Blooming in late spring, peonies have the potential to attract insect pollinators like bees and butterflies, given their nectar concentration, as mentioned earlier.
Peonies have one benefit for gardeners who have problems with deer and other wildlife. According to the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station from Rutgers University, peonies are “rarely damaged” by deer.
Some other popular flowers like tulips find themselves in the “frequently severely damaged” category, which can certainly cause some disappointment from backyard gardeners.
While it’s not to say that they’ll never be bothered by wildlife, peonies are also known to be rabbit-resistant given their poor taste.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Flowers Do Hummingbirds Like the Most?
It’s impossible to say one plant that hummingbirds like most above all others, but hummingbirds are often believed to have a heightened sensitivity to the vibrant colors red, orange, and yellow, and they’re known to frequent the nectar-rich blooms of tubular flowers.
Ultimately, hummingbirds are in search of the most food for the least amount of work. That doesn’t always mean red tubular flowers, but it often does.
Do Peonies Grow Better in the Sun or Shade?
Peonies require a lot of sun. While they may be able to tolerate partial shade, they typically grow best in full sunlight, according to Chateau CharMarron Peony Gardens.
Do Peonies Need Lots of Water?
Chateau CharMarron suggests watering peonies right after you plant them and says that during the spring months, they’re likely to have enough moisture. Water them if it has been several weeks since it last rained.