By David Salman, High Country Gardens Founder and Chief Horticulturist
In spring, hummingbirds start to make their summer appearance in my gardens. At first, it is one bird, and then there are 3 or 4 hanging out, sipping, fussing, and moving deliberately from flower to flower on their favorite perennials. Being an avid hummingbird gardener, my garden is bursting with "natural nectar." By choosing summer and early-fall blooming plants, my garden will provide the hummingbirds a continuous supply of nectar well into fall.
Late summer is the time of the year when gardeners here in New Mexico are waiting for our life-giving monsoon-like rains and the return of the hummingbirds. The soaking rains revive our heat and drought-stressed gardens and the natural nectar plants that feed the hummingbirds are in full bloom. We get about 60-70% of our annual precipitation in New Mexico in July, August, and early September. The return of the rain is very good news for the hummingbirds as well. The hummingbird population in Santa Fe is transitory, with the numbers of these tiny birds peaking in early September as they move their way south to their winter grounds in Mexico, as well as southern Arizona and New Mexico.
David's Hummingbird Garden
My garden features the following plants to attract hummingbirds.
I’ve been especially enamored with the Sages and Hummingbird Mints for many decades, so my gardens are over-flowering with as many of them as I can fit into my beds. Some of my favorite Agastache include A. cana ‘Rosita', ‘Ava', A. rupestris (Grant Co., NM collection), A. rupestris ‘Glowing Embers', and the hybrid, 'Blue Blazes'. My favorite Sages include various Salvia greggii cultivars and hybrids, including ‘Raspberry Delight’, ‘Furman’s Red’, ‘Ultra Violet’, ‘Maraschino’, and a fabulous and very tough native from the Davis Mountains of West TX, Salvia reptans.
Agastache (Hummingbird Mint), Sages (Salvia), Hummingbird Trumpets (Zauschneria), Beardtongue (Penstemon), Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens cultivars), and Trumpet Vine (Campsis) are some of our top recommendations for flowers that provide natural nectar.
David's Hummingbird Garden Tips
- Spread out the plants over a wide area so that all the hummingbirds can fan out across the garden to feed, and the Rufous hummingbird can't keep chasing the other birds from the garden.
- Hummingbirds prefer "natural nectar" from flowers over sugar water from a feeder (it's like a person choosing between a glass of natural fruit nectar or a Pepsi). If there are enough flowers in the garden to support them, the feeder is often ignored. My little Rufous Hummingbird (the most "Terrier-like" hummingbird species of the garden) oversees all of the beds in my front yard.
- Hummingbirds love a bare branch devoid of foliage on which to sit, so remember not to be too quick to clean up dead branches on the tops of shrubs or lower branches of trees.
I’m thrilled to see so many of our customers posting their hummingbird photos on our High Country Gardens Facebook and Instagram, and also in our ongoing Photo Contest. Share your photos and let us know your favorite hummingbird plants as well. We love seeing plant photos and appreciate learning about other plants that supply our beloved hummingbirds with natural nectar.