The Power of Blue: Three Blue Flowered Plants Alluring to Hummingbirds

by DerdriuMarriner

Blue is a color which attracts nectar-loving hummingbirds to flowers.

Red is not the only color to garner the attention of nectar-loving hummingbirds.

Blue flowers also draw hummingbirds.

Three blue-flowered plants which hummingbirds enjoy include two perennials and a shrub:
• blue columbine (Aquilegia caerulea),
• 'Blue Bird' rose-of-Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus 'Blue Bird'), and
• garden catmint (Nepetia x faassenii).

Blue columbine's floral display of blueness

Mason, Hillsborough County, south central New Hampshire
Mason, Hillsborough County, south central New Hampshire

Blue columbine (Aquilegia caerulea)


New World native perennial Aquilegia caerulea is known commonly as blue columbine or Colorado blue columbine.

Adopted as the official state flower of Colorado on April 4, 1899, Aquilegia caerulea is native to the western United States:

  • the eight states of the West Geographic Region's Mountain State Division: Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming;
  • one state in the Midwest Region's West North Central Division: South Dakota.

Blue columbine accepts sites of full or partial sunniness.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture classifies blue columbine as hardy to:

  • Zone 3 (minimum winter temperatures: -40° to -30° Fahrenheit; -40° to -34° Celsius) through
  • Zone 9 (20° to 30° F.; -7° to -1° C.).

Blue columbine attains a maximum height of 8 to 24 inches (20 - 60 centimeters) and a maximum spread of 8 to 16 inches (20 - 40 centimeters).

Floral coloration comprises pale blue, pink, white, and pale yellow. Oftentimes blue columbine evinces bi-coloration, with petals and sepals presenting different colors.

Aquilegia caerulea was honored with The Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit in 1993.


Male Broad-Tailed Hummingbird (Selasphorus platycercus): New World native with an appreciation for blue columbine



Broad-tailed hummingbirds (Selasphorus platycercus) number among blue columbine's satisfied hummers.

As New World natives, Broad-tails have a large range which echoes, in its northern parameters, blue columbine's homelands in seven of the Mountain States: Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming.

Broad-tails also occur natively in east central California, southeastern Oregon, and west central Texas.

The southern range extends through Mexico southward into Guatemala.


Approximate distribution map of Broad-tailed Hummingbird

Yellow = Breeding range; Green = Breeding and wintering range
Selasphorus platycercus map
Selasphorus platycercus map

floral blueness in Hibiscus syriacus cultivar: 'Blue Bird' ('Oiseau Bleu')

'Blue Bird' ('Oiseau Bleu')
'Blue Bird' ('Oiseau Bleu')


Hibiscus syriacus is known commonly as blue hibiscus. In the United States, its popular common name is Rose of Sharon. In the United Kingdom, Hibiscus syriacus is known also as rose mallow, in recognition of its membership in the mallow family, Malvaceae.

An Old World native with homelands in eastern Asia, Hibiscus syriacus has been introduced outside its native range as an ornamental and as hedging.

  • Hibiscus syriacus is the national flower of South Korea, where it is known as mugunghwa (mugung, "eternity, inexhaustible abundance").
  • In the United States, rose of Sharon is deemed to be an invasive in four states: Kentucky, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

As a deciduous shrub, Hibiscus syriacus enjoys full sun and frost hardiness. The U.S. Department of Agriculture classifies rose of Sharon as hardy for Zone 5 (-20° to -10° F.; -29° to -23° C.) through Zone 9 (20° to 30° F.; -7° to -1° C.).

Rose of Sharon's height maximizes at 8 to 20 feet (2.4 - 6 meters). The multi-stemmed, densely branched shrub spreads to a maximum of 6 to 10 feet (1.8 - 3 meters).

Ovate (Latin: ovum "egg") green leaves contrast with showy, 5-petaled flowers in a color spectrum from white to bluish lavender or reddish purple.

