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   Apr 24

Attracting Hummingbirds to Your Garden

hummingbird flowershummingbird basket 2Hummingbirds are beautiful, fascinating little creatures and it is easy to attract them to your garden!

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Gardening Tips: Attracting Hummingbirds to Your Garden

Attracting hummingbirds into the garden requires a two prong approach.  First, you can provide feeders specifically designed to deter other birds and allow the long slender beaks of the hummingbird to easily reach the created nectar.

Second, installing  plants that attract hummingbirds by both their color and nectar producing qualities.  Believe it or not, attracting hummingbirds is something that can really be accomplished with a lot of patience and time.

Hummingbird feeders come in a large assortment of creative designs .  You can purchase a powder that is easily reconstituted with water (often red in color) to place in the feeders.  Pre-made liquids are also available for purchase or you can make your own out of granulated sugar and water.  Use a 4:1 mixture of water and sugar, dissolve in hot tap water or boiling water (We prefer the boiled water to kill any potential organisms that may be harmful to the birds).  Let the solution cool completely before filling your feeder.

The palette of plants that will attract hummingbirds is lengthy.  Red is by far the best color to attract the bird.   Some other helpful tips on attracting hummingbirds are as follows:

  1. Position feeders near flowers that already attract hummingbirds.
  2. Clean your feeder weekly with a water and vinegar solution instead of soap.  If the water is cloudy…it’s time to clean.
  3. Hummingbirds are attracted to the color red in any form.  Use red tape around feeder openings to attract the birds to the feeder if your feeder or sugar solution is not colored red.
  4. Plant hummingbird attracting flowers in areas that are protected by buildings or fences to minimize wind.
  5. Do not use pesticides or insect repellents  in or around feeders or on the plants that attract them.  You can discourage insects from being attracted to the sugary solution in the feeder by applying petroleum jelly to the feeder openings or on the wire from which the feeder hangs.
Flowers for Hummingbirds
 
It’s fun to watch hummingbirds drinking from red plastic feeders, but there’s nothing like seeing them sipping from the flowers in your own garden. I’ve been observing hummingbirds for many years in the hope of discovering their favorite flowers. But just when I think I’ve figured it out, the funny little birds change their minds.
 
One day, they spend all their time visiting the salvias, and another day, they prefer the zinnias. When I expressed my frustration at not being able identify which flowers were best, my husband said, “Well, some days you feel like eating broccoli, and other days you want chocolate cake. Maybe it’s the same way with hummingbirds.”
 
So here’s my list of favorite hummingbird flowers. You might be tempted to plant only “chocolate cake”, but remember that “Variety is the spice of life”. The more selection you have, the better.
 
Hummingbird Flowers
 
Agastache rupestris (Sunset Hyssop) — Bushy perennial with orange-pink, tubular flowers. Think of it as a low-maintenance hummingbird feeder.
 
Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly Weed) — Drought-tolerant perennial with bright orange flowers for attracting hummingbirds and butterflies.
 
Aquilegia (Columbine) — Spring-blooming perennial in a wide range of colors. Native Aquilegia formosa has red flowers that attract hummingbirds.
 
Centranthus ruber ‘Coccineus’ (Red Valerian) — Masses of pinkish-red flowers in late spring to early summer. Long-lived, self-sowing perennial.
 
Cleome — This flower is useful in more ways than one. Hummingbirds like to perch on the horizontal seedpods.
 
Cosmos ‘Ladybird Scarlet’ — I planted this near my hummingbird feeder, and I was surprised to see hummingbirds visiting the cosmos more than the feeder.
 
Digitalis (Foxglove) — The tubular flowers attract hummingbirds, and the plants grow in full sun or part shade. I was surprised to see a hummingbird sipping on the pale yellow Digitalis lutea. That’s what I call “hummingbird broccoli”.
 
Eupatorium maculatum (Joe-Pye Weed) — A native perennial that blooms in the fall. The mauve flowers attract hummingbirds and butterflies.
 
Gaura lindheimeri — The delicate pinkish-white flowers look great combined with other hummingbird favorites, especially red flowers.
 
Goldenrod — One of the last flowers of the season. This native perennial provides nectar for hummingbirds, butterflies and beneficial insects.
 
Hesperis matronalis — Violet flowers in late spring. Also attracts butterflies.
 
Hibiscus — Hummingbirds spot these huge flowers from across the yard, and they swoop in to investigate. I’m not sure how much nectar they have, so I plant other flowers around them to provide more food.
 
Impatiens balsamina (Balsam)– Self-sowing annual with bright colors.
 
Ipomoea (Morning Glory) — Hummingbirds are more attracted to the red varieties like Ipomoea luteola, but all colors are good.
 
Ipomopsis rubra (Standing Cypress) — Chocolate cake for hummingbirds.
 
Liatris (Blazing Star) — Tall spikes of purple flowers for hummingbirds and butterflies. Native perennial.
 
Lobelia cardinalis — Hummingbird watchers rave over Cardinal Flower.
 
Lupine ‘Morello Cherry’ — Blooms in late spring before most other flowers get started.
 
Lychnis chalcedonica (Maltese Cross) — The vivid red flowers are like a neon sign that says to hummingbirds, “Eat at this restaurant!”
 
Mirabilis jalapa (Four O’Clock) — The flowers close up in the heat of the afternoon, so watch for hummingbirds in the early morning or evening.
 
Monarda citriodora (Bee Balm) — Attracts hummingbirds and butterflies.
 
Nicotiana (Flowering Tobacco) — Works sometimes. Smells nice, too. The pink-flowered Nicotiana mutabilis has less fragrance, but the hummingbirds seem to like it better.
 
Penstemon barbatus ‘Iron Maiden’ — Most penstemons attract hummingbirds, but this is the best one in my garden.
 
Perovskia (Russian Sage) — I was surprised to see a hummingbird return to this plant several times one day, especially since there was an agastache nearby that should have been more tempting.
 
Petunia violacea — Easy-to-grow annual. Perfect for hanging baskets, so you can watch for hummingbirds outside the window.
 
Salvia (Sage) — The best salvias for attracting hummingbirds are Salvia azurea, Salvia coccinea Red and Salvia coccinea ‘Coral Nymph’.
 
Scarlet runner bean — Annual vine with red flowers for hummingbirds and edible beans for you.
 
Silene — One morning, I was pollinating a daylily next to Silene ‘Jack Flash’, and a hummingbird tried to scare me off. When the attempt failed, he relented and agreed to share the space with me. He really wanted that silene!
 
Tithonia ‘Torch’ — Large, bushy annual with orange-red flowers that attract hummingbirds and butterflies.
 
Verbena bonariensis — Tall clusters of purple flowers for hummingbirds and butterflies.
 
Zinnia — Zinnias are always a big hit!
 
 
More Flowers for Attacting Hummingbirds
 
Abelia, azalea, begonia, birds eyes, bleeding heart, bovardia, butterfly bush, canna lily, chelone, clematis, crabapple, crocosmia, dahlia, delphinium, fuchsia, flowering quince, geranium, gladiolus, hawthorne, heuchera, hollyhock, honeysuckle, hosta, iris, kniphofia, lantana, lilac, mock orange, nasturtium, nepeta, pentas, phlox, physostegia, rose of sharon, Stachys coccinea, sweet pea, sweet william, veronica, trumpet vine, weigela, wisteria, yucca, zauschneria.
 

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