One of the greatest joys of spring and summer is to watch the birds sing, flirt, make nests, and refuel in your feeders and bird baths after all of their hard work. Sometimes there’s one specific bird that you want to attract, and since you’re reading this, we know it’s the hummingbird!
How can you make these adorable fluffy bullets happy with your space? The best way is to understand the relationship between hummingbirds and flowers and prepare a favorable flower garden for them.
Hummingbirds are attracted to areas that have tall trees, large hardscape elements, bunches of brightly-colored nectar-filled flowers, red accents, properly spaced feeders, protection from larger birds, and readily available spider webs.
There’s more to this, of course. Keep reading if you want to understand the nuances of what hummingbirds are looking for and for helpful examples to plan your own landscape.
Hardscape in a garden is any hard, moveable object that is used for decoration or practical reasons. Examples of hardscape include:
- Brick walls
- Stone paths
It’s important to know where you want to put your hardscape and how much room these elements will take up in your yard so that you know what’s left to work with for the flowers.
Maybe you want to avoid the hardscape entirely and just focus on the flowerbeds, but hummingbirds tend to look for the hardscape too. We’ll explain in more detail below, but we would recommend having one hardscape structure (not a path or arch). It’s important that it’s covered.
Don’t be discouraged if you have a tiny yard to work with. You can find small but equally functional hardscape elements that will fit. Birdbaths, for example. Don’t bother with birdhouses for hummingbirds. They don’t like confined, stiff homes.
This is the most important factor to consider, especially if you have a small space. You can still provide everything a hummingbird wants, even if you have nothing but an apartment balcony. What’s important to remember are these three factors:
- Plants grow up and out
- Hummingbirds are attracted to bright colors
- Not all plants will thrive or even survive in your climate
As you look up hummingbird-friendly plants it can be easy to get excited over the colors and the beauty of their variety without considering their mature sizes or specific needs. To help you get started, below are some popular hummingbird plants with their typical mature sizes.
|Flowering Plant:||Mature Size (H x W) in feet:|
|Agastache (Hyssop)||1-2’ x 1’|
|Bee Balm||2-4’ x 2-3’|
|Trumpet Honeysuckle||10-20’ x 3-6’|
|Trumpet Vine||30-40’ x 4-10’|
|Red Cardinal||6-12’ x 3-6’|
|Rhododendron||2-25’ x 2-25’|
|Sage (Salvia)||1-3’ x 1-3’|
The flowers that work best are brightly colored and tubular in shape though they are still like other nectar-filled flowers like lavender. Red flowers attract them the best. You want varying heights and blooms that bloom at varying times for perpetual hummingbird attraction.
If you container garden, most flowering plants like the same basic potting mix. If you want to plant the flowers in in-ground flower beds, test your soil’s pH to make sure your plants will like it, and see how well it drains. You may have to dig and replace some with potting mix.
Keep your selection native. The hummingbirds know instinctively which plants will feed them from repetition and instinct. By planting native plants, you’re especially benefiting yourself because those flowers will most likely thrive in your yard and be perennial.
We mentioned that red attracts hummingbirds the best among all the bright flower colors, so it’s a good idea to have several bunches of red flowers dotted around the landscape.
If you don’t want red flowers, or can’t get any, one trick homeowners have is to dot the landscape with red ribbons to get the attention of passing hummingbirds and invite them to investigate.
You don’t have to have a wide open space with flowers only along your fenceline. It helps hummingbirds to have narrow and curved beds close to one another so that they can look for nectar from all sides of the flowers and can travel from one bed to another in the shortest, and safest time possible. Apartment balconies can just have some hanging plants and a little bath.
It’s good to have just a few trees or tall shrubs because these will provide the birds with protection from predators, allows them to watch for predators, are natural perches to land on, and can be places to nest.
For more planned planting tips, click here.
Having your nectar-filled flowers is good, but your hummingbirds will need something to feed them in the early spring and fall when the flowers haven’t bloomed yet or are dying back.
You’ll need some brightly-colored feeders. Get at least two so that you don’t end up with one bird that bullies the others away and put them on the far ends of your space.
You’ll want feeders that are easy to clean because the sugar water you’ll have inside will be exposed to the heat and maybe sun so you have to be careful it doesn’t go bad by cleaning the feeder and replacing the nectar.
Ants and bees tend to be attracted to the feeders and can fall in, which is another reason to clean the feeders regularly.
Sugar water is a great food source, but it won’t hydrate your little puffballs. You need to put at least a bird bath that will serve as both a drinking water source and bath.
You could also add several hanging bird baths to make sure there are some in the shade that won’t get too hot. Most bird baths are made of either stone, cement, or plastic, all of which can get hot.
The water can easily heat up because it’s shallow, but you do want shallow water as hummingbirds aren’t able to sit on top of deeper water, like ducks.
Finally, the last need you could meet for the hummingbirds is a place to stay. They don’t like bird houses, but the shrubs you put in are good, safe places they will use as nesting spots. They’re even better than many trees.
They will also put nests on things like clotheslines, wire, Christmas lights, and more. So if you have an outdoor structure with a cover, you might provide some lines of lights or just some clotheslines inside to give them potential places to make a nest.
They make nests with leaves, moss, lichen, dandylion down, and spider webs. So if you see the occasional spider’s web around your property, don’t take it down. Leave it for the hummingbirds to use.
When it comes to gardens and landscapes, visual aids from examples that are successful can really help you get ideas for your own space.
Check out this video covering all the aspects of hummingbird landscaping.
Hummingbirds can be a little fickle and more than a little territorial, but even if you can only provide two hummingbirds their “feeding territories,” you’ll find that you will still enjoy your landscape and garden as much as they do! Be sure to give yourself a seating area that gives you a good view.