The Three D’s:
Attracting and enjoying hummingbirds in your
yard is one of the great enjoyments here in the upper midwest. In northern Minnesota, the
Ruby-Throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) piles up frequent flier miles like no other
bird. In our yard we watch them dart in and out of our flowers, hover over the waterway, and
then perch in a secluded hideaway.
From their private perch these
tiny birds keep a constant eye on their surroundings. With
grace, agility and speed hummingbirds launch at any intruder, whether that is another hummingbird
or a larger bird wandering into their territory.
After a quick battle, the victor returns to his
(or her) perch, preens and is on the lookout once again. A hummingbird’s blazing speed,
agility, amusing squeaky chatter, and tractor like sound of wings as they buzz by, makes them
a truly unique and amazing creature. Best of all, there are simple things you can do in you
yard to create an environment that is inviting to hummingbirds.
In our yard as a part of our landscaping, we have incorporated a variety of plantings that provide
the type of food source and cover that we have observed hummingbirds use. Following is a list that
has been successful for us. This list is by no means all inclusive and are simply plants that we
have used with good results in our own yards. As well as the below listed plants, hummingbirds
enjoy sitting on the ends of tree branches where their satiny green backs camouflage them as tree
- Diervilla lonicera (Bush Honeysuckle)
Small yellow flowers provide early attraction
- Lonicera xylosteum ‘Claveyi’(Clavey’s Dwarf Honeysuckle)
Small early yellow flowers in early spring
- Weigela florida “Red Prince’(Red prince Weigela) Red blooms
throughout the summer
- Rhododendron ‘Northern Lights’ (Northern Lights Azeleas)
Light to deep pink flowers; protect from rabbits in fall and winter
- Lonicera ‘Mandarin’ (Mandarin Honeysuckle)
Attractive flowers from late spring throughout the summer. Very attractive to
- Lonicera x brownie ‘Dropmore Scarlet’ (Dropmore Honeysuckle)
Orange tubular flowers all throughout the summer and into fall.
- Scarlet Runner Beans – Annual A great climber with red
flowers. Also produces an eatable bean.
- Red Morning Glory – Annual Fast growing vine which produces
blooms throughout the summer.
- Cardinal Climber – Annual Produces small delicate red
flowers, a favorite of hummingbirds.
- Lady in Red Salvia Finer red flowers than
the typical red flowering Salvia. It has been the most successful annual for attracting
hummingbirds in our yard.
- Blue Savlia Provides diversity, especially in the
- Tithonia Mexican Sunflower Various sizes, but have a small
compact orange flower. Very appealing to hummingbirds.
- Impatients A wonderful annual when massed in front of
hostas; provides color for attraction. Also a good attractor for the hummingbird
- Cannas Red Cannas are annuals in the northern part of the
country. Hummingbirds seem to enjoy the taller varieties the best.
- Petunias A good hardy annual that attracts attention. The
trailing varieties are wonderful for hanging pots.
- Fuschsia A particular favorite of hummingbirds. In northern
areas the plant can be brought in for the winter. If you bring the plant in spray the plant for
white flies and other pests.
- Aquilegia (Native Columbine) A favorite
of hummingbirds, blooms early in spring.
- Dicentra (Old Fashioned Bleeding Heart) A great plant
for shaded areas in the upper midwest.
- Heuchera (Coral Bells) A small perennial that does well
in partial shade.
- Monarda ‘Jacob Cline’ Jacob Cline BeeBalm A terrific,
hardy red bloomer that is extremely attractive to hummingbirds.
- Lobelia cardinalis (Cardinal Flower) Beautiful tubular
red blooms that have a fine texture.
When planting for hummingbirds, be sure to use plantings that range in size from ground covers, to
mid size to those that are tall plant species or climbing vines that range six feet and more.
Consider using hanging pots from an overhang of your home or garage, or even a second story window
box. Hanging pots, window boxes and container plantings provide places for specimen plants and
accents, and can provide depth and dimension to your landscaping.
Hummingbirds are feisty creatures and will examine every corner of your yard seeking their
favorite flowers. Also provide masses of one type of plant (such as Lady in Red Salvia). You can
watch for quite some time as the hummers go from flower to flower in one area. Expanding your
garden dimensions provides more interest to hummingbirds and gives you more opportunities to enjoy
the satiny green bird. Remember to watch the males when the sunlight strikes their throat which
will then resonate with a color that imitates Dorothy’s Ruby Red slippers.
We have found that the more dynamic and invigorating we have made our landscape, the more
attractive it has been for hummingbirds. Think of adding water, various feeders and different types
of perching areas.
A waterfall with its trickling sounds and splashing water will become a magnet for hummingbirds.
The small birds enjoy grabbing droplets of water as the water runs down the falls and into the
streambed. Small water features can be just as effective as large ones in drawing in birds. Pond
kits and small fountains with running water are available at retail stores.
Don’t manicure your trees and shrubs, rather leave a few dead twigs and branches for perching
areas. Arbors, shepherd hooks and trellises give hummingbirds places to perch and watch over their
empire. As well as various amenities, provide a variety of nectar feeders. Remember to clean the
feeders every other day and replenish them with fresh nectar.
Hummingbirds are very inquisitive and feed by sight, not smell. They have been
observed checking out red and white fishing bobbers, a red dog collar (on a black Labrador)
and a piece of orange surveyor’s ribbon. Lastly, but extremely important, these creates are
delicate. Avoid the use of insecticidal sprays, herbicides or other types of pesticides in
their feeding and perching areas.
Not all parts of the country have hummingbirds throughout the year or even throughout the entire
summer. But adding a few features to your yard can entice them in, even if it is just for a short
time (like during their migration period) as well as making your yard more
Article written by
William Henry, Landscape Architect of Gizmo Creations LLC. For more landscaping articles,