A hummingbird is such a wonderful sight, that certain plants are worth growing for the sole purpose of attracting this bird.
Hummingbirds’ favorite food is floral nectar. The only things that the flowers ask in return for the nectar is that the hummingbird pollinate the blossoms.
The ornithophilous (bird-pollinated) flowers don’t have much use for insect pollinators. Hummingbirds are attracted to brilliant colors, mostly reds, because these are the colors that stand out against grass leaves. In the shade, though, yellow and orange flowers stand out the most, and are attracted to the birds. The typical hummingbird flower also has a long floral tube, into which hummingbirds, and not much else, can reach. Because hummingbirds can hover in midair to work flowers, such flowers do not need “landing pads.”
After spending their winters in Central America, many hummingbirds gradually make their way northward with the progression of nectar-yielding blossoms. Early in the growing season, these tiny birds cannot be choosy about their food, and you may find them feeding at holes made by sapsuckers.
Honeysuckle, columbine, coral bells, horse chestnut, azaleas, and the early-blooming hawthorns are other flowers welcome to the hummingbird during the early part of the season. A little later, the birds feed at the blossoms of foxglove and larkspur.
Summer brings lots of flowers that are attractive and nourishing to the hummingbird. Such flowers include delphinium, petunia, phlox, butterfly weed, snapdragon, pinks, tiger lily, daylily, sage, loosestrife, morning glory and bee balm.
Some plants not only provide us with food and beauty but they also attract the hummingbirds. The scarlet runner bean, a twining vine which produces flavorful green beans, is one such plant. The bright-colored flowers which precede the beans never fail to bring hummingbirds every year.
To keep hummingbirds around as long as possible, grow plants to attract the birds in the fall. The perennial trumpet creeper vine is one such plant, and herbaceous flowers like cardinal flower, nicotiana, and petunia should bloom till September. By then the hummingbirds will already have left cold winter areas for their winter homes.
To supplement the nectar of the flowers, many people put out hummingbird feeders. The standard syrup solution for feeding hummingbirds consists of 1 part white sugar to 4 parts water. The sugar will dissolve as the solution is brought to a boil. Boiling is important as it kills mold spores and bacteria and, through evaporation, reduces any chlorine or florine that may be in the water. After the solution is cooled, it is ready to be placed in the hummingbird feeders. Any left-over should be stored in the refrigerator.
Nancy Olsen is an extension agent with Bladen County Cooperative Extension Office. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.