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Attracting Hummingbirds to Your Backyard Habitat

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Kim is a Master Gardener from Montana with a passion for all things agricultural. She incorporates nature and a love of food in the garden.

Hummer taking a break

Hummer taking a break

Migratory Magic.....

Besides gardening for my own gain, food, I also enjoy watching birds. Specifically, Hummingbirds. I can sit for hours watching these tiny creatures flit from feeder to feeder and flower to flower. They are fast, tiny, dainty, fierce, noisy, and nosey.

There are over 300 species of Hummingbirds throughout The world. Depending on your location determines who migrates to your area and when. The good news is, regardless of who migrates where, they all like very similar flowers.

The quickest and easiest way to attract Hummingbirds is a feeder. You won't have Hummingbirds beating down your back porch overnight, but in time, if you are persistent, hang it, they will come.....

There are a zillion different feeder options out there. Some hang from hooks, others suction cup to the window, glass ones, plastic ones, flat ones, tall ones, and ones you can hold in your hand. With so many options, you would think they would all work the same, but they dont.

First of all, they all have an opening, usually a "flower", where the hummingbird receives the nectar. This nectar.....also attracts wasps and ants. The ants are annoying but way easier to deal with than the wasps. Wasps will take over a feeder and chase away hummers. A wasp can kill a hummingbird. Wasps are not easy to get rid of once they find a sugar source either. In the last few years I have watched feeder designs change to combat this problem. Last year I acquired two new feeders from Ace Hardware that just took the #1 spot for zero ants and no wasps.

Leakers attract ants. Whatever feeder you choose if it leaks, you will get ants. Discard, fix, or retire the leakers.

Hang feeders in a semi-shaded to shade area. In the heat of Summer afternoons this will be a popular spot for Hummers.

You want to make sure you practice Feeder Safety. Wash and rinse your feeder thoroughly before filling with nectar. Change your nectar at least once a week. You don't need to fill your feeder everytime. Until you have a steady flow of migrator's just fill it enough to lure them in. You can store your extra nectar in the fridge.

While you are waiting, you can plant them a habitat.

Hang it.....they will come.......

Rufuous drinking nectar

Rufuous drinking nectar

The #1 hummingbird feeder

Flowers and Herbs for Hummers

I have a thing for food, and I'm selfish. I don't want to share my precious gardening space with useless plants, even if the Hummer's like them. I would much rather fill my space with trees, shrubs, perennials, and flowers that we both can enjoy.

It can take time to establish any kind of habitat, and Hummingbirds are no exception. While your garden grows and your perennials take root you can take comfort in knowing you will get double the enjoyment for your work.

Many Herbs and flowers are perennials, and it turns out, many attract Hummingbirds. Common culinary herbs, as well as under used ones, that are useful for the home garden are Catnip, Clary Sage, Yucca, Wild Bergamot, and Monarda's, to name but a few.

Catnip: is used in teas and the mouser's like it too. Perennial with highly fragrant foliage when crushed.

Clary Sage: was once used to flavor dishes as our common culinary sage does today. Can get quite tall and demands space in habitat. Highly fragrant foliage with unique multi-colored flowers. Self seeding biennial.

Yucca: Yucca is a perennial with an edible root. It is highly drought tolerant and can be quite useful for areas with limited water supply.

Wild Bergamot: also called Oswego Tea, the leaves and flowers are used to make teas. The leaves and foliage are highly fragrant, a perennial with light purple blooms.

Monarda: leaves and flowers are used in teas. Also a highly fragrant perennial with smashing flowers of bright reds, hot pinks, and purples

Climbing Vines such as Runner Beans, Nasturtiums, Passionflower, Honeysuckle, and Clematis can be used to climb porches, trellaces, arbors, and fences. Hummingbirds went crazy over my Scarlet Runner Beans the year I planted them. I am no expert on Hummingbird behavior but they were all over those vines.

Runner Beans: flowers are striking in shades of fire engine red to soft pinks. Vines can get up to 15' tall. The beans are edible.

Nasturtiums: flowers and seed to this vining annual are edible, the seeds can be used as a pepper substitute.

Honeysuckle: Vining Honeysuckle is a perennial whose flowers come in a variety of hot pinks to oranges. Although there is no edible rating for this species, it is a striking addition to areas that need a little something.

Clematis: Clematis is a wonderful perennial for partial shade areas, leaves of select species have been used historically as a food source, although I don't recommend eating this plant.

Edible fruiting Shrubs and Bushes can be planted for your benefit as well. Hascaps, and Buffalo Berries provide berries which can be consumed raw or cooked. The shrubs can be used for hedges or windbreaks and will provide cover for birds and other wildlife once established.

Hascaps: a perennial Shrub from the honeysuckle family with edible blue berries which can be consumed fresh, tasting somewhat like blueberries.

Buffalo Berries: perennial shrub with edible berries

Some fabulous edible flowers are also hummingbird favorites, some Columbines, Butterflyweeds, and Bugleweed are a great addition to the garden. All are perennials so you can enjoy them year after year.

Columbines: Some species have edible flowers and all columbines add unique shapes and colors to the garden. They are perennial so you can look forward to them every year.

Butterflyweed: also attracts butterflies. The sap, leaves, and flowers have been used for various purposes throughout history

Bugleweed: is a striking somewhat drought tolerant perennial groundcover with deep purple flowers

Hanging baskets filled with Centaury and Lobelia, add color to the porch and cover for our swift flighted friends. The blossoms also provide nectar.

Centaury: an annual with delicate Blue flowers, both flowers and leaves can be used in teas

Lobelia: an annual which comes in a variety of colors with some being fragrant. Leaves and flowers have been used historically for various bronchial complaints.

Raspberries patches have been known to harbor Hummingbird Nests......there was one year I know my raspberry patch was home to hummingbirds. They zipped in and out of it for weeks filling the air with their zings as they dashed back and forth. Of course the bonus here was raspberries.....

For further information on these plants, as well as many others, please visit the links below. Plants for a Future has an extensive database on plant species from around the world and their medicinal or nutritional uses.

It doesn't stop here.....

There are hundreds upon hundreds of flowers that attract and provide nectar for Hummingbirds. Most tubular shaped brightly colored flower will draw a hummer in.

While it is in my interest to plant what is useful to me, you are not limited to these choices. There are many striking options to choose from. Foxgloves, cardinal flowers, tobacco, hollyhocks, scabiosa, delphinium, monkshood, and larkspur all provide vibrant color and unique shapes to the Hummingbird garden. All the above mentioned plants, however, are poisonous. Care should be taken when adding these to the garden, especially where children are concerned.

Some Daylillies are reported as edible, they are drought tolerant, come in a variety of shapes and colors, and attract hummers. I haven't tasted a daylily, but I know the deer like them. They are attractive additions almost anywhere they are placed, and some are fragrant.

Whatever your interest, there are unlimited options and countless resources to create a backyard migratory path for Hummingbirds. While much is known about Hummers, much is still unknown. If you like that flower, shrub or vine, plant it. You might be surprised.

Plants for a Future

© 2017 Kim French

Comments

Kim French (author) from Stevensville, Montana on November 20, 2017:

I wash mine in clean dishwater using a baby bottle brush to get deep up inside and rinse well. Tooth pics and q-tips work well for the tiny areas. I do not use bleach or chemicals on my feeders ever. If I feel disinfecting is needed I soak them in 50/50 vinegar.

Mom on November 20, 2017:

What do you recommend for washing feeders? And how do you be see those crevices are clean?