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Hummingbirds 101: Plants that Attract, Feeder Tips, Quiz & More

4 min read | Dec 13, 2012 | Yard & Garden 


One of summer’s greatest pleasures is watching the fast and furious beautiful garden jewels, ruby-throated hummingbirds. Of the 328 hummingbird species presently recognized, the ruby-throated is the only widespread hummer in the eastern United States. Hummers are known for their tiny size, iridescent, jewel-like appearance and acrobatic flight. They are the only birds capable of flying backwards and upside down.

Attracting and feeding hummingbirds can be a lot of fun with very little work. A hummingbird’s diet consists of three main food sources:1. Small insects, which provide protein, as well as vitamins and minerals that are essential to their diet
2. Flower nectar from various plants, trees, perennials and annuals
3. Hummingbird feeders

If you choose to help contribute to a hummingbird’s diet with a feeder, there are a few, rather simple, actions that you can take that will help you to have success in your endeavors. Below is a list of our Top Ten Hummingbird Feeder Tips.

Top Ten Hummingbird Feeder Tips:

1. When feeding hummingbirds, select a feeder that is sturdy, durable and easy to clean.
2. Feeders should be placed high enough to prevent predators from catching the birds while they feed. Areas that are in plain view and near flowers work best.
3. Hummingbirds do not have to perch while they eat, but many feeders come equipped with perches. This is one of the best ways to watch them while they are motionless.
4. Help prevent bees and ants from invading your hummingbird feeders by purchasing a feeder that has a bee guard.
5. You can make your own nectar (ratio follows) or purchase a ready-to-use nectar. Ready-to-use nectars come in both powder form (that requires mixing) and liquid concentrate.
6. If making your own nectar, it is important to ALWAYS use white table sugar. Other sweeteners, such as molasses, artificial sweeteners and honey spoil quickly and may not be good for the hummingbirds to consume.
7. If making your own nectar, and your water source is chlorinated, be sure to bring the water to a boil before adding sugar. Doing so helps reduce the amount of chlorine in the water.
8. Nectar should be replaced every three to five days, depending on air temperature and the amount of direct sunlight the feeder gets. Nectar will spoil and ferment (which hummingbirds will not consume), causing the birds to move on to other areas and feeders.
9. There is no need to add red food coloring to your hummer nectar. True, red color will get the attention of hummers, but most feeders come equipped with red parts, which is sufficient in getting their attention. You can also tie a red ribbon around your feeder for added color.
10. VERY IMPORTANT! Feeders must be kept clean. We recommend washing them with a bleach solution: one part bleach to ten parts water (be sure to rinse thoroughly after cleaning!). If time permits, wash your feeders each time you fill them to prevent nectar build up/algae growth. A quick wash each time helps to keep the hummers happy (and is a much less daunting for you!)

Make Your Own Hummingbird Nectar:
4 parts water
1 part granulated sugar

Bring water to a boil, add sugar and stir until sugar is dissolved. Let cool completely and fill feeder. Store remaining nectar in fridge until needed.

Now on to the next food source for hummingbirds: plant life in your yard. There are many plants that will make wonderful additions to your yard, adding texture, beauty and motion to your landscape, as well as attract these garden jewels. Below you will find several plants, broken down by plant type (scientific name/common name), that will lure these lovely birds to your yard!

Perennials for Attracting HummingbirdsAgapanthus spp. – Lily of the Nile
Ajuga reptans – Ajuga
Alcea rosea – Hollyhock
Asclepias tuberosa – Butterfly Weed
Aster spp. – Aster
Aquilegia – Columbine
Canna generalis – Canna
Chaenomeles – Flowering Quince
Dahlia spp. – Dahlia
Dicentra spectabilis – Bleeding Heart
Digitalis grandiflora – Foxglove
Echeveria – Hen & Chicks
Gladiolus spp. – Gladiolus
Hemerocallis – Daylily
Heuchera sanguinea – Coral Bells
Hibiscus spp. – Hibiscus
Hosta spp. – Hosta
Hymenocallis spp. – Spiderlily
Kniphofia uvaria – Red Hot Poker
Lantana camara – Lantana
Liatris spp. – Liatris
Lilium lancifolium – Tiger Lily
Lobelia cardinalis – Cardinal Flower
Lobelia siphilitica – Blue Lobelia
Malva spp. – Mallow
Monarda didyma – Bee Balm
Oenothera spp. – Evening Primrose
Oenothera tetragona – Sundrops
Penstemon spp. – Beard Tongue
Phlox spp. – Phlox
Polygonatum biflorum – Solomon’s Seal
Primula spp. – Primrose
Ranunculaceae – Delphinium
Salvia guaranitica – Mexican Blue Sage
Salvia spp. – Salvia

Annuals for Attracting HummingbirdsAbutilon – Flowering Maple
Allamanda cathartica – Allamanda
Antirrhinum majus – Snapdragon
Clerodendrum thomsoniae – Bleeding Heart Vine
Hamelia patens – Firebush
Hedychium – Ginger Lily

It is important to note that hummingbirds usually arrive in our area by Mid-April and usually leave around Mid-September to early October. Although, if you forget to take your feeder(s) down in the fall, rest assured that will not prevent them from migrating. Healthy birds will leave on schedule and your remaining feeder(s) may provide a life-saving energy boost for weak or injured stragglers.

With a little planning and know-how, you can make your yard a haven for these wonderful little creatures! If you have any questions regarding the plants or products mentioned here, please contact your Friends at FairviewGreenhouses & GardenCenter… Your Hummingbird Feeding & Attracting Resource!