An open invitation to hummingbirds

How to attract hummingbirds to your yard

Just about everything about hummingbirds is amazing – from their tiny size to their speed to their feistiness.

They're native to the Western Hemisphere and live from Chile to Alaska. Anyone who's ever had them visit wants them to return. They're more entertaining than a TV reality show.

There are two methods of attracting hummers to your garden.

First: Know which months hummingbirds are in your part of the country and try to have flowers they like in bloom all that time, if you can.

Hummers feed on the nectar in flowers – red and orange ones, particularly – that are tubular or trumpet-shaped.

There are so many plants they like – not just annual flowers, but shrubs, vines, and perennials, too – that it’s fairly easy to offer them something throughout the time they're in residence.

You'll find many lists of hummingbird-attracting plants on the Web and in books, but which plants are right for your garden depends on where you live.

Among my favorites are Agastache, azalea, cardinal flower, dahlia, Heuchera, hollyhock, rose of Sharon, and trumpet honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens), a delightful vine. (Avoid Japanese honeysuckle, though, because it takes over.)

Don't use pesticides if you want hummingbirds as visitors. They're attracted by small insects (which provide protein for their diet).

You may also want to supplement the plants with a hummingbird feeder or two. They’re perfect for those who live in apartments and don’t have a garden.

The big problem with feeders is that you have to clean them two or three times a week, depending on the heat and humidity where you live.

To make nectar for the feeder, mix ¼ cup of sugar in 1 cup of water and pour into a clean feeder. (Or to make larger or smaller amounts, just stick to a 1 to 4 ratio.) Don't use red food coloring.

If possible, consider having several small feeders – out of sight of one another – rather than one large one, because hummers are very territorial. And because they eat almost constantly.

Gardeners often champion native plants. Here's a native bird that's fun to invite to our gardens, too.

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