Eco Friendly Hummingbird Garden
I don’t know about you, but I just love hummingbirds. Although they are one of the smallest birds in the world, they have to be the most amazing. In fact, the smallest hummingbird species weighs less than a penny.
Do you know how the hummingbird got its name? It’s because they make a humming sound when they beat their wings. Their wings flap at high frequencies that are audible to humans. Even when they hover, their wings flap at an average of 50 times per second and up to 200 times per second. That’s 34 mph (54 km/h). That includes flying upside down and backwards. Yes, that is incredible!
And their color, oh my goodness. The iridescent colors of a rainbow! Absolutely stunning!
According to a post in Wikipedia, hummingbirds have the highest metabolism of any homeothermic animal.
They also have the ability to hibernate when they need to conserve energy. When food is scarce they can slow their metabolic rate to 1/15th of its normal rate.
A hummingbird’s favorite food is nectar. This sweet liquid is found in certain types of flowers. What is interesting is that hummingbirds will generally ignore flower types that produce nectar that is less than 10% sugar.
Now since nectar is not a complete food source for ultimate nutrition, hummingbirds will dine on insects and spiders to get their needed supply of protein, amino acids, vitamins and minerals. Since they digest their food at a very fast rate, hummingbirds eat numerous small meals. Moreover, they consume roughly half their weight in pure sugar every day. Most of their activity consists of perching or sitting, about 75–80% of the time.
Since hummingbirds can starve easily, they are extremely attuned to food sources. In truth, some species, are territorial and will guard their food sources against other hummingbirds. This includes high nectar flowers and even feeders.
Generally, they will fly to Central America and Mexico.
However, there are a few species that reside year round in southern desert and warmer coastal regions such as Arizona, California and Texas (Anna’s Hummingbird and Buff-bellied Hummingbird).
Ruby-throated hummingbirds generally migrate from all regions of Ontario south to Mexico and Central America. These remarkable birds directly cross the Gulf of Mexico or coastal Texas.
The Rufous hummingbird breeds in western North America and spends the winter in subtropical southeastern regions of the U.S. It tolerates occasional temperatures below freezing (only if there is adequate food and shelter). The migration occurs along the Pacific flyway. Unfortunately, it can be detrimental if the Rufous arrives at their breeding grounds before nectar availability. Unfortunately, early arrival is happening more often and may be linked to climate change. This is a great incentive to plant hummingbird friendly flowers and have a few feeders available for the “early birds”.
Flowers with Lots of Nectar
We know that hummingbirds just love flowers with nectar. And the more nectar, the better. Their favorites also include tube-shaped flowers that are red, orange, yellow or blue. The shape of the tubular blossoms limits insect access and leaves more pollen for our dear hummer friends.
You will have more success in planting flowers for hummingbirds if you select native plants to your area. Some of the best plants that have high sources of nectar include the following:
Abutilon Family: Includes Chinese Bell Flower, Chinese Lantern, Indian Mallow and Flowering Maple. 30 Mixed Colors Flowering Maple (Chinese Bell Flower)
Agastache Family: Includes Cusick’s Giant Hyssop, Hummingbird Mint, Sunset Hyssop and Threadleaf Hyssop. Organic True Hyssop Seeds
Asclepias tuberosa: Butterfly Weed; Drought-tolerant perennial with bright orange flowers that attract hummingbirds and butterflies.
Aloe Family: Aloe Vera; a genus that has around 500 species of flowering succulent plants.
Caesalpinia Family: Include Bird of Paradise, Broadpad Nicker and Yellow Peacock. 37″ Bird of Paradise Spray x2 Orange Yellow
Callistemon Family: Includes Crimson Bottlebrush, Weeping Bottlebrush and Red Bottlebrush.
Lantana: An annual is in the Verbena family. Has red, orange, yellow, lavender, pink and white flowers. This amazing flower loves the heat and is drought resistant. Plant is full sun and well-drained soil. Grows 4 feet tall and wide but less if grown as an annual. Best in zones 10-11.
