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Attracting Hummingbirds to your Garden!


Attracting hummingbirds to your garden simply requires a bit of planning and attention to detail. These delicate creatures are specific to the Western Hemisphere with over 300 species in existence. It is important to research their natural habitats, behaviors, and predators in order to create an ideally attractive environment. Many hummingbird feeders are characteristically red as the majority of nectar producing flowers have adapted to attract these vibrant birds. The more bright and alluring the color of your feeder, the better! Mixing sugar water is quick and easy, although adding red dye to the nectar is not recommended as it poses potentially harmful health risks. As you choose your hummingbird feeder keep in mind the location that would best be suited for enjoying their behaviors. Initially place the food source in a bright and open area so that it is easily identifiable; after the hummingbird community begins to flock to your yard, then it is safe to begin moving your feeders to other locations: outside your kitchen window, under a shade tree, or in your protégé garden. We are frequently visited by novice observers and Master Gardeners alike from the Shortpump, Bellevue, and Goochland communities who are looking for the right type of feeder for their hummingbird needs.

These birds prefer to feed in a location of partial shade within fifteen feet of a protective shelter. As do all wild animals, hummingbirds must keep a close watch out for predators. They tend to perch hidden in a nearby tree or shrub before venturing out to collect nectar. The most common predators are raccoons or other scavenging mammals as they are attracted to the sweet sugar water scent. By hanging your feeder on the eaves of a house roof or on a wrought iron shepherd’s hook, these pests will be unable to obtain convenient access. However, hummingbird feeders are often plagued by bees and ants as well. A simple solution to these pests is to purchase an ant guard that is hung just above the feeder and bee guards that can be placed over the feeding portals. It is common to see merely one or two hummingbirds feeding at one time because they can be very possessive of a discovered food source. The easy and most reliable solution is to set up several feeders in different parts of your yard. They will not easily forget where to find an ample supply of nutrition either! Our retail floor manager, Bill Darden confesses, “Every spring I notice the same hummingbirds returning from their winter holiday. They always remember where to find a snack after migrating back to our area.”

The most convenient and relatively maintenance free hummingbird feeders are more than likely already available within your flower beds and side gardens. Butterflies and hummingbirds alike are attracted to sweet vines, flowering shrubs, and tubular annuals that are oriented horizontally. Examples include the perennial Bleeding Heart and Honeysuckle. Bright red Hibiscus and colorful Lantana are always alluring as well as the Butterfly Bush, Flowering Maple, and Columbine. A comprehensive list of plants that attract hummingbirds can be viewed below. Feel free to visit our store to ask questions and collect items that will best attract these delicate and fascinating creatures to your garden at home.

Our Broad Street location provides a selection of literature on hummingbirds, including Ortho’s All About Attracting Hummingbirds and Butterflies and Donald and Lillian Stokes’ work in Beginner’s Guide to Hummingbirds.

“I notice lots of hummingbirds gathering around the Diplodenia in my backyard every morning,” says our greenhouse manager, Tyler Zufall. Here is a comprehensive list of plants that attract hummingbirds:

Autumn Sage
Bee Balm
Cardinal Flower/Lobelia
Scarlet Larkspur
Butterfly Bush
Bleeding Heart
Coral Bells

Flowering Tobacco
Flowering Maple
Hyacinth Bean

Here is a quick and simple recipe for making your own nectar at home, courtesy of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center:

Directions for making safe hummingbird food:
Mix 1 part sugar with 4 parts water and bring to a boil to kill any bacteria or mold.
Cool and fill feeder.
Extra sugar water may be stored in a refrigerator.
Red dye should not be added.

“Many customers come in asking for ready-to-use hummingbird nectar and we sell a lot of it!” admits cashier, Amanda Jackson. For instant nectar and concentrate, we recommend Opus Garden Song, Birdola Hummingbird Nectar Ready-To-Use, and Perky Pet Hummingbird Instant Nectar Concentrate. All of these items and many more, including feeders and guards are available right outside of the greenhouse in our hardgoods retail area.

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