Feed Hummingbirds with Homegrown Flowers

Summer in the garden brings many wonderful visitors, including the most admired of them all: hummingbirds.

by Jessica Walliser
PHOTO: chrisdupe/Flickr

Summer in the garden brings many wonderful visitors, including the most admired of them all: hummingbirds.

Because ruby-throated hummingbirds breed here in Western Pennsylvania, they are by far the most common species in my garden, but some years I’m also blessed with the occasional late-season sighting of a rufous hummingbird, a migrating western species that sometimes veers off-course on its migration from its breeding grounds in the Pacific Northwest to its winter home in Mexico. We also may rarely see a calliope hummer or an Allen’s hummer, but if I spot a handful of birds in my garden on a daily basis this time of year, I can rest assured that they are ruby-throated hummingbirds.

These beautiful little birds are known to return to the same yard year after year. Sadly, I have yet to spot the mating pair that have called my backyard home for the past three summers. Backyard hummingbird feeders should be filled by mid-April to support nest-building efforts, and I was a few weeks late in putting mine out this year. Whether or not that played into the pair deciding not to return, I haven’t a clue, but I miss them already and will continue to wash and refill the feeder every week in hopes of attracting new birds to my garden.

Planting for Hummingbirds
I also plant many different hummingbird-friendly flowering plants in my garden. Hummers are highly attracted to the color red and to long, tubular flowers, so I’m sure to include plenty of them in my landscape each season. They love the weigela I have planted on the side of my house as well as the red buckeye tree we planted a few years ago. Other favorite shrubs include red or orange honeysuckle varieties and butterfly bushes.

In the perennial garden, I have plenty of agastache, columbine, cardinal flower, penstemon, monarda, coral bells, red hot pokers and foxglove. And if you can only grow annuals or if you garden in containers, you can turn instead to lantana, fuchsia, petunias, pineapple sage, tithonia and red salvia. In my garden, the hummingbirds’ favorite summer-blooming plant is the annual cypress vine (Ipomea quamoclit) I plant on my tepee trellis from seed each spring.

Make Hummingbird Feed
If you, too, have a hummingbird feeder, you don’t have to invest in commercially made food mixtures. Simply make your own hummingbird feed by boiling 1 cup granulated sugar in 4 cups water for two minutes. Let it cool and then fill the feeder. You can keep the excess in the fridge for a week or two, and be sure to empty and clean your feeder on a weekly basis.

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