Butterflies and hummingbirds share a taste for sweet nectar, the staple food source of these two disparate species. Nectar-producing flowers come in different shapes and colors, but hot colors — red, orange and gold — and trumpet shapes are favorites, attracting a host of colorful, winged creatures. Among the hummingbird species found in gardens are Anna’s, Allen’s, rufous, calliope, black-chinned and Costa’s. Butterfly species include monarch, California tortoiseshell, buckeye, brown elfin, acmon blue, California ringlet, chalcedon checkerspot, California sister, painted lady, West Coast lady, Lorquin’s admiral, spring azure, many species of swallowtail and tiny hairstreaks. Plant nectar-producing shrubs in sun and shade to attract butterflies and hummingbirds to your yard.
Butterfly bushes (Buddleja spp.) are available in deciduous, evergreen and semi-evergreen species growing in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 6 through 9. B. davidii varieties are deciduous but bloom from spring through fall with panicles of blossoms on arching branches. Rapidly growing to 10 feet tall and highly attractive to butterflies, B. davidii cultivars include “Dartmoor” with reddish-purple flowers, “Dubonnet” with deep purple flowers, and “Harlequin” with dark reddish-purple flowers and yellow- to cream-margined leaves. Rose of Sharon (Hybiscus syriacus) reaches 15 feet tall in USDA plant hardiness zones 4 to 9, blooming with flaring blossoms to accommodate both hummingbirds and butterflies. “Blue bird” has bright blue flowers with small red centers, and “Aphrodite” has rose-pink flowers with a dark-red eye.
Of special interest to hummingbirds is flowering currant (Ribes sanquineum), growing 4 feet tall in USDA plant hardiness zones 6 to 8 and blooming with pinkish-red, tubular, pendant flowers in spring. Azaleas (Rhododendron spp.) also bloom in spring with trumpet-shaped flowers, attractive to both butterflies and hummingbirds. Plant azalea varieties in USDA plant hardiness zones 6 to 9 in woodland settings where they flourish from natural mulching from leaf litter and filtered sunlight through the trees.
Weigela (Weigela florida) blooms in spring in USDA plant hardiness zones 5 to 9, reaching 6 feet tall and producing bell-shaped pink or red flowers in abundance. This shrub is particularly hardy and low-maintenance. Plant weigela shrubs approximately 4 feet apart for a flowering hedge that attracts hummingbirds and butterflies. Glossy abelia (Abelia x grandiflora) blooms from spring through autumn on evergreen or semi-evergreen shrubs that grow up to 10 feet tall with a spread of 12 feet. Blossoms are white tinged with pink, small and tubular. Plant in well-drained, fertile soil in sun or partial shade in USDA plant hardiness zones 6 to 9.
Butterfly and Hummingbird Habitat
Hummingbirds frequent aborvitae shrubs (Thuja spp.) to eat tiny insects and collect spider webs for use in their bottle-cap-size nests. When it comes time to lay their eggs, butterflies are host-specific. Each butterfly species lays its eggs on a particular plant species. Although most host plants are trees or perennials, certain butterflies select shrubs. California coffeeberry (Rhamnus californica), a low-maintenance shrub for USDA plant hardiness zones 7 to 9, and California lilac (Ceanothus thyrsiflorus), growing in zones 9 to 10, are both host plants for the pale swallowtail.