How to Attract Hummingbirds

These little powerhouses of flight need energy. Why not help them stock up in your yard?
Hummingbird Flutters Over Flower

Hummingbird Flutters Over Flower

Hummingbirds are attracted to a wide variety of flowers — usually those that are red and tubular — but to others as well, and they are highly territorial. If you're offering hummers an assortment of favorites such as trumpet creeper, verbena, dianthus, salvia, cardinal vine and small-flowered scarlet petunias — or if you're hanging multiple feeders — try to space them at least 15 feet apart and out of sight, if possible, of the other feeders. Plant brightly colored annuals or put containers of their favorites in different places in the garden.

Hummingbirds are primarily attracted to red flowers, but will sometimes feed at nectar-rich flowers of other colors. To make sure hummingbirds have plenty to eat when they're in your area, include flowers with varying bloom times.

Spring and early summer: bleeding heart, columbine (Aquilegia hybrids), coral bells (Heuchera sanguinea), fuchsia, lupine, petunias, phlox and sweet William.

Summer: lantana, penstemon (especially the red varieties), fuchsia, salvia, scarlet petunia, hollyhock (Alcea rosea), blazing star (Liatris), bee balm (Monarda didyma), gladiolas, daylily, nasturtium, zinnia

Late summer to fall: bee balm, butterfly bush (Buddleia), cardinal flower, dahlia, hollyhock, four-o-clock, zinnia, penstemon, salvia.

Shrubs: azaleas, coralberry (Symphoricarpos orbiculatus), butterfly-bush (Buddleia davidii), wild Indian plum, red elderberry, red flowering current, weigela (Weigela florida), honeysuckle (Lonicera spp.), beauty bush (Kolkwitzia amabilis), flowering quince, hawthorne (Crataegus spp.), horse chestnut, rose-of-Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus), currant (Ribes odoratum), gooseberry (Ribes speciosum).

Trees: flowering crabapple, tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipifera), black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia), horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum), flowering crabapple (Malus spp.)

Vines: cypress vine, scarlet morning glory, trumpet honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens), trumpet creeper (Campsis radicans `Flava'), clematis (Clematis x jackmanii and others), scarlet runner bean.

Hummingbird Feeders

It's fun to attract hummingbirds by hanging feeders filled with homemade sugar-water solutions. To make hummingbird "nectar," bring four cups of water to a boil, stir in a cup of sugar, let the mixture boil for five minutes, then remove from heat, cover and let cool. Fill feeders only part way. In warm weather, the nectar spoils quickly; empty, clean and refill feeders every few days or whenever it turns cloudy. The mixture will keep in the refrigerator for up to three weeks.

Notes: Don't add red food coloring; it's not necessary when feeding ports are red and there's some question about whether artificial food coloring is safe for hummingbirds. Plus, don't use honey; hummingbirds can't digest it, and the honey can spoil into a fungus that's lethal to hummingbirds. And finally, the sugar-water solution doesn't offer the essential nutrients that hummingbirds derive from plant nectar. Be sure to include the flowers they love in your landscape to give them a healthy, balanced diet.

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