Weekend Gardening: It’s Easy To Attract Hummingbirds

September 22, 2018

by UF/IFAS Extension

Few sights are more thrilling in the garden than rapidly moving hummingbirds darting among colorful flowers. Hummingbirds, also known as hummers, are always a wonder to see, and it’s easy to attract them to your garden.

In Florida, we see three different types of hummingbirds, but the most common is the ruby-throated. This feathered jewel is only about three inches long and weighs as little as a single penny.

For their size, hummingbirds have among the largest appetites in the bird world. They feed every 10 or 15 minutes from dawn until dusk. During this period, they eat more than half their weight in food and 8 times their weight in water.

If you’re fascinated by hummingbirds, you probably hang out a feeder or two in the summer to provide them with sugar water. Artificial feeders will attract hummingbirds.

However, feeders should not be the sole source of food provided. The sugar solution may appeal to the hummingbirds’ sweet tooth, but it provides little nourishment. Nectar is much more vital to the hummingbird than just water and sugar. By planting certain flowers and shrubs, home gardeners can provide food and habitat for hummingbirds.

Typical hummingbird flowers are red, have a tubular shape and have no strong scent. But there are several notable exceptions to this general rule. Many plants with red flowers don’t contain very much nectar. Roses, petunias, geraniums and zinnias have brilliant colors but little nectar.

Plants that produce an abundance of flowers over an extended period of time and those that require little care are good choices. Native plants can “fill the bill” where nectar-seekers are concerned and should be used whenever possible.

Perennials that are recommended as nectar sources include butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa), red basil (Calamintha coccinea), shrimp plant (Justicia brandegeana), cigar plant (Cuphea ignea), firespike (Odontonema stricta), red star hibiscus (Hibiscus coccineus), and obedient plant (Physostegia spp.).

It’s also important to plant a mixture of nectar producing trees, vines and shrubs that have overlapping blooming seasons. This will insure that a continuous source of nectar will be available to hummingbirds throughout the growing season. Some of the species recommended include red buckeye, bottlebrush, firebush (Hamelia patens), wild azalea, trumpet vine, and coral honeysuckle.

Contrary to popular belief, hummingbirds are not strictly nectar feeders. Insects and other invertebrates are the primary source of protein for adult hummingbirds and their young. An adult female can consume up to 2,000 insects per day. Small invertebrates including mosquitoes, gnats, small bees, fruit flies, spiders, caterpillars, aphids, and insects eggs make up the hummingbirds diet. So keep your plants free of pesticides. Pesticides destroy the insect food base vital to hummingbirds and their offspring, and may also contaminate the nectar they drink.

And if you do use artificial feeders, remember that the sugar solutions must be kept fresh. Florida’s hot weather can cause rapid bacterial growth in these feeders and birds that drink contaminated water could die. To avoid this, change the solution every 3 to 5 days. Clean the feeders with hot water and white vinegar. Do not use soap or chlorine bleach.


26 Responses to “Weekend Gardening: It’s Easy To Attract Hummingbirds”

  1. Patricia Wisniowski on September 23rd, 2018 9:05 pm

    HOw do you keep bees away from feeder? Seems like Hummers are afraid of them

  2. Rod Martin on September 23rd, 2018 6:52 pm

    I live in Kentucky and this year did not see any Humers until July! Really late. Feeders were out and cleaned since early May. We seem to attract ones that are protective of “their” personal feeder. While I can’t do anything about that, I am have a problem find overlapping nectar plants that do well in humid heat

  3. Catherine Zumbroich on September 23rd, 2018 1:00 pm

    I live in the Seattle area and have been feeding the Anna’s Hummingbird for many year. We have two feeding stations for them year round. Apparently this type of hummingbird does not migrate during the winter. During the winter months when the temperature drops to 30 Degrees or below, we bring the bottles in every night and set the alarm to make sure the bottles are set back outside just before day break. One thing I learned here is about cleaning the bottles. Thank YOU very much for that info. My husband and I think of these beautiful birds part of the family.

  4. Susan on September 23rd, 2018 12:23 pm

    Thanks to everyone for responding to this excellent article. It’s interesting to read about everyone’s experiences with hummers in different parts of the country.

  5. Pat Marant on September 23rd, 2018 10:36 am

    I live in SoEast TX and have 25-30 hummers at my 3 feeders. The first batch has moved on toward Mexico and then another came in to feed! I videoed them and put it on fcbk for all to enjoy.

  6. Molly on September 23rd, 2018 9:50 am

    I also love my hummingbirds, I live up North in Michigan, I still see them everyday, and change the feeder every 4 days. But does anyone know when, they leave?

  7. Pam on September 23rd, 2018 12:41 am

    I live in Central New Mexico and still have humminbirds at the feeder. Far less than two weeks ago; I read to keep the feeders up for a few more weeks to help feed the birds during migration.

