by Cathy Bylinowski, Horticulture Instructor, University of Missouri Extension
based on MU Publication Attracting Hummingbirds to your Property by Sarah Denkler, Horticulture Specialist and Robert A. Pierce II, MDC, and Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Tiny ruby-throated hummingbirds dazzle us with their iridescent feathers and incredible speed in flight. Their presence adds excitement and interest to our gardens. They are surging north now and will arrive in Missouri by mid to late April. Planting appropriate plants can encourage these beautiful birds to visit our yards, gardens, and larger properties.
Planting for Ruby-throated Hummingbirds
Red, pink, and orange tubular flowers are favorites of hummingbirds. They will drink nectar from a range of flower colors, including white and yellow.
Consider, too, that hummingbirds need insects as a source of protein, especially when they are nest building and feeding their young. Plants with flowers with a wide, landing pad shaped inflorescence attract small insects which also supply a food source for hummingbirds.
The ruby-throated hummingbird’s long, needle-like beak and long tongue allows them to drink flower nectar. Scientific studies indicate that trumpet vines Campsis radicans co-evolved with ruby-throated hummingbirds. The flowers supply the birds with nectar and pollen as the bird supplies pollination for the flower.
While many gardeners find trumpet vines very aggressive, they can be controlled with heavy pruning when the plant is still dormant in late winter, frequent mowing near the base of the vine, removal of sprouts and sprouting underground stems, and removal of old blooms and immature seed pods.
Other native plants that attract ruby-throated hummingbirds include:
This publication includes important information on ruby-throated hummingbirds’ life cycle and habitat and feeding needs.
Non-native plants that supply nectar for hummingbirds include:
Supplemental feeding with nectar made with 1-part white granulated sugar to 4-parts of water in an easy to clean feeder helps hummingbirds survive, too. Clean feeders often to avoid bacteria growth (cloudy nectar) which can make them sick.
Use a feeder that has red parts to attract hummingbirds. Using nectar with red dye or adding it to your nectar is not recommended. It may harm the tiny birds.
Never use honey, artificial sugar, or brown sugar to make nectar. These ingredients can make hummingbirds sick.
Here are links with helpful information on helping ruby throated hummingbirds thrive in your yard and garden:
Have more garden questions? Feel free to contact Cathy Bylinowski, MU Extension Horticulture Instructor, firstname.lastname@example.org, for information.
Top, Female ruby-throated hummingbird. Photo credit: University of Missouri Extension.
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