How to Attract Hummingbirds With Plants and Flowers
Hummingbirds Are Welcomed Visitors to Our Gardens
Hummingbirds are the jewels of the garden, and it is a delight to watch them zip around the flowers and blooms in search of nectar. While attracting hummingbirds is relatively easy, enticing these beautiful and interesting creatures to stay and take up residence in your garden requires more thought than just hanging up a feeder filled with sugar water.
Hummingbirds feed on nectar from flowers, and they are attracted to gardens that are filled with colorful and nectar-rich blooms. A large percentage of their diet relies on insects, which they also use to feed their young. Garden beds filled with a mix of flowering annuals, perennials, and shrubs are the perfect compliment to a feeder. Planting a variety of flowers and plants with varying bloom times staggered throughout the spring and summer helps to ensure a steady food supply of nectar and insects to feed the hungry hummers.
A carefully planned garden should include several food sources, along with protection from weather and predators, a fresh supply of clean water for drinking and bathing, and a choice of nesting sites for rearing their young. If you plan your garden well and fill it with plants and flowers to attract them throughout the summer, these little jewels will come—and so will butterflies, bees, and the other flower- and nectar-loving pollinators.
Here are a few tips for choosing the right plants and flowers.
Tips for Starting a Hummingbird Garden
- Include a variety of flowering plants of varying heights.
- Try to plant as many native species as possible.
- Because of their poor sense of smell, hummingbirds rely on bright colored flowers to find their food. They are especially attracted to red flowers but they will readily visit the colorful blooms of many other annuals, perennials, herbs, and flowering shrubs.
- With their slender beaks and long tongues, hummingbirds are perfectly adapted to feeding from elongated, tubular flowers.
- If space is too limited for large garden beds, plant a series of annuals in containers.
- Hanging baskets filled with trailing fuchsias are also floral magnets for attracting hummingbirds (and butterflies and bees).
- Vary the bloom times.
Bloom Times of Hummingbird Plants and Flowers
Rose of Sharon
Provide a Water Source
Like all bird visitors, hummingbirds need a fresh source of water for drinking. They usually sip the early morning dew and condensation that forms on the leaves of plants, but they can also be coaxed to visit a shallow bird bath.
Hummingbirds also love water misters, and will zip back and forth through the fine spray. If the garden has a lawn sprinkler system, they will quickly learn to fly through the shower of water droplets as they drink. Watching little them flash in the sunlight and zig and zag through the curtains of water is an entertaining and rewarding experience.
A waterfall or fountain in a small garden pond can also offer a water source for visiting hummingbirds, though they will seldom perch near the edge of the pond for a drink. These ponds will, however, attract a wide variety of neighborhood birds, bugs, and other animals to visit. A pond also offer a watery refuge for frogs and toads.
Attracting hummingbirds also invites other birds, butterflies, honey bees, and beneficial insects.
Plants and Flowers That Attract Hummingbirds
Rose of Sharon
Trumpet creeper (native trumpet vine)
Tips for Using a Hummingbird Feeder
Hummingbirds need frequent refueling to power their near constant flight. As most backyard birders and gardeners already know, they will readily eat from a feeder filled with fresh sugar water.
- With their high metabolism, hummingbirds feed almost constantly and will visit a feeder several times in an hour.
- They are very territorial and will chase competitors away from "their" feeder, so hang two or more feeders if competition is high.
- The National Audubon Society does not recommend using red food dye to color the syrup because it may be harmful. The red color of the feeder is enough to attract hummingbirds, and they will find the feeder quickly without the need for red food coloring.
- Change the nectar often, and clean the feeder with each filling. The sugar water nectar will stay fresh for a few days to a week, depending on the heat and humidity.
Hummingbird Nectar Recipe
Make your own homemade hummingbird nectar. This simple syrup takes only minutes to make, lasts up to two weeks, and does not use any artificial coloring that might be harmful to the little hummers. This recipe is easy to make from 4-parts water and 1-part granulated white sugar. The 4-to-1 ratio is important.
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 cups boiling water
- In a sauce pan, bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Boiling the water helps the sugar to dissolve and also reduces fermentation.
- Stir in 1/2 cup of white granulated sugar, and stir until the sugar fully dissolves.
- Allow the sugar water mixture to cool to room temperature before pouring the cooled sugar water mixture into a hummingbird feeder.
- Store the nectar in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Bird Man Mel on How to Attract Hummingbirds
This short video shows you how to create a haven that will attract hummingbirds to your backyard.
- The world's smallest bird is the bee hummingbird, weighing just two grams (about the same as a penny).
- They get their name from the sound produced by their rapidly beating wings.
- They can beat their wings between 70 to 80 wing beats per second, and they can fly up to 25 mph (40 kph).
- They can fly frontward, backwards, and hover in mid-air. They can also fly sideways and even upside down!
- There are over 300 species of hummingbirds, and they are found only in North and South America.
- They can visit up to 1,000 flowers per day and remember every flower they visit.
- They also eat insects.
- Some Ruby-throated hummingbirds migrate from North America across the Gulf of Mexico in a non-stop flight of about 20 hours and cover a distance of almost 500 miles.
- The average life span of a hummingbird is three to five years. Most die within their first year.
- A hummingbird nest is just 1 inch in diameter (4 cm) and made from spider webs with bits of lichen and moss.
- Typically, there are two eggs per nest.
Do You have a Hummingbird Feeder?
"Hummingbirds: Magic in the Air:" A PBS Documentary
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
What type of insects do hummingbirds eat?
Hummingbirds will eat a variety of small insects including flies, mosquitoes, gnats, aphids, and spiders.
© 2011 Anthony Altorenna