* Written by: Cheryl D. Jones, who shares gardening tips and landscape ideas through her blog, newsletters and her nursery's website - www.GreenwoodNursery.com
A lot of people think that hanging out a quick hummingbird feeder is enough to encourage hummers into their gardens. While hummingbirds will stop by and eat from these feeders, they tend to quickly move on to more welcoming gardens. Creating an ideal garden for hummingbirds offers more than just food. They offer all of the basic essentials for bird life. Hummingbirds come and stay in gardens that are perfectly suited for them. Here's what you need to create an ideal garden for hummingbirds.
Many hummingbirds are a migratory species of bird that spend the winters in South and Central America, and in the spring travel all the way up to North America and even into parts of Canada where they spend the warm season breeding, raising young, and preparing to fly south again. Hummingbirds rely on the nectar found in flowers, which they get plenty of in South America. But, they need the abundant insects found in the spring and summer in the lands of North America and Canada to successfully raise healthy babies. They also spend a lot of time resting- usually about 80% of their lives is spent sitting and resting their tiny bodies. Providing a garden that's full of healthy insect activity with lots of nectar sources and plenty of thin twigs, branches, and other similar places to rest are all going to entice a hummer to stick around. Even more important, providing a safe place to nest will help the hummingbirds stay through the season, and return yearly.
Rely on plants that hummingbirds enjoy to eat from. Tubular red, blue, and purple perennial flowers are highly attractive to hummingbirds. The wild versions of plants usually create the most nectar which will encourage hummingbirds to come back again and again, but this isn't a hard-set rule. Many cultivars provide plenty of nectar for hummingbirds.
Hummingbird plants include:
- Buddleia (Butterfly Bush)
- Monarda (Bee Balm)
- Rose of Sharon
- Crape Myrtle
- Summersweet (Clethra)
- Trumpet Vine
- Coral Bells (Heuchera)
Consider tying up a thin line if you don't have a clothesline already. Hummingbirds of North America are well adapted to life with people and their homes and are quite fond of perching and resting on clotheslines, wires, extension cords, chicken wire fences, or any thin and stable cables. Trees and shrubs are also very welcome resting spots too.
Offer a moving source of water for hummers to bathe in and drink from. Despite assuming that these small birds get all of the water they need from nectar, they are still observed using birdbaths consistently.
In the garden, try to refrain from using chemical commercial pesticides. They are long acting, so even if you use them in a specific area they often stick around and continue to kill for weeks after the application. Instead, encourage a healthy bug population. If you're over-run by grasshoppers or Japanese beetles for example, there are plenty of specific traps that work to capture these pets and bring their numbers down to a less destructive number. One option is to use a natural organic insecticidal soap for aphid infestations that won't harm hummingbirds if it's ingested in small amounts.
So... go beyond the hummingbird feeder for attracting and keeping those gorgeous winged jewels in your garden.