Salvia Family: Sage; the largest genus of plants in the mint family with about 700–900 species of annuals, shrubs and herbaceous perennials.
Salvia splendens (scarlet sage, tropical sage) is another flower that hummingbirds love. They are easy to grow and drought tolerant. Plant in full sun and well-drained soil. Grows 16 inches tall and wide. Best in zones 10-11. Scarlet Sage Seeds “Magic Fire” Stunning Scarlet Red Color
Alcea Family: Hollyhock; colors include purple-black to red, yellow, pink, and white. Plant in full sun and well-drained soil. Grows about 8 feet tall and 3 feet wide. Best in zones 3-9.
Justicia Family: Includes Water Willow and the Shrimp Plant. Blooms in spring, summer and fall. Has scarlet, red-orange and yellow (rare) tubular flowers. Grows 3 to 6 feet tall. Best in zones 9-11. Emeralds Live Plant Heirloom Red Shrimp Justicia brandegeana
Aquilegia Family: Include Sierra Columbine, Crimson Columbine and Fragrant Columbine.
A spring blooming perennial in a wide range of colors. Columbine “Giant Star Mix”
Aquilegia formosa has red flowers for attracting hummingbirds. Plant in full shade and moist, well-drained soil. Grows about 3 feet tall and 1 foot wide.Best in zones 3-9.
Buddleja davidii: Butterfly Bush (also called summer lilac) is a favorite for both the butterfly and hummingbird. It is a long blooming shrub that offers pink, purple, blue and white blossoms. Plant in full sun and moist, well-drained soil. Grows to 10 feet tall and 12 feet wide. Does best in zones 6-9. Butterfly Bush- Mix Colors
Caprifoliaceae: Honeysuckle blooms through the summer and in the fall. Lonicera sempervirens (a type of Honeysuckle) has trumpet cluster blooms that are scarlet-red. Plant in full sun and moist, well-drained soil. Climbs to 15 feet or more. Best I zones 4-9.
Centranthus ruber ‘Coccineus: Red Valerian or Jupiter’s Beard. A perennial with long lasting pinkish-red flowers that bloom in late spring to early summer. Hardy in zones 4-9.
Chilopsis Family: Desert Willow; a genus of flowering plant that contains a single species, Chilopsis linearis. A shrub or small tree with slightly inflated blooms in purple, lavender and pink. Does best in zones 7 – 9. Desert Willow Seed
Cosmos sulphureus: Cosmos Ladybird Scarlet has the best color for attracting hummingbirds. Has scarlet-orange compact flowers that bloom from mid-summer to fall. — I planted this near my hummingbird feeder, and I was surprised to see hummingbirds visiting the cosmos more than the feeder. Cosmos – Little Ladybirds Seeds
Digitalis: Foxglove; Has tubular flowers that attract hummingbirds. Plant in full sun or part shade and well-drained soil. Grows 6 feet tall and 2 feet wide, depending on type. Does best 3-9, depending on type.
Fuchsia Family: Fuchsia; a genus of flowering plants that has around 110 recognized species. These flowers have adapted specifically to accommodate hummingbirds.
Their blooms hang downward, so the agile hummingbird can reach the sweet nectar. Fuchsia Magellanica Hardy Bush fuchsia
Hamelia Family: Firebush or Hummingbird Bush; a genus of flowering plants in the coffee family.
Has bright orangish-red tubular flowers. Reaches a height and width of 8- to 12-feet-tall. Grows best in zones 10-11.
Heuchera family: Coralbells; a perennial border plant with clusters of red, green and white flowers. Plant in part shade and moist, well-drained soil. Grow 3 feet tall to 2 feet wide. Does best in zones 4-8.
Kniphofia Family: Includes Red Hot Poker, Torch Lily and Knofflers. The Red Hot Poker has tall spikes of yellow, orange, scarlet and white tubular flowers. Plant in full sun and well-drained soil. Does best in zones 5-9.
