Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Upper South
May, 2010
Regional Report

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Add lots of colorful flowers to bring hummingbirds to your yard.

Create A Hummingbird Heaven

Of all the birds and butterflies that may inhabit our gardens, the hummingbird holds a special place in the hearts of many of us. There's something magical about them. The way they fly is like no other, and those jewel tones are certainly unique. The remarkable migratory journey they take only adds to their mystique.
Most likely, you already have at least a few hummingbirds visiting your garden, but why not make it an even more inviting place for them?

Choose Flowers to Attract Hummingbirds
Hummingbirds have no sense of smell, but they are visually attracted to flowers in shades of red and orange. Don't over look nectar-rich flowers in other colors, though, as the hummingbirds will find them. When choosing where to put plants, create beds with clusters of several species of nectar plants. Following are some of the most widely available plants that attract hummingbirds, grouped by the type of growth.

For shrubs, consider glossy abelia, azalea, buttonbush, butterfly bush, flowering quince, lilac, rhododendron, rose-of-Sharon, spirea, and weigela

For trees, hummingbirds are attracted to apple, crabapple, apricot, chaste tree, cherry, crape myrtle, hawthorn, red buckeye, ruby horse chestnut, peach, plum, silk tree (mimosa), sourwood, and tulip poplar.

For annuals and tropical plants, try abutilon, agapanthus, browallia, balsam, banana, begonia, bougainvillea, canna, Chinese lantern, cigar plant, cleome, dahlia, four o'clock, fuchsia, geranium, gladiolus, hibiscus, hollyhock, impatiens, jasmine, lantana, larkspur, lemon, monkey flower, nasturtium, nicotiana, orange, pentas, petunia, scarlet sage, shrimp plant, snapdragon, tuberose, verbena, wishbone flower, and zinnia.

For perennials, some of the possibilities include ajuga, alstroemeria, balloon flower, bee balm, bellflower, bleeding heart, butterfly weed, catmint, catnip, columbine, coral bells, daylily, delphinium, evening primrose, false dragonhead, foxglove, globe thistle, hosta, iris, lavender, lily, lobelia, lungwort, lupine, Maltese cross, mint, penstemon, phlox, pinks, primrose, red-hot poker, rose campion, rose mallow, sage, scabiosa, sweet William, turtlehead, and yucca.

For vines, the options include sweet autumn clematis, cross vine, cypress vine, glory bower, honeysuckle, morning glory, scarlet runner bean, trumpet creeper, and wisteria.

Get the Attention of Hummingbirds
Even with a garden filled with nectar-rich flowers, sometimes hummingbirds need a little encouragement. One method that gardeners have found that works is to tie lengths of red or orange surveyor%s tape to branches. It's thought that hummingbirds are sensitive to ultraviolet light, which these tapes reflect. You should be able to find surveyor's tape at hardware stores. Other gardeners choose to festoon parts of their garden with red silk flowers.

Go Pesticide Free
Hummingbirds don't survive on nectar alone. They also eat tiny insects and spiders for their protein needs. Indiscriminate use of pesticides will remove these important food sources. If you have certain plants that require them, use organic pesticides and focus use only specifically where needed.

Additional Things to Do for Hummingbirds
The favorite thing we do for hummingbirds is to put out feeders filled with sugar water, but, if truth be told, these feeders are as much for us to enjoy the hummers up close as to feed them. There are all sizes and shapes, but I prefer the smaller ones so that the sugar water is used up before it spoils. I also like feeders that have a perch, where the hummers can rest and eat simultaneously. Use purchased nectar or make your own by dissolving one part granulated sugar in four parts water. Never use honey.

Hummingbirds are attracted to traditional birdbaths, as long as they're not too deep. Adding a pump-powered mister will make a birdbath irresistible. Convenient perching opportunities and nesting sites complete a hummer's "home sweet home."

Learn More About Attracting Hummingbirds
There are a number of books on creating hummingbird gardens, but one of the most popular is Attracting Butterflies & Hummingbirds to Your Backyard: Watch Your Garden Come Alive with Beauty on the Wing by Sally Roth (Rodale Books, 2002, $21.99). To learn more about the ruby-throated hummingbird, which is the one we'll see in our region, visit The Cornell Lab of Ornithology All About Birds,

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