10 Ways to Attract Hummingbirds to Your Garden
It was a Sunday afternoon, a few summers ago. I remember talking to my nana. She was lying in bed, as we were sipping our tea. It was a new “situation” for her, after a hip operation and all that it entails.
While chatting, we saw two blue jays splashing and fluttering in her birdbath, having the time of their lives. As we marvelled at them, we discussed how nice it would be to see more hummingbirds in the garden, as well as up close and personal.
And as if God heard us - a hummingbird came right up to her window to sip elegantly from the petunias on her window sill!
That’s when I realized: we could be doing so much more to attract these magical little beings into our lives. See, even before we put up our new hummingbird feeder, the hummingbird came to the flower bed on her window sill!
I set out to research what we could do - besides hanging up hummingbird feeders - to get more hummers into our gardens and to our windows.
So here are 10 tips I gathered to create your Garden of Hummingbird-Eden!
1. A splash of red!
Hummingbirds use sight rather than smell to find nectar. So the more color in your garden, the merrier. Orange, yellow but especially RED!
Put something red in your garden and a hummingbird will come to check it out. Put something in your garden that is red next to a red feeder that has nectar? You’ve got a friend for life!
Red hummingbird feeders are super important when it comes to attracting them into the garden.
Never use red colour dye. Julie Zickefoose writes that “There have been claims that it impairs hatching in hummingbird eggs, and hummingbird rehabilitators report seeing an increased incidence in skin and bill tumors in hummingbirds. For more on her research click here.
It’s much better to have a red feeder with real sugar water that you can make yourself. The recipe is super simple:
- 1 part regular table sugar, 4 parts warm water
- C’est tout - That’s it! No need to add honey or any artificial sweetener as they can actually harm the little hummers. Keep it simple. Like everything else in life!
- If it gets really hot in summer, you should change the nectar every few days. In the winter when it’s cold, you can leave it for a week or so. Check to see if the color has changed or if it looks foggy inside the feeder. If so - time to refuel.
- Cleaning the feeder should be with soapy water - never use bleach! It can seep into the sugar and harm the birds.
Check out how their tongues work when they sip your yummy nectar:
2. Running water
Though many songbirds love bathing in a clean birdbath (especially a warm birdbath in the winter!) hummingbirds love it no less, but for different purposes, like getting their feathers wet. They fly through the stream or to sit under a gentle spray. You can add a mister to your fountain.
Hummers just want to clean their feathers, no more, then rinse off in the “rain,” at splashing streams or in the spray of waterfalls.
To most it seems daunting to start dealing with a birdbath when it’s actually quite simple. It doesn’t have to be fancy - no need for a Grecian water bath from Christies. Although hey, if you can afford it, why not! And please invite me for tea!
Here is a simple, affordable way to make a bird bath with moving water. This can be a wonderful project to make!
3. How to colour your fingers green? Planting flowers!
Don’t have space for shrubs and trees? FLOWERS will do the trick!
When the hummingbirds came to nana’s window box, it was a surprise and an epiphany. It is a well known fact that hummingbirds love coloured flowers, especially if they are tubular shaped. You can plant them in your garden, like bee balm, columbines, or in flower boxes, like petunias, day-lilies and foxgloves.
You can plant perennials - flowers once planted come back every year, such as Joe Pye Weed, Russian sage, Black-eyed Susan, chrysanthemums, Bee-balm, Coreopsis, Dahlias, Cosmos, Purple Cornflower, Goldenrod, and Cardinal Flower.
You can plant biennials like Foxgloves and Hollyhocks. See how this hummingbird sips nectar from a bed of foxgloves:
Hummingbirds also love annual flowers - flowers you plant every spring which die off every winter, such as Zinnias, Petunias, Pansy, Impatiens and Sunflowers.
The trick is to choose flowers or plants that bloom at different times of the year, to keep the hummingbird selection full. Ask at the nursery what kind of soil each flower needs, when it blooms and where they do best - in full sun, partial sun or light shade. This way, hummingbirds and their offspring always find the buffet open and will never have a reason to leave your garden.
