Mommy, come see! There are fairies in the garden!
And so they might have been to the eyes of a five year old who grew up on tales of pixies, elves and fairies. The magical visitor this time, though, was a ruby-throated hummingbird. Hummingbirds have a unique ability to hover in one place by rapidly fluttering their tiny wings which may truly have made them the fairies that many people saw hovering around brightly colored flowers.
It’s not difficult to create a garden that will attract hummingbirds, but if you’d like to build a habitat in which they will happily nest and live throughout the northern summer, you need to provide them with more
than a sugar-water feeder and a plant or two. An active hummingbird garden doesn’t need to be large, but it will have all of the following key ingredients to attract and keep the attention of nature’s fairies.
Choose nectar producing plants that bloom at different times throughout the spring, summer and autumn.
Flowers are, of course, the key ingredient in attracting hummingbirds to your garden. The tiny birds feed on nectar that is produced by flowers, and seem particularly attracted to plants with trumpet or tubular bright red and orange flowers. Among their particular favorites, though, are rhododendrons, azaleas and rose of Sharon bushes, so the red trumpet isn’t a hard and fast rule. For northern gardens that attract the ruby-throated hummingbird, choose from the list of plants below, making sure that you choose plants that flower at different times during the blooming season to provide food for them throughout the spring, summer and fall.
Azaleas, rhododendrons and rose of Sharon bushes make a great background for hummingbird gardens. They bloom early in the spring and continue blooming through the early summer. Pink and bright red varieties are favored, but hummingbirds love ALL rose of Sharon varieties.
Bleeding hearts and red mountain columbine bloom in the early summer, as do petunias, morning glories, trumpet vines, trumpet honeysuckle, and impatiens, all of which attract hummingbirds. An expanse of shade-dappled impatiens is a powerful attraction for hummingbirds, who are sight hunters, finding their feeding grounds by sight.
Butterfly bush, day lilies, garden phlox, bee-balm and impatiens all will keep hummingbirds returning through the autumn and attract late migrators.
Provide a source of water in the hummingbird garden.
Unlike larger birds, hummingbirds will seldom take advantage of a bird bath or bowl of water. Instead, they relish cool mists. A garden hose with a misting attachment or a small fountain that can be adjusted to a fine mist will keep them happy.
Create vertical space for hummingbirds to perch and nest in your garden.
Hummingbirds need shelter from predators and small branches for perching and resting (yes, yes, they do perch sometimes!). By choosing a few taller bushes or trees, you can provide both.
A few strategically placed hummingbird feeders will offer an easy treat in your hummingbird garden.
There are dozens of commercially designed hummingbird feeders designed to be attractive to the little wanderers. Choose feeders with bright red accents, and a capacity for about 8 ounces of sugar water. Rather than using one large feeder, place 2-4 of them around your garden, out of sight of each other if possible. Hummingbirds are notoriously territorial. By providing several private feeding stations, you’ll increase the number of hummingbirds that you attract.