Many people think attracting hummingbirds is as easy as hanging a feeder. But that’s not always successful because many hummingbirds are not accustomed to using feeders, says LSU AgCenter horticulturist Allen Owings.
Planting a garden full of plants that attract hummingbirds and maintaining feeders can be a more reliable method for successfully attracting hummers.
“It’s important to be patient the first year,” Owings says. “A hummingbird garden is an invitation, and it may take some time for the garden to be a destination for hummingbirds. The longer you stay with a good plan to bring hummingbirds to your garden, the better it will work.”
A well-chosen selection of flowering trees, shrubs, vines, annual flowers and flowering perennials can produce an excellent supply of nectar over a long time.
At the same time, the landscape will be beautified.
Insects that live on the plants along with the flowers’ nectar will provide hummingbirds with a complete, balanced diet. Because they obtain nearly all the water they need from their foods, it’s not necessary to provide them with drinking water.
Typical hummingbird flowers are red, have a tubular shape and don’t have a strong fragrance.
Owings says annual and perennial flowers for hummingbirds include salvia, iris, red hot poker, impatiens, cardinal flower, standing cypress, bee balm, pentas and lantana.
He also suggests trying these vines: coral honeysuckle, Japanese honeysuckle, cape honeysuckle, cypress vine, bleeding heart vine and trumpet creeper.
You can also plant trees like the crybaby tree, loquat (Japanese plum), mimosa and citrus. And good shrubs for the hummingbird landscape include Turk’s cap, pagoda plant, Mexican cigar plant, shrimp plant, firespike, hibiscus, bird of paradise, azalea and red buckeye.
Avoid using insecticides in hummingbird gardens, Owings cautions. If absolutely needed, they should be used sparingly and only on non-flowering plants. Use pesticides low in toxicity, such as horticultural oils and insecticidal soaps. Never use systemic insecticides or rotenone on plants where hummingbirds may feed.
Got a gardening question? Write to GardenNews@agcenter.lsu.edu.