'Blue Bird' ('Oiseau Bleu'), a particularly striking cultivar, especially attracts hummingbirds by way ot its gentian blue flowers with lilac-purple centers.

In addition to bestowing its prestigious Award of Garden Merit upon Hibiscus syriacus 'Oiseau Bleu' (also known as H. syriacus 'Blue Bird') in 1993, the Royal Horticultural Society also has recognized nine other cultivars of Hibiscus syriacus:

  • [Blue Chiffon] = 'Notwood3' in 2012,
  • 'Diana' in 2003,
  • 'Hamabo' in 1993,
  • [Lavender Chiffon] = 'Notwoodone' in 2003,
  • 'Meehanii' in 2002,
  • 'Red Heart' in 1993,
  • [White Chiffon] - 'Notwoodtwo' in 2002,
  • 'William R. Smith' in 2002, and
  • 'Woodbridge' in 1993.


Blue-Throat Hummingbird (Lampornis clemenciae): Mexican native with a partiality to 'Blue Bird' rose of Sharon

male blue-throated hummingbird
male blue-throated hummingbird


Blue-throated hummingbirds (Lampornis clemenciae), also known as Blue-throated Mountaingem or Blue-throated Mountain-gem, are New World natives with homelands in Mexico's mountain woodlands.

Breeding populations are found in Mexico's northern states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, and Sonora. They also cross the border into:

  • southeastern Arizona and central Arizona's lacings of canyons between Flagstaff and Winslow,
  • southeastern (especially rugged Brokeoff Mountains) and southwestern New Mexico,
  • West Texas' Green Valley Basin in western Brewster County, and Sacramento Mountains in Culbertson and Hudspeth Counties.


Distribution map of Blue-throated Mountaingem

Yellow = Breeding range; Green = Breeding and wintering range
Lampornis clemenciae map
Lampornis clemenciae map

Garden catmint's blue floral palette:

Deadheading of spent flowers encourages further blooming.
Nepeta faassenii 'Six Hills Giant'
Nepeta faassenii 'Six Hills Giant'


Nepeta x faassenii is known commonly as garden catmint or Faassen's catnip. A product of a Dutch nursery, J.H. Faassen-Hekkens Boomkwekerijen B.V., in Reuver, southeastern Netherlands, the vivacious perennial is a sterile hybrid of:

  • Nepeta nepetella, known commonly as lesser cat-mint, an Old World low-grower native to southwestern Europe and North Africa, and
  • Nepeta racemosa, known commonly as dwarf catmint, an Old World native with homelands in the Caucasus in Turkey and northeastern Iran.

Nepeta x faassenii flourishes in full or partial sun. The U.S. Department of Agriculture classifies garden catmint as hardy for Zone 3 (-40° to -30° F.; -40° to -34° C.) through Zone 10 (30° to 40° F.; -1° to 4° C.).

The fragrant sprawler stretches to a maximum height of 24 inches (60 centimeters) and spreads to a width of 24 inches (60 centimeters).

Lance- to oval-shaped, toothed leaves provide a grey-green to silvery grey backdrop for floral spikes resplendent in lavender to purple-blue.

Cultivars 'Blue Wonder,' 'Select Blue,' and 'Six Hills Giant' bedazzle with their blue flowers.

In 2002, the Royal Horticultural Society honored Nepeta x faassenii, along with its parent, Nepeta racemosa, with its prestigious Award of Garden Merit.


Ruby-Throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris): under the blue spell of Garden catmint's nectar

male Archilochus colubris in flight
male Archilochus colubris in flight


New World native Archilochus colubris is known commonly as ruby-throated hummingbird.

Ruby-throats are native to:

  • southern Canada, from the west central prairie province of Saskatchewan eastward to the east coast, and
  • right half of the United States, from the east coast westward to the eastern edges of the Great Plains.

As snowbirds, ruby-throats favor southern Florida, southern Mexico, and all seven of Central America's countries: Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and western Panama.