Here are a few examples:
Summer plants that attract hummingbirds: Bee balm, hummingbird Trumpet, Scarlet Hedgenettle, Agastache - also called Hummingbird Mint, are the TOP FLOWERS for attracting hummingbirds to your garden, even in winter.
For the fall - Trumpet Honeysuckle, Beard-tongues, Zinnias and Salvias are a prime attraction for hummers.
In the winter, although there is not a huge selection, there are still ways to keep our little guys around. Mahonias are a great flower to plant that survives the winter well. Then - ho ho ho - it's Christmas time.
4. Christmas time for hummingbirds
Around Christmas time, what better idea than to light the outside as well as the inside! Christmas non-LED lights can be wrapped around your Christmas tree AND your bird feeder to keep the area heated and prevent the nectar from freezing. Of course, as we mentioned before, they love color. So best to have the LED-lights in pink, orange or red. What a beautiful sight it will be!
5. Flowers - and the space between them.
Hummingbirds love to flit from flower to flower. So in addition to flowers, flowering shrubs can do the trick, or simply plant creeper vines that grow at least 12 feet up. A very inviting for the hummers to come “play”. There has to be enough space from flower to flower so the hummingbird can dip, sip and carry on with his trip!
6. Deadheading your flowers
Take a walk in your beautiful garden enjoying the fruits of your work - and “behead” all the blooms that are starting to wilt. They stunt the growth of the next budding flower. Hummingbirds won’t come to wilting blooms, so make space for new ones!
7. The Sargent tip
Bob Sargent and his wife Martha were the founders of The Hummer/Bird Study Group, a non-profit organization based in their hometown of Clay, Alabama and dedicated to the study and preservation of hummingbirds and other neotropical migrants. This is one of their tips to attract hummingbirds - and it is a good one:
Tie a couple of feet of surveyors’ tape around a tree, bush or around your window - or anywhere in your garden. You can buy this tape at a hardware store, or just use ANY brightly colored tape you can find.
Colors attract hummingbirds more than anything. This will be your ”batman” sign to divert them from their flight to stop in your garden and see what’s going on.
When they see your hummingbird feeder or the beautiful flowers you planted, they might just stay all year round, or as long as you have something to offer them.
8. Say yes to Charlotte’s Web
You know that feeling of walking in a garden - yours or someone else’s - and you didn't notice you walked through a spider web until you felt it on your face - and you realize you walked through a spider web?
Not the most pleasant feeling!
But know that spider webs are an excellent source of insects. Many a time and oft, the Ruby Throated hummingbird will find small-sized insects in the web vital for their survival, and even use pieces of the web to build their nests. Spider webs are a great boon to hummingbirds. Here’s what to do if you ever see a hummingbird trapped in the spider’s web.
After all your loving care, hummingbirds are now gracing your feeder and filling your garden or window with life and mirth!
However, because they can get territorial, they might start fighting each other for the nectar. This is a good problem to have because it means the hummers have found your source of food and are calling it home. But we don’t want the bullying!
~If it’s a male dominator (Rufous Hummers tend to be of that ilk) put up a hummingbird feeder out of sight from him. That may do the trick. If that is not a possibility - spray him with water. At some point he’ll get the hint and fly to defend another territory...and leave your hummingbird feeder for the other half dozen or so to sip your nectar in peace.
~If it’s a fight between a flock of hummers, clump a few hummingbird feeders together - so there is enough room for everybody.
Check out the story of the Rufous Bully!
10. Location, location, location
Don’t forget to place the feeder in a place you can see from your house or from your porch - any place that is in view.
If possible, keep in mind that the feeder could be great next to an area where the hummers can perch. It’s best to position them out of the sun to keep the nectar from going bad and to make sure no predators are abound.
We have started doing all the above and have seen a major turn as slowly but surely our cups of tea have had more guests lately. Hummingbirds seem to be exempt from social distancing and my nana seems to be smiling way more.
So happy hummingbird-luring! May your gardens be filled with little colourful flyers. Send us pictures and write us how you got the hummingbirds to dance and flit in you backyard, window flowerbed, we will only be happy to know if we helped or if you learned tips we don't know yet.