Specific Flower Nectar--->Penstemon, Skyrocket & Tangerine Sage

If you do not have these flowers in your garden or live out of their growing range you can now offer your hummingbirds nectar that is similar to the nectar found in these flowers.

Cutting edge digital technology has allowed us to develop hummingbird nectar that replicates the nectar found in any flower. In parallel, we have scoured many scientific research publications from which we have gleaned information of 'experts'. This assures that the nectar you are feeding your hummingbirds is the finest and healthiest source (next to Mother Nature) of nectar for your birds.


Each species of flower can have a different concentration of sugar and each flower can have different types of sugars.

Two things to consider when purchasing and making hummingbird nectar:

  1. Sugar concentration.
  2. Components of that sugar.


Sugar concentration in Mother Nature’s nectars varies from 5%-66% and will vary depending on the altitude, moisture, soil, season, general climatic conditions, time of day and environment (Hainsworth, 1973; Schondube & Martínez del Rio, 2003). The sex of a flower also affects nectar composition and males produce more concentrated nectars (higher in sugars) (Jolls et al., 1994). And there can be variability between blossoms on a single plant.

The concentration of nectar for the same species of plant may also differ depending on if a plant is wild or greenhouse-grown. Case-in-point, wild-growing Mimulus species (monkey-flower) range from 12.1-19.9% in total sugars, but garden center greenhouse varieties can range from 13.7-33.1% total sugars (Vickery & Sutherland, 1994).

  • Hainsworth F R. 1973. On the tongue of a hummingbird: its role in the rate and energetics of feeding. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology, 46A: 65-78.
  • Jolls C L et al. 1994. Spectrophotometric analysis of nectar production in Silene vulgaris (Caryophyllaceae). American Journal of Botany, 81(1): 60-64.
  • Schondube J E & Martínez del Rio C. 2003. Concentration-dependent sugar preferences in nectar-feeding birds: mechanism and consequences. Functional Ecology, 17: 445-453.
  • Vickery Jr R K & Sutherland S D. 1994. Variance and Replenishment of nectar in wild and greenhouse populations of Mimulus. Great Basin Naturalist, 54(3): 212-227.

In 2002 Dennis K. Demcheck analyzed 30 hummingbird flowers with refractometers. See page 7 of http://losbird.org/news/0326_201_news.pdf.

He identified maximum, minimum, and average concentrations. The average % sugar in 30 selected hummingbird flowers was 25.2%. The highest being Orange Mountain Sage: Salvia regla (32%), Mexican Bush Sage: Salvia leucantha (31.2%)

Demcheck goes on to state “There truly seems to be a basis for the classic 1:4 ratio. Based on my 18 months of sampling selected plants, 20%, or 1:4, is a good mix that hummers routinely and perhaps predominately get in their lives. However, it is not what they clearly prefer and receive in our gardens. If people are concerned that nectar concentrations greater than 20% could be harmful, then we have to pull up most of the best hummer-attracting plants in our yards.

Finally, people ask me what ratio I use in my feeders. Based on my readings, I have switched to 1:3 (25%) as my year-round standard mix. 1:3 is well within the range of sugar concentrations found naturally in my yard. I am not recommending that all hummingbird enthusiasts change their ratios. There is no doubt that hummers prefer higher concentrations, natural or artificial. I wonder, however, if there is more to the story than simple preference. Is it a case of going for that rich dinner with dessert, when a more sensible diet is advisable? The fact that many plants have a sugar concentration closer to 1:4 is intriguing. That is why I am cautiously avoiding 1:2 and 1:1. And of course, I have to close with the standard plea, Further Studies are Needed”

Demcheck continues that “A mixture of 1 part sugar and 4 parts water equals a solution that is 20% sugar. A common mistake is to say 1:4 is one-fourth or 25%. Wrong. Think of it this way: If you have one part sugar and four parts water, you have a total of 5 parts. One of those 5 parts is sugar—1/5, or 20%. Similarly, 1:3 is 25% sugar, 1:2 is 33% sugar, and 1:1 is 50% sugar.”

Here at Hummingbird Market, we also recommend a 1:4 ratio but it does not have to be precise. 1:3 to 1:4 is OK. After a little time you may notice your birds’ preferences.


