Information Possibly Outdated
The information presented on this page was originally released on April 29, 2016. It may not be outdated, but please search our site for more current information. If you plan to quote or reference this information in a publication, please check with the Extension specialist or author before proceeding.
Attract hummingbirds with colorful plants
RAYMOND, Miss. -- The sight of a hummingbird darting from flower to flower announces spring’s arrival and offers hours of entertainment all summer long.
Many of us provide hummingbird feeders to increase the numbers of the tiny birds we see around our homes before they migrate back to their winter homes in Mexico and Central America.
People who set out feeders assume a certain amount of responsibility for these delicate birds. Anyone who is not willing to keep fresh feed in a frequently cleaned container should consider planting a hummingbird garden instead.
Home gardens can attract hummingbirds by providing the birds’ favorite flowers. Welcome hummingbirds to a backyard by selecting a variety of native plants that flower at successively later dates.
Hummingbirds love brightly colored flowers, especially red, orange and pink. Nectar-producing flowers that bloom during the birds’ migration in spring and again in late summer and early fall attract them to an area.
Since hummingbirds have almost no sense of smell, the flowers that attract them often are not very fragrant. Hummingbirds look for bright colors and high nectar production characteristics.
These unusual creatures display many unique abilities that make them wonderful to watch. A hummingbird’s wings can go 180 degrees up, down, forward and back, which means the bird can hover, fly backward and ascend vertically. The bird commonly beats its wings 50 to 70 times per second. Its metabolism is quite fast, and its energy requirements are high.
Planting a hummingbird garden is a good way to ensure the birds have adequate food sources in a single yard. Several varieties of flowering trees, shrubs, vines and flowers satisfy hummingbirds and result in a beautiful landscape for homeowners to enjoy.
Azaleas, flowering quinces, red buckeyes, lantanas and mimosas attract hummingbirds. The larger trees are especially beneficial because they can feed dozens of birds at once while they are blooming.
The tubular red flowers of trumpet vines are very attractive to hummingbirds. The birds love to sip nectar from native flowering vines such as trumpet creeper, crossvine and Virginia creeper.
Hummingbirds also flock to coral honeysuckles, cypress vines and morning glories.
There are many perennials and annuals to plant in flowerbeds to make your lawn a hummingbird headquarters. Among the perennials that attract hummingbirds with colorful blooms are four-o-clocks, hostas, bee balms, cannas, cardinal flowers, little cigars and penstemons. Some good annuals that thrive in Mississippi and attract hummingbirds are petunias, impatiens, red salvias, scarlet sages, beard tongues and shrimp plants.
Hummingbirds get most of their energy from flower nectar and the sugar water they find in feeders, but they also eat soft-bodied insects and spiders for protein. Don’t use pesticides around hummingbird plants. Besides killing garden pests, the pesticides may eliminate the small insects hummingbirds need. Hummingbirds could become sick or die if they directly ingest pesticides sprayed onto flowers.
It is recommended that you rinse the feeder after it has been drained by the birds and clean twice a week to prevent algae growth. You should provide enough feed for to supply the birds to use up within three days. It is better to have several smaller feeders than one or two large ones.
For more information about establishing a garden for hummingbirds and other pollinators, look for other articles at http://extension.msstate.edu.
Editor’s Note: Extension Outdoors is a column authored by several different experts in the Mississippi State University Extension Service.