  8. Patti Schaeffer on September 22nd, 2018 9:47 pm

    I love my hummers I live in Lynnwood WA
    I have 3 feeders out we use to have 3 year round
    But for some reason we are down to one not sure if it’s a boy/girl
    but is green I was finally able to catch it to video tape it my neighbor has a butterfly tree it fly’s to after drinking my sugar water my family is moving to the east coast in the next few months to a new house and I want to know how to get my yard ready to receive and attract new hummingbird and helpful tips

  9. Terri DePrince on September 22nd, 2018 5:23 pm

    Got hummingbirds galore here in South Jersey. They come back every year. I have seen red heads, green heads. They are very friendly and will buzz me up close and personal like. I love them! They are abundant where I live. My property borders a wildlife management area that is a protected sanctuary for flora and fauna indigenous to this area.

  10. L. McKnight on September 22nd, 2018 4:53 pm

    I’ve been delighted with these little girls since May here in NC. I have noticed they are all females and have not seen any males since late July. I have one that we call the “talker” as the only time we don’t hear her is when she is drinking
    I love them!

  11. Debbie on September 22nd, 2018 4:27 pm

    I live in East Tennessee and always have lots of hummers. I see them thru October here and I only fill my feeders about a third full since our summers are so hot and I want to keep the sugar water fresh. I prefer the smaller feeders instead of the larger ones for this reason. I also plant Bee Balm and Cypress Vine, both of which the birds love. I too always look forward to spring and my first hummingbird sighting.

  12. erik huter on September 22nd, 2018 3:40 pm

    We live in naples, fl. we are seeing3 different hummingbirds at our flowers. We’ve just started looking for them and usually only need to wait less than 5 minutes. Sept 22nd, 2018

  13. Janet Day on September 22nd, 2018 2:03 pm

    Our little hummingbirds have also just left town. I miss them already. Already looking forward to their Springtime return.
    Very informative article. Will be passing it around to others.
    Thank you!

  14. Edward meador on September 22nd, 2018 1:25 pm

    Any suggestions for central Missouri

  15. Lil Thompson on September 22nd, 2018 1:00 pm

    I live in Louisville, Ky and we have green colored hummingbirds. They are so much fun to watch. We have feeders out snd also two of the hummingbird plants in big pots. Glad to know all the information you provided. Sure will be helpful.

  16. Deb Thorpe on September 22nd, 2018 12:41 pm

    We moved to a more rural area in Tennessee last year and have been overwhelmed by the numbers of hummingbirds coming to our feeders. We have 3 feeders in the back and 1 in the front. We refill our feeders sometimes 3 times a day. We’ve estimated 30-40 birds come to our feed es throughout the day. Thanks for the information. I will definitely use the information when planting flowers next spring.

  17. northendbratt on September 22nd, 2018 12:15 pm

    We live in Bratt, Fl and up until this year have had Hummingbirds as early as March 15.This year it was July and we have only 3.Does anyone Know why?I have plenty of flowers they love and 3 feeders in different locations. We keep the feeders clean and change the sugar water weekly.

  18. Tom Lopez on September 22nd, 2018 11:44 am

    Live in New Mexico. Have not seen my hummingbird in about a week. Are the gone from this area?? Thanjs

  19. Susan Arthur on September 22nd, 2018 11:00 am

    We are sad in Boston, it has been a week since I’ve seen a hummer! Have taken all but one feeder down, just in case there’s a stray.

  20. Marie M. on September 22nd, 2018 10:51 am

    Have a very territorial Male RT. Won’t share any of the 4 feeders in backyard. I’d like to give them a mister. Any recommendations? Success or failure? We have a fountain with a sprayer, the RTs seem too check it out frequently. TIA

  21. Sylvia Mancha on September 22nd, 2018 10:23 am

    BTW thank you for the article, very informative. I knew not
    to use any soaps to clean my feeders, but not that vinegar was ok to use. Really enjoyed reading your
    Article. And yes, i do have to change sugar water more frequently because of the blazing hot Texas sun.

  22. Sylvia Mancha on September 22nd, 2018 10:15 am

    Enjoyed reading comments from other hummer
    enthusiasts. Hummingbirds have been visiting
    my feeders in southernmost tip of Texas for about
    7-10 yrs. now. I’m retired now and get to spend time
    watching them from my L.R. and dining rm. as they feed on 5 feeders stationed on my back porch.
    Saw a roufus hummer for 1st time this yr.!

  23. judith taylor on September 22nd, 2018 9:51 am

    I live in Chicago,Illinois suburb area. As of sept 21the little ones are still coming to the feeder. They have provided such joy. I expect to see them leave soon and I will miss them.

  24. Jim gemmill on September 22nd, 2018 8:48 am

    I have three feeders outside and really enjoy watching these amazing birds. I have only a few nectar producing flowers outside since I live in an apartment. I have ruby throated hummingbirds both male and female feeding all day. In all I have approximately 15 birds feeding. I change my nectar to keep it fresh, but did not know not to use soap to clean the feeders. It was good to learn white vinegar is a better choice

    Ypsilanti, Michigan

  25. Mark Davidson on September 22nd, 2018 8:39 am

    Great arricle detailing specific plants for our area. The hummers sermed to have peaked. They have thinned out a bit in the past few days.

  26. Cathy Taylor on September 22nd, 2018 8:33 am

    Very informative

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