Approximate range/distribution map of Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Green = summer-only range; Blue = winter-only range; Orange = migratory range
Archilochus colubris map
Archilochus colubris map

Abuzz with bees: hummingbirds encounter great competition from bees and butterflies for Garden catmint's floral splendors.

Buff-tailed bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) on a Nepeta × faassenii.
Buff-tailed bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) on a Nepeta × faassenii.

Conclusion: Trueness of blueness


Nature glories in blue, especially in the limitless bountifulness of seas and skies. Likewise, blue signifies bountiful nectar sources for hummingbirds.

Three plants -- two perennials and one shrub -- confirm for hummingbirds the trueness of blueness:

  • blue columbine (Aquilegia caerulea),
  • 'Blue Bird' rose-of-Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus 'Blue Bird'), and
  • garden catmint (Nepetia x faassenii).

Hummingbird lovers appreciate these three floral beauties for their flexibility in site criteria. All three thrive not only in backyard allotments but also in container gardens. One of the many attractions of container gardening is immediacy, whereby pots may be located in advantageous proximity for hummer lovers.

Blue flowers usher in the win-win scenario of hummer lovers' enjoyment of hummingbird visitors' enjoyment of real nectar.


Blue columbine's memorable coloration

blue columbine: colorful perennial
blue columbine: colorful perennial



My special thanks to:

  • Talented artists and photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the Internet;
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University for superior on-campus and on-line resources.


Nepeta is as irresistible for hummingbirds as it is for cats.

"It's like catnip for cats!"
"It's like catnip for cats!"



Dagnan, Don C. "Rose of Sharon Hibiscus syriacus L." Northeastern Area State and Private Forestry > Forest Health Protection - Invasive Plants > Weed of the Week. July 3, 2006. USDA Forest Service Northeastern Area State and Private Forestry. Web.

  • Available at: 

Flora: A Gardener’s Encyclopedia. Volume I: A-K. Portland OR: Timber Press, 2003.

Flora: A Gardener’s Encyclopedia. Volume II: L-Z. Portland OR: Timber Press, 2004.

"Hibiscus syriacus 'Oiseau Bleu.' The Royal Horticultural Society > Plants. The Royal Horticultural Society. Web.

  • Available at:

Kirkpatrick, J. "Regional Planting Guide to Attract Hummingbirds." Garden Artisans > Articles. Web.

  • Available at:

McKinley, Michael. Ortho's All About Attracting Birds. Des Moines, IA: Meredith Books, 2001.

"Nepetia x faassenii Garden catmint." The Royal Horticultural Society > Plants. The Royal Horticultural Society. Web.

  • Available at:

Newfield, Nancy L., and Barbara Nielsen. Hummingbird Gardens: Attracting Nature's Jewels to Your Backyard. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1996.

Ortho's All About Attracting Hummingbirds and Butterflies. Des Moines, IA: Meredith Books, 2001.

Roth, Sally. Attracting Butterflies & Hummingbirds to Your Backyard. Rodale Organic Gardening Book. Emmaus PA: Rodale, 2001.

"Taxon: Aquilegia coerulea E. James." USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program > Germplasm Resources Information Network - (GRIN) [Online Database]. United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service. Web.

  • Available at:


Blue columbine's dainty blueness stops humans and hummingbirds alike.

Arapaho Pass Trail, Boulder County, north central Colorado
Arapaho Pass Trail, Boulder County, north central Colorado
the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

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Ruby-Throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris): photo by Jim Zipp

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Me and my purrfectly purrfect Maine coon kittycat, Augusta "Gusty" Sunshine

Gusty and I thank you for reading this article and hope that our product selection interests you; Gusty Gus receives favorite treats from my commissions.
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
Updated: 05/05/2015, DerdriuMarriner
Thank you! Would you like to post a comment now?


