How to Attract Hummingbirds to Your Garden
In the Midwest, ruby-throated hummingbirds return from Mexico and Central America each spring hungry for nectar-rich native plants. Follow these simple tips to attract hummingbirds to your garden (and keep them coming back!).
Hang a Feeder
Homemade hummingbird food is simple: Fill feeders with a 4 to 1 water-to-sugar ratio, and skip the red food coloring—the feeder alone will attract them, and dye can be harmful to birds in large concentrations. Hang multiple feeders around your yard to reduce fighting between males, and aim for spots more sheltered from the elements. Clean out feeders every few days or whenever the nectar becomes cloudy.
Plant a Feast
Sharon Lloyd, public programs instructor at the Missouri Botanical Garden, says to make sure you have plants blooming throughout the summer so the birds always have something to feast on. Start with early bloomers like columbine, then stagger others, like royal catchfly, cardinal flower and red buckeye, throughout the season. Although they're most attracted to red and orange blooms, hummingbirds also visit black and blue salvia, foxglove, beardtongue and bee balm.
Hummingbirds don't just sip nectar. They need insects for protein, too— especially after their jellybean-size eggs hatch and they have little ones to feed. Native plants will attract more healthy bugs to your yard, but be sure to hold off on any chemicals that might make their way to the birds.
To hide from hungry hawks, hummingbirds like trees and shrubs near their nectar spots. They also need fresh water, but hummingbirds won't go for deep birdbaths, Lloyd says. Instead, provide a super-shallow pool, or add a mister or bubbler to your birdbath.