How can I attract hummingbirds to my yard?



Many people enjoy watching hummingbirds zip through their gardens. The trick to keeping them in the garden is to grow plants that provide the food they need. They are not picky eaters, so a number of attractive plants can provide portions of a meal for them. The majority of their diet consists of flower nectar, which they supplement with small insects.

Hummingbirds feed from morning until dusk. This provides them the energy that keeps them in constant motion. They consume as much as half their body weight in one day. In order to eat this much, they must move quickly and visit as many plants as possible.

Red and orange flowers are the preferred target of most hummingbirds, especially if the flowers are trumpet-shaped. A number of annuals fit this bill, including nicotiana, annual phlox, nasturtium and zinnia. Nicotiana and annual phlox are taller flowers which are recommended because the birds can spot them easily. Consider these additional flowers to attract hummingbirds:

Tall perennials that attract hummingbirds include hollyhocks (Alcea rosea), delphinium (Delphinium), foxglove (Digitalis), red-hot poker (Kniphofia), Maltese cross (Lychnis) and cardinal flower (Lobelia). The cardinal flower, the Maltese cross and the red-hot poker are nice additions to the garden because they bloom later in the year. Hummingbirds are attracted to the orange flowers on Lion’s tail (Leonotis). The plant grows anywhere from 2- to 6-feet tall, and produces clusters of flowers every 6- to 10-inches along the upright stem. Hummingbird fuchsia (Zauschneria) blooms around the middle of July, and continues to produce flowers into late fall. It is loaded with orange flowers and is great for trailing over a rock or from a planter. Low-growing perennials that attract hummingbirds include columbine (Aquilegia), coral bells (Heuchera), lupine (Lupinus) and bee balm (Monarda). Monarda grows between 1 ½-to 3-feet tall, can be covered with attractive crimson to pink flowers and also attracts bees. A number of vines also attract hummingbirds. Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) is probably the most noted. This vine is easy to grow in most locations with the proper support. It has attractive orange flowers and is reminiscent of flowers found in an old-fashioned, grandmother’s garden. Another vine with orange flowers is the trumpet-creeper (Campsis radicans). This plant can be somewhat aggressive, but with proper care makes a nice addition to a hummingbird garden.

Shrubs can also entice hummingbirds into an area. Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus), shrub honeysuckle (Lonicera), beautybush (Kolkwitzia), butterfly bush (Buddleia) and weigela (Weigela) all have attractive flowers. These shrubs work best when placed in the background or used as an informal hedge or border around a garden. Selecting these plants for your garden does not guarantee hummingbirds will make your yard a favorite outdoor dining destination. Even so, you will enjoy the benefits of attractive, bright flowers in the landscape.

Posted on 8 Jul 2004

Jerry Goodspeed
County Director, Horticulture Agent, Weber County

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