DerdriuMarriner on 05/05/2015

Mira, Yes, 'Oiseau Bleu' ('Blue Bird') is a cultivar of Hibiscus syriacus. Apparently the scientific name didn't save when I published this article. Thank you for your sharp eyes and relevant questions: I've re-inserted the details into the title of the capsule; hopefully they will save.
I hope that you are successful in locating blue columbine: it's a wonderful flower.
My wild columbines are blooming now. Their jeweled coloring of red and yellow is simply beautiful.

Mira on 04/29/2015

I came back to this article to look at the flowers. The blue columbine is wonderful. I will try to see if I can find it in flower shops but I doubt it. When you wrote "blue bird" by that image of hibiscus flowers, you meant to say the flower is also known as a "blue bird"??

DerdriuMarriner on 07/30/2014

Maritravel, Hummingbirds are such happy visitors to gardens that it's amazing that they aren't global. Although bees and butterflies are beautiful, the effect is not the same as hummingbirds with their fast hovering skills.
Providing gardens to attract these nectar-lovers is an important contribution to their continued success on this planet.

Maritravel on 07/27/2014

Just worked my way through your 'colours' articles and have learned a lot about their attractiveness to birdlife. Unfortunately, we don't have hummingbirds in the UK: my main task this summer has been to plant enough blue, mauve and purple plants to attract bees and butterflies, both of which we are losing at a dreadful rate due to pesticides and herbicides. Not many bees yet but I'm encouraged by the number of butterflies.

DerdriuMarriner on 06/25/2014

VioletteRose, Blue columbines are so photogenic, so it's lovely that you were able to take a photo of 2 blue columbines.
Yes, it is good that blue flowers can attract hummingbirds. Red flowers can be quite stunning, but they don't hold the monopoly on beauty, so it's nice to know that hummingbirds find satisfaction in colors other than red.

VioletteRose on 06/24/2014

I love the blue columbine flowers, they are so lovely. I have seen them only one or two times, but I have got a nice photograph of two blue columbine flowers. I didn't know about the other two flowers, they all look beautiful. Good to know that these can attract the beautiful humming birds :)

DerdriuMarriner on 06/11/2014

Mira, The wind-sown plants, including trees, which have appeared as if by magic in my yard are beautiful gifts from nature, and I cherish that their windy journeys touched down in my yard.
Hummingbirds are such delights to watch.
Please let me know if Bucharest's Botanical Gardens include columbines or catmint. I hope that they are there, for they have such lovely flowers and draw in bees and butterflies as well as hummingbirds.

Mira on 06/11/2014

I am happy you got columbines in your yard! It must be amazing to discover new flowers in your yard :-). I hope you will soon get to see hummingbirds there as well.

In the meantime, I'll try to make it to the Botanical Gardens here in Bucharest and see if they have columbines or catmint :-)

DerdriuMarriner on 06/11/2014

Dustytoes, Me, too, I also love columbines. I do favor the blues, and even having one, as you have, is such a beautiful treat.
From out of nowhere, some red columbines showed up in my yard this spring. It is such a gift to behold their delicate, distinctive flowers.
I decided to write this series because so often I'm hearing and reading that those who would like to be visited by hummers think that they have to promote redness. As you've observed, hummingbirds are not monochromatic in their nectar searches. Definitely other colors promise irresistible nectar as well.

DerdriuMarriner on 06/11/2014

Mira, Me, too, I agree that all shades of blue are "just wonderful."
It's tempting to cover as many blue-flowered plants as possible because they each have their own distinctive beauty. But narrowing down to three with especially widespread appeal and with all as winners of the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit seemed the best presentation, so I'm happy to hear that the narrowed focus succeeded in spotlighting these three beauties.
I specifically chose Nepeta x faassenii (garden catmint) because:
• it was hybridized in Europe (in the Netherlands), and
• it was recognized with an Award of Garden Merit by the Royal Horticultural Society in 2002.
I hope that some day you will come across blue columbines and blue garden catmint. They are truly gorgeous and restful in their blueness.

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