Do Hummingbirds Like Petunias?


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Their tiny size combined with their colorful exteriors and impeccable flying skills makes hummingbirds a joy to watch. But these busy little birds are also valuable pollinators, so growing a flower garden that hummingbirds will love just makes sense! Not every flower has what it takes to capture a hummingbird’s attention, though. So do hummingbirds like petunias?

Hummingbirds love petunias! These trumpet-shaped flowers are excellent nectar producers, and because each plant makes so many blooms, hummingbirds can stick around and feed on them for quite a while. 

Why do hummingbirds like to feed on petunias?

Hummingbirds have the highest mass-specific metabolic rates of any vertebrate. Their metabolic rate is about 100 times that of an elephant. When you consider the fact that they flap their wings 53 times per second, it’s no wonder they use so much energy! 

And because they expend a great deal of energy, hummingbirds are always just a few hours away from starving to death. They need food almost constantly. When they do slow down and take a rest, they actually enter a state of torpor, which means they reduce their metabolisms in order to conserve their energy. If you’ve ever seen a hummingbird hanging upside down from one of your feeders, that’s exactly what they were doing.

Now, hummingbirds are able to meet their protein needs by eating insects, such as mosquitoes, flies, and aphids. But that’s just not enough. They need plenty of carbohydrates for quick energy, and they get that from nectar. 

Hummingbirds need to visit hundreds of flowers every single day to get the nectar they need to survive. So, as you can imagine, plants that produce multiple nectar-rich blooms are incredibly valuable to them. This is where petunias come into play. This perennial plant, native to South America, produces dozens of blooms every season, and they come in a variety of vibrant colors that hummingbirds can’t resist.

Petunias are eye-catching flowers that easily attract a hummingbird’s attention. But they also have what it takes to keep hummingbirds coming back for more. Each flower has a small well of nectar resting deep inside the bloom. With their long tubular bills, hummingbirds can reach that nectar easily and will flock to petunia plants in droves for a chance to feed on them. 

Do other pollinators like petunias, too?

Funnily enough, petunias also attract a hummingbird look-alike called the hummingbird moth. These pink, brown, and black striped moths hover over flowers in a way that resembles hummingbirds more than other moths. And their large size means they’re frequently mistaken for the birds who are their namesake. Other moths can be found inspecting petunias plants as well. Even though we may not consider moths when we think of pollinating insects, they enjoy a good flower as much as the next bug. 

Their steady supply of nectar makes petunias a popular choice for butterflies as well. Butterflies can easily reach far into petunia flowers with their long proboscises to feed on the nectar. And, like hummingbirds, they’re drawn to the brightly-colored blooms. 

You’re sure to attract many of these beautiful pollinators to your garden when you plant petunias. But butterflies, like most other pollinators, enjoy visiting a variety of flowers. Hibiscus and pansies are two low-maintenance plants that butterflies love. They look just gorgeous when planted with petunias, and they’ll boost your chances of bringing butterflies to your garden

Petunias are an ample source of pollen as well as nectar. As such, they may attract bees and other buzzing insects eager to snack on their nutritious pollen. However, because the flowers themselves are so deep, it’s actually difficult for bees to fit into them to get to the nectar, so they may prefer to visit other flowers instead. Petunias can play an important role in a bee-friendly garden. But they should be planted alongside bee-favorite flowers like sunflowers, salvias, and peonies

Do hummingbirds like some petunias better than others?

We know how critical nectar is to a little hummingbird’s survival. But how is a hummingbird able to tell which flowers are nectar jackpots and which ones are total duds? A flower’s fragrance is what signals to a hummingbird that it’s rich in nectar. The more fragrant the flower, the more nectar it has in it. This is the number one factor in catching a hummingbird’s interest. You need lots of flowers that smell really strongly. 

The second thing a flower must have to grab a hummingbird’s attention is a bright color. These little birds move so fast that they can miss a lot of what’s going on around them. So high visibility isn’t just important, it’s absolutely necessary. Vivid blooms in shades of red, orange, pink, purple, and blue are easy for hummingbirds to spot as they zoom through your garden. 

