How to plant a hummingbird garden

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Hummingbirds captivate spectators with their beauty, grace and peculiar flight patterns. There’s something almost magical about spotting one in your garden. However, if you’re not offering favored conditions, the tiny Houdini will disappear as quickly as it came.

Hummingbird sightings don’t have to be a rare occurrence. An abundance of food, water, nesting sites and perches will attract them to your garden.

Location

The first thing you want to consider if you are planting a new garden is location. Hummingbirds are drawn to openings in the forest and forest edge, so they are drawn to suburban and rural gardens that offer a mix of trees, shrubs and stretches of lawn. Situating your garden near different landscaping elements will make it more attractive hummingbirds who discover your property.

When choosing your location you should also consider situating it near a window or patio door, so you have a good view.

What to plant

Many plants can attract hummingbirds to your garden. The most successful plants have red, tubular flowers, as they alert hummingbirds to a good food supply. Hummingbirds are also attracted to orange and pink flowers, but find yellow and white blossoms less attractive.

While color and shape are important to consider when planning your garden, it’s even more important to select native plants for your yard and garden. Fortunately, there are plenty of native hummingbird plants that provide a reliable source of nectar.

Exotic flowering plants, such as Japanese and Tartarian honeysuckles, are attractive to hummingbirds but can invade neighboring fields and woodlands.

Native hummingbird plants

The following plants, suggested by The National Gardening Association and cross-checked using the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center plant database, are native varieties that attract hummingbirds.

Flowers

Vines

Shrubs

Trees

You can also choose to include some fuzzy plants to make your yard even more desirable to nesters as hummingbirds like to line their nests with soft plant fibers. Two favorites are cinnamon fern and pussy willow, but you can also choose to leave some thistle or dandelion in your yard.

Planting tips

Here are some additional tips from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden for selecting and planting your hummingbird garden:

  • Select plants that bloom at different times of the year to provide nectar from the beginning to the end of hummingbird season.
  • Plant patches of the same species to provide larger quantities of nectar.
  • Prune your plants to encourage flower production.
  • Plant vertically by using trellises, trees, garden sheds, or other structures to support climbing vines or add window boxes, wooden tubs, or ceramic pots to create the same effect with a variety of preferable hummingbird plants.
  • Avoid insecticides and herbicides as hummingbirds can ingest poisons when they eat insects and flower nectar.
  • If your garden does not include trees or shrubs and there are none nearby, position perches within 10 to 20 feet.
  • Include some sort of water source. Hummingbirds enjoy garden misters, drip fountain devices and small waterfalls.

Activity cycle

The best times to attract hummingbirds to your garden occur during midsummer after young hummingbirds fledge and during fall migration. By understanding their annual activity cycle, you can plan your garden better and attract hummingbirds with ease.

Tennessee State University Cooperative Extension offers a step-by-step guide for planting for hummingbirds throughout the season.

Additionally, you can track hummingbird migration at hummingbirds.net to get a better idea of when they will visit your garden.

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