We love hummingbirds here at Wild Bird Scoop!
And we think most of our readers love hummingbirds, too. When you’re designing a garden, landscape, or hummingbird feeder area, you want to make sure that you include a display of flowers and artificial feeders that will actually attract these beloved backyard visitors.
Most people know that bright red flowers and red features on hummingbird feeders are the most likely to attract hummingbirds. But does that mean that they love all red flowers, or that they won’t visit other kinds of flowers at all? And what about roses, which come in many different colors? Do hummingbirds like roses, and will they visit your rose garden?
Hummingbirds Need Nectar
The most important detail about what hummingbirds are drawn to is this: they need nectar.
Hummingbirds’ diets are made up of two things: insects and nectar. Insects give them protein, but nectar gives them the carbohydrates they need to fuel their very fast metabolism.
Flowers with bright, tubular blooms tend to have more nectar, which is why hummingbirds go to them. When you “disguise” your feeder like a red flower by including red decorative elements, you are taking advantage of that instinct to go toward red things.
Even though hummingbirds are attracted to the color red, roses may not be their preferred plants for gathering nectar.
Roses actually produce very little nectar compared to other plants. For example, trumpet vines, bee balm, and Fuschia plants all offer more nectar content than roses. Their tubular shape is also really easy for hummingbirds to access with their long tongues, as opposed to roses.
Hummingbirds depend on nectar for energy. Their high metabolic rate means that they must visit hundreds — or even thousands — of flowers daily. While roses don’t contribute significant nectar to a hungry hummingbird, their bright blooms may still catch a hummingbird’s attention every once in a while. Upon realizing that the rose offers little nourishment, the hummingbird will likely move on.
Popular Rose Types and Colors
These are some of the popular roses that hummingbirds might visit in your garden. Note that they are much more likely to visit red and orange roses than yellow or white ones.
- Hybrid tea roses: Classic large-headed blooms in a range of colors from crimson red to yellow, orange, pink, cream, and white
- Floribunda roses: Produce clusters of smaller brightly colored flowers
- Grandiflora roses: Prized for their exceptionally large and fragrant blooms
- Climbing roses: Blooms in diverse colors on vines trained up structures
- Miniature roses: Compact varieties producing delicate bright flowers
- Knockout shrub roses: Repeat blooming landscape roses in bright red, pink, yellow, and white
While vibrant red roses stand out, all colorful varieties may attract hummingbirds visually. But again, roses offer minimal nectar rewards.
Understanding the Nectar Content in Flowers
In 2022, Susan W. Nicholson wrote an insightful overview of the nectar content in different flowers and how flowers produce nectar. Let’s learn from what she wrote and apply it to hummingbirds!
She explains that nectar is a complex and dynamic secretion containing sugars as the major solutes. It provides energy in the form of three dominant sugars: sucrose, glucose, and fructose.
Sucrose gets transported from the leaves and is broken down to varying extents into glucose and fructose by invertase enzymes in the nectary. This process determines the relative proportions of the three main sugars. The sugar profile affects the nectar concentration, and nectar sugar content can be estimated by measuring concentration.
Nicholson explains that nectar also contains amino acids, lipids, organic acids, minerals, and other minor metabolites, though at much lower levels than the main sugars (this is another reason why nectar is an important part of a balanced diet for hummingbirds). The presence of these non-sugar compounds modifies pollinator behavior and contributes to nectar flavor. Some have nutritional or medicinal benefits for pollinators.
What Does This Mean for Hummingbirds?
The nectar content depends strongly on flower morphology and species. Not all flowers produce the same amount of nectar! Nectar is produced and secreted in different amounts and concentrations by specialized nectary tissues. Tubular flowers with slender openings hold more concentrated nectar. They are adapted for pollinators like hummingbirds that can access them with their long beaks.
Other hummingbird favorites such as bee balm, penstemon, fuchsia, and columbine also outperform roses when it comes to nutritional nectar.
Frequently Asked Questions
Let’s take a look at some of the most frequently asked questions about hummingbirds, roses, flowers, and more.
Do Hummingbirds Like Knockout Roses?
While bright red knockout roses attract hummingbirds, they offer minimal nectar rewards. Knockout roses don’t produce much nectar compared to other hummingbird-adapted flowers.
What Flowers Do Hummingbirds Prefer Over Roses?
Growing native plants with colorful, tubular vines is best. Of course, what you grow will depend on where you are! In the US, these are some of the most popular hummingbird recommendations, based on geographic region:
|West Coast:||California fuchsia|
These tubular-shaped flowers with high nectar content are strongly preferred by hummingbirds over roses. They rely on any flowers with higher sugar concentrations.
Do Hummingbirds Damage Rose Bushes?
No, hummingbirds do not damage plants when feeding on nectar. Their long slender beaks allow them to extract nectar without harming the flower.
How Can I Attract Hummingbirds to My Yard or Garden?
While roses alone won’t satisfy their nectar needs, planting roses among other hummingbird flowers creates an attractive feeding habitat.
Drifts of bee balm, clusters of fuchsia and columbine, and trumpet vine stands complement rose beds. Providing a continuous bloom sequence through the seasons is key to attracting hummingbirds. If your garden only blooms in the spring, they probably won’t stick around all year long! Or they may choose to find a different garden next year that provides blooms throughout the summer and fall.
Hummingbird feeders also help supplement their nectar diet. A homemade nectar solution of one part sugar to four parts water provides energy. Change the nectar every few days to prevent spoilage. With a well-stocked feeder and a diverse range of tubular flowers, colorful roses can be the icing on the cake in a hummingbird-friendly garden.
Hummingbirds and Roses: Our Final Word
In short, what we’ve learned is that hummingbirds are drawn to bright red roses visually.
But the roses’ minimal nectar content means hummingbirds soon move on to more rewarding tubular flowers adapted to their needs.
While roses alone won’t satisfy hungry hummingbirds, they can add ornamental beauty to a garden designed to attract these special and beautiful birds.