Lobelia Family: Includes Indian Tobacco, Fool’s Bane, Cardinal Flower and Vomitwort. Cardinal Flower has bright red flowers and is a late-summer bloomer. Plant in part shade and moist soil. Grows to best in zone 3-9. Cardinal Climber Vine, Heirloom
Lonicera Family: Honeysuckle; a genus of around 180 species, 100 are found in regions in China. Europe, India and North America have about 20 native species each.
Lupinus Family: Lupine; has colorful cluster spires of blooms in early and midsummer. Grows to about 3 feet tall and 3 feet wide. Does best in full sun or part shade and moist, well-drained soil. Best in zones 4-8. Outsidepride Lupine Russells Wildflower Seed
Monarda Family: Includes Bee Balm, Oswego Tea and Bergamot. Bee Balm is a summer blooming perennial that has a variety of colors like red, pink, violet, and white. Grows about 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide. Likes full sun or part shade and moist, well-drained soil. Best in zones 4-9. Outsidepride Monarda Fistulosa Mintleaf Bee Balm
Grows best in full sun and moist, well-drained soil. It grows about 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide. Ideal for zones 4-8.
Tecoma / Tecomaria Family: Yellow Trumpetbush; a genus of 14 species of shrubs or small trees in the trumpet vine family. Twelve species are from the Americas and two species are from Africa. Special note: The Trumpet vine has 10 times more sugar water than other plants! Plant in full sun or part shade and moist, well-drained soil. Climbs to 30 feet or more. Does best in zones 5-9.
The easiest way to attract hummingbirds is with a feeder. This is because hummingbirds know that red tubular flowers contain the most nectar. So anything red will invite these lovely birds into your garden. In truth, this is why the feeding ports and the food is red.
However, it seems that natural pollination systems are considerably altered by the use of feeders. It is best not to use a feeder on a permanent basis. On the other hand, a feeder is very beneficial if hummingbirds arrive early (before nectar type flowers are in bloom). Note: This issue is happening more often. In fact, many researchers feel that it is caused by climate change such as global warming.
If you do decide to use a feeder then providing the hummingbirds with organic nectar is the best option (as opposed to red-dyed sugar water full of chemicals).
Organic Hummingbird Nectar Recipe
The sugar in flower nectar is mainly sucrose, which is similar to white sugar. It is best not to use honey (composed of glucose and fructose) for it is hard for a hummingbird to digest. As well, honey can have mold growth which may give the hummingbird a serious tongue infection. It is also best to avoid raw sugars like turbinado or unrefined brown sugar. Raw sugar contains iron and minerals which is not naturally present in flower nectar. Cane syrup is also high in iron.
In addition, never use artificial sweeteners; they are highly toxic (to hummers and humans). The same goes for red dye.
Here is an easy to make nectar that is a great alternative to commercial type nectar’s. It is a lot healthier and nutritious for our dear hummingbird friends!
- 4 cups filtered water
- 1 cup organic white table sugar
- 4 TBLES pomegranate, cranberry or beet juice (cook beets, strain and save the water). Red beet powder is also a great natural red dye, (optional)
- In a medium sized pan, add organic sugar and filtered water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook for 5 minutes.
- Stir in natural red coloring if desired.
- Allow to cool then add to feeder. The homemade nectar can be in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
- Diet Type: For the Birds
- Featured picture: newagecrap via photopin cc
- Bright colored head hummingbird: matt knoth via photopin cc
- Hummingbird and tall purple flowers: Danny Perez Photography via photopin cc
- Hummingbird with purple flowers: Kjunstorm via photopin cc
- Hummingbird and white flowers: newagecrap via photopin cc
- Butterfly Weed and caterpillar: OakleyOriginals via photopin cc
- Lantana and hummingbird: Vicki’s Nature via photopin cc
- Aquilegia (columbine): eleanord43 via photopin cc
- Fuchsia: bill barber via photopin cc
- Phlox and moth: DrPhotoMoto via photopin cc
- Hummingbird on feeder: Images by John ‘K’ via photopin cc