Making your Yard a Hummingbird Magnet
Attracting hummingbirds to your yard with flowering plants is a very entertaining gardening activity. Children, in particular, delight in seeing these winged jewels darting from flower to flower in search of their next sip of nectar. While many non-gardeners use hummingbird feeders as nectar sources, planting colorful flowers, shrubs and vines brings added beauty to the landscape and an appreciation and understanding of how the natural world is interconnected.
Making your yard a magnet for hummingbirds is easy if you provide the three basics: water, shelter and food.
Making your yard a magnet for hummingbirds is easy if you provide the three basics: water, shelter and food. Hummingbirds prefer water sources that drip or spray. A fountain with multiple tiers that drip or a very low volume mist nozzle attached to a branch or tree trunk are ideal. Remember to locate the mist nozzle or fountain in the open, situated away from hiding spots where cats can hide and ambush the birds. Conifers, shade trees and taller shrubs, will provide a sheltered perch where the hummingbirds can rest, build nests and safely survey their garden domain. Placing small handfuls of clothes drier lint in the branches will provide material for the "hummers" to build their nests.
Hummingbird feeders require regular maintenance several times per week to keep the sugar water fresh and the feeders clean. A well planned flower garden on the other hand will provide a low maintenance source for both nectar and insects. It is a little known fact that hummingbirds eat large quantities of small insects such as aphids and whiteflies as an essential part of their diet.
When planning your hummingbird garden, plant choices will depend both on the climate in your region and the time of the year the hummingbirds are most plentiful. In northern New Mexico the hummingbirds we see are migratory. Although, it is not uncommon to have a few nesting pairs spend the summer here, most hummingbirds appear for a few weeks in the spring as they fly north to their summer nesting grounds. They re-appear in our region for a much longer visit in late summer as they move gradually south to their wintering grounds in Mexico. Many flowering perennials thrive in our western climate and are favored by hummingbirds.
For late spring and early summer color it is recommended to plant the following:
- Arp Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis Arp)
- Beardtongue (Penstemon)
- Columbine (Aquilegia)
- Coral Bells (Heuchera)
To attract hummingbirds from mid-summer through the fall, plant the following suggestions:
- Scarlet Hedgenettle (Stachys coccinea)
- Texas Red Yucca (Hesperaloe)
- Redbirds in a Tree (Scrophularia Macrantha)
- Hummingbird Mint (Agastache)
- Bee Balm (Monarda)
- Sage (Salvia)
- Hummingbird Trumpet (Zauschneria)
The presence of these later bloomers will ensure an abundance of hummingbirds at the height of their southward migration.
It is a little known fact that hummingbirds eat large quantities of small insects, such as aphids and whiteflies, as an essential part of their diet.
To fill in the back of the perennial border, the easy to grow Butterfly Bush (Buddleia) is unsurpassed. This late summer blooming shrub comes in a range of colors, including burgundy ("Royal Red"), pink ("Pink Delight"), purple ("Black Knight"), and lavender ("Dartmoor"). A difficult to find but wonderful spring-blooming Butterfly Bush, Buddleia alternifolia, produces long, graceful flower spikes that hummingbirds and butterflies love.
Trumpet Vine (Campsis) is a vigorous plant, useful for covering large expanses of fence or wall. It has large trumpet-shaped flowers in yellow and various shades of orange. The scarlet or orange flowered honeysuckles, Lonicera, offer the gardener a more refined and smaller growing choice for small fences and trellises.
Gardening to attract hummingbirds is easy to do. By providing water, shelter and an assortment of colorful flowering plants you will be rewarded with the company of these wonderful wild birds. You will also help insure their future by replacing food and habitats lost due to human activities like agriculture and urbanization.
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