Mother Nature’s floral nectar contains sugars, amino acids, water, ions, carbohydrates, low molecular weight proteins, ions, antioxidants, lipids, and terpenoids. The three most common sugars in nectar are disaccharide sucrose and two monosaccharides, the hexose fructose and glucose (Percival 1961)

It is very well documented by botanists and ornithologists that flowers have different sugar components. Sugars are the dominant solutes in Mother Nature’s floral nectar. These sugars can be identified by using high-performance liquid chromatography.

From all our samples sucrose was the most dominant followed by fructose and then glucose. In order of preference by the birds SFG>SF>S>FG>F>G (Hainsworth & Wolf 1976)

  • Hainsworth F R & Wolf L L. 1976. Nectar characteristics and food selection by hummingbirds. Oecologia, 25: 101-113.
  • Percival, M. S. 1961. Types of nectar in angiosperms. New Phytol. 60:235-281.


Thus, based upon our research of many flowers we were able to develop nectar that closely replicates the nectar of three flowers favored by hummingbirds in the Southwest United States.

Skyrocket Ipomopsis aggregate.

A species of flowering plant in the phlox family (Polemoniaceae), commonly known as Scarlet Trumpet, Scarlet Gilia, or Skyrocket because of its scarlet red flowers with lobes curving back as if blown back by rocketing through the air. 

Since its discovery in 1814 by Frederick Pursch, the plant has undergone many name modifications. The current scientific name of "Ipomopsis", Latin for "similar to Ipomoea" or morning glories, refers to its similarities between the morning glories' similar red tubular flowers. "Aggregata", "brought together" in Latin refers to its petal growing pattern.

The potent smell from glands within its basal leaf formations grant it the name skunk flower. In some areas it is also called honeysuckle, owing to the shape of the flower and the droplet of nectar that can be enjoyed by picking off the flower and sucking it out of the basal end. The common name of Gilia (once a component of its scientific name) is pronounced "Jee-lee-uh", an Italian pronunciation, after its original namesake, Italian scientist and clergyman Filippo Luigi Gilii.

Ipomopsis aggregata is native to western North America, growing mainly in the central to western regions and ranging from as far north as British Columbia to Mexico.

Ipomopsis aggregata is pollinated most commonly by long-tongued moths and hummingbirds, although others can be seen. [From Wikipedia]


Parry's Penstemon Penstemon parryi,

Known as Parry's Beardtongue or Desert Penstemon, is a wildflower native to the Sonoran Desert of Southern Arizona and northern Mexico. It is a perennial that blooms in March and April. In the wild, plants flower in their second year. In cultivation, flowering is often achieved in the first year if seed is planted in the autumn.

At the base of the plant are lanceolate bluish green leaves that grow in a rosette pattern. From the base emerge the flower stalks, which are 2 to 5 feet high and topped with numerous deep-throated flowers, usually pink but selected horticulturally for red color.

Parry's penstemon is a desert plant. It thrives in full sun to part shade. A native lowland desert species, Parry's penstemon can survive on average Sonoran Desert rainfall, but not prolonged drought. It attracts hummingbirds. That plus the unusual splash of pink to red it provides make it a favorite xeriscape flower.

Parry's penstemon was named for Charles C. Parry, who served as surgeon-naturalist on the Mexican Boundary Survey in the mid 19th century.

It is a perennial that blooms in March and April. In the wild, plants flower in their second year. In cultivation, flowering is often achieved in the first year if seed is planted in the autumn. [From Wikipedia]


Pineapple Sage or Tangerine Sage Salvia elegans

It is a perennial shrub native to Mexico and Guatemala. It inhabits Madrean pine-oak woodlands and forests between 6,000 and 9,000 ft (1,800 and 2,700 m).

Salvia elegans has tubular red flowers and an attractive scent to the leaves that is similar to pineapple. It produces numerous erect leafy stems and flowers in the late autumn. The red flowers are attractive to hummingbirds and butterflies. In a highland temperate forest in central Mexico, Pineapple Sage was found to be one of the three most-visited species by hummingbirds. It is a short-day plant. The flowering season in Mexico is August onward; further north it may not flower till later autumn, and if there are no frosts, it may flower till spring. [From Wikipedia]