How to Grow a Hummingbird Garden

With a little luck, there's a good chance you've seen a hummingbird this summer. These miniature winged wonders are awe-inspiring for their size, speed and remarkable beauty, plus their uncanny maneuverability. But you don't have to wait for a chance sighting ? you can easily attract hummingbirds right to your back yard by creating a simple, vibrant hummingbird garden.

| August/September 2007


A female Rufous hummingbird enjoys sweet sustenance.


With a little luck, there's a good chance you've seen a hummingbird this summer. These miniature winged wonders are awe-inspiring for their size, speed and remarkable beauty, plus their uncanny maneuverability. But you don't have to wait for a chance sighting ? you can easily attract hummingbirds right to your back yard by creating a simple, vibrant hummingbird garden.

Good hummingbird habitat doesn't have to be complicated. Your feathered friends have basic needs: food sources, water for bathing (they love flitting through the garden sprinkler), and accommodations for perching and nest building. There are a variety of flowers (particularly wildflowers), vines, shrubs and trees that you can incorporate to create a successful hummingbird retreat. Yucca, snapdragon, morning glory, mealberry and flowering crabapple are just a few of the varieties that hummingbirds enjoy.

As their rapid wings indicate, hummingbirds are exceptionally active, requiring a large daily intake of nectar and insects. (They eat half of their weight in sugar every day!) Hummingbirds are known for their attraction to red flowers, having learned that the vivid petals often indicate robust nectar supplies. However, they'll readily dine from pink, orange, purple, yellow and even white flowers of the right varieties. You can even encourage longer visits from hummingbirds by planting a mixture of plant varieties, both annual and perennial.

Keeping in mind the hummingbird's habits, you can play with a number of options to meet both their needs and your aesthetic preferences. For starters, these little birds are protective of their food supply and prefer to perch where they can survey their domain. While males will perch on a clothesline, exposed branches or any spot with a good view, females and their young keep to the shade and security offered by thicker foliage. A mix of shrubs, flowers and trees will make a great home for your birds and a pleasing garden for you!

You won't just love hummingbirds for their looks alone: they make great partners for any gardener. In flying from flower to flower, they pollinate the plants. And their taste for small insects includes garden pests such as aphids and gnats.

You can learn more about designing a hummingbird garden in this e-handbook from Mother Earth News. It has extensive information about hummingbird species, where they live and what they need, plus suggestions for specific plants that will provide ideal habitat.

john garrett
8/10/2007 12:00:00 AM

I have a feeder and grow plants for them .I have butterfly bushes,Lantana orange trumpet,hosta ,I have a bunch of birds .They are so pretty ,I love to watch them at the feeders .

d siebert
8/8/2007 12:00:00 AM

The more feeding opportunities, the more that will visit. I had two constantly around the one feeder last year; this year I have four hummers that regularly fight/play around the 3 feeders I have set up, and they keep it going all day; fun to watch. They also like the small zinnia/cosmos flower garden that easily grew from seed I threw out on bare ground.

darlene j. c
8/8/2007 12:00:00 AM

I have been blessed with the wild morning glories all around my swing, birdbath, and harbors. The darling little ones are in constant feeding, along with the feeder I just refilled. They are such an enchanting vision when sit for a spell. I truly love watching them. Thank You

james sharber
8/8/2007 12:00:00 AM

For many years now I have reserved an area on the shady side of my house for the annual regrowth of spotted jewelweed (Touch-me-not) which is especially adapted for visitation and pollination by hummingbirds. It is a unique plant in many ways. The ripe seed capsules explode when barely touched, thus the name. It has medicinal qualities as a remedy for the itch of poison ivy and anti-fungal action for athlete's foot and ringworm. The seeds germinate easily if given a bit of moisture so you never have to concern yourself over planting. Find it in the wild in moist shady locations along streams and in woodlands. Have fun collecting the seeds (kids love to do that). Scatter the seeds where you want your Jewelweed patch and next year, and for years to come, you and the hummingbirds will be pleasantly rewarded.

william turley
8/8/2007 12:00:00 AM

Hi There, I live in a rural area of Central Colombia. Here I have year around daily visits of 4 species of Hummers. I find it impossible to Identify them as there are 350 species in Colombia. I only recognise a few individuals by their territory. Here the seem to like Hibiscus for some reason. They also visit a plant with small blue flowers.

april dickerson
8/7/2007 12:00:00 AM

The hummingbirds that visit our home have been partial to columbine in the spring and later to the sage and the flower heads on the lambs ears. I used to remove the flower heads because they become heavy and tend to fall over until one day I saw how well the hummers like them. You wouldn't think such tiny flowers would be so attractive to them but they must taste really good. I also keep fresh sugar water in a feeder in the shade of the front porch where it keeps cool and I can see them when they come for a drink. I make enough to fill the feeder twice by mixing 1 part sugar to 4 parts water and boiling briefly to inhibit bacteria growth. After it cools, I fill the feeder and keep the rest in a jar in the refrigerator. Don't use color, it's not good for them. I love my little jewels.

aprille gallardo-perez
8/7/2007 12:00:00 AM

In my backyard I have: Salvia, Roses of Sharon, Chaste Trees, and Butterfly Bushes. I have seen them feeding at all four types of plants, but they like the Salvia (a red Sage variety), the best!

8/7/2007 12:00:00 AM

Gosh, I hate to keep harpig on this, but we live in Houston, Texas, and everything grows here. As for Hummingbirds, they pass trough in the spring and again in the fall. Since we have many vines and exotic tropicals, including Hummingbird and Butterfly bushes, we are blessed with both types of visitors. In addition, native finches have made our nest boxes their regular sprig home. Now if we could only get the squirrels from pulling all the pecans from the tree before they ripen. Guess we will need to tame a few owls, that would take care of that problem - or a hawk or two.

dawn garcia
8/7/2007 12:00:00 AM

I have seen many hummingbirds visiting my Mexican Petunia. I know these lovely flowers are considered invasive. I have planted mine where I want them to wander and multiply.

randy nutt
8/7/2007 12:00:00 AM

The hummers here in my yard absolutely love the cigar plants, all the salvias, especially the red sage, the black and blue sage (which they love to perch on the stalks), turks cap shrub, shrimp plants, pentas, tropical milkweeds, tithonia (mexican sunflowers), Cannas, Bottlebrush shrub, Lantana the shrub variety, etc., and the numerous wildflowers that are found in the surrounding woods.

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