Attracting Pollinators: Hummingbirds

Hummingbirds are a wonder to me! They are so tiny, so fast, so amazing to watch! Yet, they are also useful in the garden as insect feeders and pollinators. Besides attracting bees and butterflies to your garden, consider attracting hummingbirds, as well.

The best way to attract hummingbirds to your yard is to create a habitat that invites them to find you – and return! Without a sense of smell, hummingbirds feed by sight along regularly-followed routes. Your yard can become a part of their regular route with just a few added flowers and plants.

Hummingbirds are very inquisitive and, although they are attracted most to the color red, will feed off any color flower if it is full of nectar. Plant native (non-hybrid) varieties of nectar-producing plants, such as the following hummingbird favorites:

  • Trumpet creeper
  • Beebalm
  • Trumpet honeysuckle
  • Cardinal flower
  • Spotted jewelweed
  • Red columbine
  • Canada lily
  • Indian pink
  • Red buckeye
  • Mountain rosebay or Catawba rhododendron

If you live in a more temperate climate, you can plant some of these exotic varieties:

  • Pineapple sage
  • Giant blue sage
  • Cypress vine
  • Shrimp plant
  • Mimosa tree
  • Shrub verbena
  • Butterfly bush
  • Rose of Sharon
  • Common foxglove (this is poisonous, so you may not want to plant this if you have children)
  • Cigar plant

One note: please do not use chemical pesticides on the plants hummingbirds feed on. Not only can they harm the hummingbirds, they will kill the small insects that hummingbirds feed on for protein.

Hummingbirds at feeder

Hummingbirds at feeder

Of course, you can hang a hummingbird feeder along with (or instead of) planting hummingbird-friendly flowers. A red feeder with a simple home-made nectar is a great attractor, especially when your flowers are not in bloom.

For the nectar, combine one part sugar with four parts water in a pot and boil 1-2 minutes. Store in the refrigerator. Never add red food coloring to your nectar! Because the nectar should be changed every 3-4 days, don’t fill the feeder more than halfway.

The feeder should be up from about St. Patrick’s Day to Halloween, on average. But it’s better to find the exact dates of hummingbird migration for your area and put the feeder up 5-10 days before the arrival date and keep it up for two weeks after you’ve seen the last hummingbird of the season. Also, be sure to clean the feeder with mild soap and water, rinsing well, before reusing.

I saw a hummingbird a couple of times in my garden last year. After the first sighting, I put up a feeder; but I saw one only a couple of times more after that. I used a commercial nectar powder, but I’m going to try this home-made nectar this year and put the feeder up this week. It’s going up a couple weeks later than it should for my area, but it can’t hurt to try. Having hummingbirds in my garden is always worth the effort!

Enjoy your hummingbirds!

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