Although hummingbirds are famously drawn to red, don’t be fooled. They love all kinds of flowers in all kinds of colors. Trumpet vines, lantana, and salvia are just as effective as honeysuckle and bee balm. The trick is to create an environment that’s layered with a variety of heights and textures; a mix of perennial, seasonal, vine and shrub plants will not only make it appealing to you but to the birds around you as well.
Many plants that draw hummingbirds also draw butterflies, but many others – like the aptly-named butterfly bush, milkweed and marigold – are preferred more by butterflies than birds. Butterflies also like fairly protected areas, so a few taller plants or a small tree will likely increase their number and frequency. You may also want to consider a few host plants like mustard greens or hollyhocks to support butterfly eggs and caterpillars.
It may seem like a good idea to plant trumpet vines all over the yard, but if everything blooms at once, it’s going to be a relatively short garden party. Having plants with overlapping blooming periods means you’ll be hosting more guests for a longer period of time. If there are columbines blooming early, trumpet vines blooming in the summer, and hummingbird mint offering nectar into the fall, you’ll be making new winged friends for months.
There are a handful of fairly common plants that are favorites of hummingbirds and butterflies, but there isn’t an effective one-size-fits-all approach. For maximum effect with minimum effort, take some time to chat with a few people from your local nursery, garden club, or Audubon chapter about what works well where you live, especially regarding native plants. Native plants are generally low maintenance, since they’re already adapted to local climate and conditions, and the bird and butterfly species in your area already depend on – and are drawn to – native vegetation.
Ask around, add a few different plants at a time, and soon you’ll be enjoying the hum of wings and splashes of color outside your windows or out on your patio with increasing regularity. And if someone asks you why there are always butterflies in your yard, tell them it’s not by chance. It’s by design.