When planting petunias to attract hummingbirds, you must choose varieties that are both fragrant and colorful. Hybrid petunias may come in flashy colors, but they’re poor nectar producers, and the hummingbirds know it. Most of these cultivars are disappointingly odorless as well. When planted among non-hybrid flowers, you may catch a hummingbird visiting them every so often. But all in all, these ornamental flowers are pretty useless. 

If you want to plant petunias specifically to attract hummingbirds, look for native varieties. Petunia exserta, a rare red petunia native to Brazil, can be tough to track down. But it is available in some seed catalogs, and because it’s such an abundant source of nectar, hummingbirds find it irresistible.

Heirloom petunias and Mexican petunias are two more hummingbird-friendly varieties that are much easier to track down. These petunias can be grown from seeds, but you shouldn’t have much trouble finding them at a local nursery. The Tumbelina Mixed Perfume petunias are a collection of differently colored double-blooms that have retained much of their fragrance, in spite of the fact that they’ve been hybridized. So look for these varieties when choosing petunias to grow in your garden, too.

When do hummingbirds like to visit petunias?

You might be surprised to learn that flowers don’t give off a strong scent at all times of the day. In fact, most flowers don’t smell much at all during midday, when the sun is at its hottest. It takes too much effort. If flowers released all of their nectar when the sun is up, it would evaporate before any bugs could get to it. Then, the plant would have wasted all its efforts and lost valuable hydration.

Plants have to conserve their resources, the same as everybody else. So to get the most bang for their buck, they use their perfume only when their pollinators are most active. For most flowers, that means giving off a strong scent in the early morning and evening hours.

Petunias release their fragrance in the late afternoon and evening. Some cultivars may smell more strongly in the morning, as well. So if you want to get the most out of your hummingbird-friendly flower garden, grab your binoculars and clear your schedule at sun up and sundown!

Healthy petunias have an exceptionally long blooming period, starting in early spring and still going strong well into the fall. In climates where summer temperatures can get especially hot, as in the deep South, petunias may stop blooming for a while. But, when the mercury starts gearing down again, these hardy little plants perk right back up. 

Older petunia plants may need to be deadheaded — that is, they may do better when you trim the dead flower heads off. This allows the plant to focus on creating new blooms to keep your friendly neighborhood hummingbirds happy. Watering your petunia plants regularly to prevent them from drying out, and feeding them seasonally with a good all-around fertilizer will help them produce the most nutritious blooms possible. 

Which flowers can you plant with petunias to attract hummingbirds?

Hummingbirds love petunias. They would be happy to visit your yard if these were the only flowers that you had to offer them. But hummingbirds would much rather peruse an assortment of blooms, so to appeal to as many of your local hummingbirds as possible, it’s important to plant a variety of flowers.

Jasmine is one plant that hummingbirds across the nation consistently love. This climbing plant is easy to care for (hooray for low-maintenance plants!), and produces hundreds of aromatic white flowers hummingbirds will love to browse. Bees love this stuff, too!

Honeysuckle is another climbing plant that hummingbirds can’t seem to get enough of. Like petunias, these plants produce trumpet-shaped flowers ideally suited to the hummingbird’s long beak. Honeysuckle comes in a number of vivid colors, including red, orange, pink, and white. Hummingbirds will go out of their way to check out a honeysuckle vine, especially if it happens to be a native variety. 

Another fantastic way to bring more hummingbirds to your backyard is by starting an herb garden. Hummingbirds go crazy for flowering herbs like lavender, and the great thing is that these plants bloom in midsummer when other nectar sources are scarce. They help hummingbirds bridge the gap between blooming periods. 

And don’t forget to offer your hummingbirds a ready source of nectar with a few hummingbird feeders. Supplementing their diets with some homemade nectar will help keep these little guys strong and healthy. It will also encourage them to return to your garden year after year, as hummingbirds like the security that comes with a reliable food source.

So, do hummingbirds like petunias? Oh, you bet they do! And when you plant the right varieties of petunias with other flowers hummingbirds love, you’ll have trouble keeping these enthusiastic little birds away from your wild yard!

About The Author
Michelle Sanders is an outdoor enthusiast who is passionate about teaching others how to observe and support their local wildlife. She enjoys gardening, birdwatching, and trying (in vain) to get butterflies to land on her.

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