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Gardening for Hummingbirds

The best way to attract hummingbirds is to develop your own “Hummingbird Garden.” A combination of flowers, vines and shrubs offering a variety of nectar sources can be a powerful attractant.  Add feeders to different parts of the yard to make observations easier and more enjoyable.

Many people experienced in feeding hummingbirds feel that several small feeders located throughout the yard work better than a single large feeder in attracting hummers.

What hummingbirds need
Hummingbirds have the three same basic needs as other birds – food, water and shelter. Consider all three when trying to maximize the attractiveness of your hummingbird habitat.
    •    Food: natural and man-made nectar
    •    Water: required mostly for bathing. Leaf misters work best.
    •    Shelter: some shade to rest in and a perch within 20 – 30 feet of their nectar source (the Ruby-throated is fiercely protective in this respect and likes to keep an eye out for any interlopers!)

Gardens also attract insects which hummingbirds consume for protein (no pesticides!).

Make each of these elements an integral part of your hummingbird garden and you will be able to enjoy hours of pleasure watching these birds enjoying their home in your backyard.

Popular hummingbird plants
The following plants can be made a part of your hummingbird garden. In general it is better to have a bold splash of one strong color in any location than it is to have the color sprinkled out in dribs and drabs. For instance, if you buy a flat of scarlet sage it is better to put it all into one concentrated area than it is to line them up one by one in a long planting bed.

ANNUALS: butterfly weed, dahlia, flowering tobacco (Nicotiana sylvestris), fuschia, foxglove, geranium, impatiens; jewelweed (Impatiens capensis & pallida); lantana; mexican sunflower, million bells (petunia hybrid Calibrachoa), nasturtium; petunia; pineapple sage (Salvia elegans), scarlet sage (Salvia splendens); snapdragon, spider flower (Cleome spinosa & hasslerana); Sweet William (Dianthus barbatus), verbena, Zinnias.

PERENNIALS: bee balm; bleeding heart; cardinal flower; columbine; coral bells; delphinium; fire pink (Silene virginica); hyssop , lily; phlox, and red-hot poker.

SHRUBS: azalea, beauty bush, butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii); coralberry, flowering quince, red salvia , rose of sharon (Hibiscus syriacus), turk’s cap and weigela.

VINES: trumpet creeper, trumpet honeysuckle, coral honeysuckle, morning glory, mandevilla and scarlet runner bean.

TREES: black locust; buckeye (Aesculus glabra); chinaberry; flowering crabs; hawthorn; horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum), and tulip poplar.

Birding Quick Hits

Consider leaving some of your dead flowers up through the fall and winter months, if their seeds are still present. Migrating and winter visitors may stop by to enjoy a free meal.