How To Attract Hummingbirds to Your Garden

Ruby-throated hummingbird

Ruby-throated hummingbird

Ruby-throated hummingbirds are so much fun to watch. Their mid-air acrobatics and daredevil combat flying can be very entertaining. We have planted the front yard to include many flowering plants that hummingbirds and butterflies can feed from. We also put up several feeders in the yard and have a bird bath as a water source.

Hummingbirds spend many months in the Southeast. In Mississippi, we can expect them in early to mid-March and some may stick around as late as December. Want to know when they are showing up in the neighborhood? Check out this neat hummingbird sitings map.

Hummingbird Attracting Plants

We try to use natives as much as possible in our yard, but we do have a fair mix of non-natives as well. I’ll mark those below that are native to the Southeast. Natives are generally easier to grow.  Below are some of my favorite hummingbird and butterfly plants, many of which we have in our yard. For a full list of plants for zones 4-11 visit http://msucares.com/pubs/publications/p2402.pdf.

Flowering Plants – Perennials

Hyssop

Hyssop

Flowering Plants – Annuals

Native Honeysuckle

Native Honeysuckle

Vines

Trees and Woody Shrubs

Native Crossvine on the Arbor

Native Crossvine on the Arbor

The arbor in our yard is covered in crossvine and native honeysuckle. Not only is it gorgeous when it blooms but it attracts a whole bunch of butterflies and hummingbirds. It’s one of my favorite things about the front yard.

Salvia is one of my favorites because it comes in so many different colors and varieties. We have blue salvia, purple salvia, red/white salvia that is a shrub. I have seen a hummingbird feeding on the red/white flowered salvia in late December!

As for annuals, zinnias are by far my favorite. They are so easy to grow, produce so many different colors and sizes of flowers, and they make great cut flowers for in the house.

Photos of Hummingbird-Attracting Flowers From My Yard

Hummingbirds Eat Insects Too

This was a bit of a surprise to me. I didn’t know that hummingbirds ate insects too. Apparently small spiders, aphids, and flying insects are all on the menu. This is just another reason not to spray pesticides in your yard. (Source: http://msucares.com/pubs/publications/p2402.pdf)

Hummingbird Feeders

You can also supplement the plants in your yard with hummingbird feeders. They are an easy way to attract hummingbirds to your backyard.

Hummingbird Food Recipe

Mix one cup of white sugar to four cups of water (not brown sugar or honey!). Place it in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and allow it to completely cool before filling your feeders. Fill the feeder up for a couple of days use. Put the remaining amount in the refrigerator for up to a week. Be sure to let it warm up to room temperature before putting it our for your hummingbirds. No red food coloring is necessary!

Cleaning Your Hummingbird Feeders

Bottle Brush and Smaller Brush to Clean Hummingbird Feeders

Bottle Brush and Smaller Brush to Clean Hummingbird Feeders

Keeping your feeders clean and free of mold will help keep your hummingbirds healthy and prevent disease from spreading. If your feeder is in a bright, sunny spot, you’ll need to clean it more frequently (but you’re more likely to get birds too). For a cleaning solution, Audubon recommends one part white vinegar to four parts water about once a week. Cleaning out the reservoir with a bottle brush will remove any mold in the reservoir. Use pipe cleaners or a small specialized brush (available at most birding stores) to clean out the holes from which the birds feed.  Scrub away any mold or crystallized sugar. Rinse really well and let dry before putting fresh feed back into it.

Keeping Ants Out of Your Hummingbird Feeders

Ants, wasps, and bees love nectar too, so you may find them feeding with your hummingbirds. Ants often climb into the feeder and die, causing mold and fungus in the feeder. Keeping ants out of the feeder is the best way to avoid this. We bought some really cool water reservoirs or moats that keep ants from reaching the feeder. The moat is hung between the feeder and the hook it hangs on. Ants can not cross the water and thus never reach the feeder. Just make sure you keep water in it. I am pretty sure that you can build one yourself.  The birds may also drink out of this, so keep an eye on it too.

Hummingbird Feeder Moat

Hummingbird Feeder Moat

Hummingbird FAQ’s

For detailed answers to questions about hummingbirds (when to take feeders down, predators, life span, wingbeats, etc.), visit http://www.hummingbirds.net/about.html

Comments

  1. How do you keep bees& wasp out of the feeders? They seem to keep the hummers at bay…
    Thank you for your response.
    Deb Owens

    • Deb, I don’t have a problem with bees and wasps at my feeders. I think it has to do with having several feeders spaced out in the yard and also lots of flowers for the bees and wasps to feed from around the feeder and in the rest of the garden. You might try one of the feeders that has a bee-guard on it to help your problem or a saucer-type that will be less likely to leak (as the leaking sugar water definitely attract insects). Check out my feeder review: http://gardenexperiments.com/best-hummingbird-feeder-review-of-four-types/

  2. Very helpful! We moved into a new home last year and have just one hummingbird feeder attached to the railing of the deck outside our kitchen. The yard slopes down away from the house, so the deck is much higher than our beginning garden or any bushes will ever grow. What potted plants might you recommend to attract hummingbirds up to the feeder?

    • It depends on the size of the container. If you have a sizable container, you could create a couple of small mini-butterfly-hummingbird-gardens with plants like lantana, salvia, and zinnias and maybe trailing petunias to hang over the edge. It would be very colorful and help to attract hummingbirds and butterflies to your deck. You could also add a container with a small trellis and add a honeysuckle or jasmine vine. If you do use a container on the deck, raise the base off of the deck using bricks or other materials so that you protect the deck from moisture. I also recommend self-watering containers to reduce maintenance and a good moisture control soil too. Really tall planters require a lot of soil. To reduce the amount of soil you have to use, fill up the base with empty plastic bottles, This helps aerate the roots (keeping them from getting too wet) and reduces the weight of the planter.

      • I should clarify though – if you’re using self-watering containers, you can’t use the plastic bottle technique as the soil needs to reach the water reservoir to wick up the moisture.

  3. I have found a good way to keep ants out of feeders..apply vaseline all around the bottom of post that the feeder is hanging, from the from bottom at least 3 inches..they can’t climb up!

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