By Jessi Jablonski
Hummingbirds in your garden
If you watch carefully, hummingbirds should be making their appearance in a few weeks after migrating north from the warmer climates. Many gardeners love to attract these tiny, skittish birds to their gardens. Not only do hummingbirds feed from the sugary mix that we put out for them, but they also are attracted to the sweet nectar that is made by certain flowers. Flapping their wings 60 times per second is hard work, and hummingbirds will often eat half their body weight in nectar! Hummingbirds can often be seen darting out of the protection of a tree or shrub, filling up on nectar, and flying back into their protected area. These birds, although small, can be fiercely territorial! Hummingbirds do not like to share and will fight over the same flower.
To attract more hummingbirds to your garden, consider using more than one small feeder with a single port instead of a large feeder with several ports. Planting several clusters of plants that attract hummingbirds will encourage more winged visitors as well. Many annuals (plants that have to be planted every spring) and perennials (flowers that come back every year) are hummingbird magnets. Incorporating some of these into your landscape near trees, shrubs and feeders may increase the hummingbird population in your garden.
• Red Lobelia (Cardinal Flower) – This perennial is gorgeous when in bloom! Spikes of bright red tube-shaped flowers attract hummingbirds from high above. These flowers do best in part shade and like a little more moisture than most plants.
• Monarda (Bee Balm) – This beautiful perennial attracts more than just hummingbirds. Bees, butterflies and birds also love this plant. Hummingbirds typically are drawn to brighter colors, so look for hot pink or red varieties when shopping for this plant. It loves full sun but will also tolerate part shade. Not particular about soil and will rebloom if the spent flowers are removed.
• Salvia (Meadow Sage) – This plant, depending on the variety, can be either annual or perennial in our area. Though hummingbirds love bright colors, I have seen many feed on the blue varieties of this plant as well. These flowers like full sun or part shade and will grow in almost any type of soil. It will also rebloom if spent flowers are removed.
• Aquilegia (Columbine) – This native perennial grows wild in Minnesota. Other insects have a hard time feeding on this plant. The long, narrow beak on the hummingbird is designed to reach the nectar that is hiding deep in the throat of this flower. Butterflies love this plant as well. These dainty plants grow in part shade and are tougher than they look.
There are many more plants that provide food for hummingbirds, but don’t forget to provide a bit of shelter for them as well. Spruce, Pine, Birch and Linden trees can be a great place to look for nests, as well as tall shrubs like Dogwood, Viburnum and Ninebark.
With an assortment of perennials, trees and shrubs, along with a feeder or two, hummingbirds just may make your garden their summer home. Remember to check your feeders daily and keep them full until the end of September. Hummingbirds will head to warmer climates for the winter and with a little luck, they may remember your garden the next spring!
The Plant Lady is a regional horticulturalist with the goal is of making Bluff Country more beautiful – one garden at a time. Follow her on Facebook @PlantLadyMn for helpful tips and tricks, or via email at ThePlantLadyMN@gmail.com.
Nectar for Feeders
¼ cup white sugar (please only use white sugar, as honey can
promote fungus growth that can be toxic to hummingbirds
and raw sugars are too high in iron)
1 cup water
Mix the two ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved.
Cool to room temperature and fill your feeders.
Note that there is no red dye added to this mixture. Dyes can be harmful and are not necessary to attract hummingbirds.