by Ken Lain, the mountain gardener
Every hummingbird book, article, and expert recommends planting flowers to attract hummingbirds. But it takes more than just beautiful blooms to entice these birds. Many of the most common, widespread backyard flowers are actually terrible choices for attracting hummers and knowing which blooms to avoid can help backyard birders develop stunning flowerbeds that will serve as nutritious buffets for hummingbirds.
~ Not All Flowers Are Hummingbird-Friendly
Hummingbirds may visit hundreds of different flower species, but not every type of flower is equally appealing to these nectivorous birds, and of the 400,000 flowering plants in the world, there are many that hummingbirds don’t like. Many flowers produce no nectar and therefore have no food that will satisfy a hungry hummer. Hummingbirds have evolved their specialized, needle-like bills to probe well into tubular-shaped, deep-throated flowers, leaving them less attracted to flowers of other shapes.
Because hummingbirds often hover while feeding, flowers that do not provide proper space for their fluttering wings are also less appealing. The bloom time of flowers also affects how attractive they may be to hummingbirds. Some of the earliest spring flowers reach their peaks long before hummingbirds return from their winter ranges, and therefore are of no use to the birds.
The birds may not recognize flowers that are not native to hummers’ normal migratory range. New hybrid cultivars may have the proper shape and colors that appeal to hummingbirds but lack sufficient nectar to keep their interest.
~ Flowers Hummingbirds Don’t Like
While any curious hummingbird may investigate a flower before it decides whether or not to sip at the bloom, some flowers that are most popular in backyard gardens are least popular with hummingbirds. Blooms that do not appeal to hummingbirds include:
Lilies of the valley
~ All Flowers Can Be Useful
While different flowers may not be as useful as a nectar food source, these tiny birds may still use unappetizing flowers as favorite perches to rest on or to survey their territory, particularly if feeders or nectar-rich flowers are nearby. Hummingbirds may also nest in thick floral shrubbery that provides adequate shelter and protection from predators, even if the flowers themselves do not offer nectar. Many plants offer insects, which are an essential protein in a hummingbird’s diet, as well as spider webs for nesting material. The colors of different flowers can catch hummingbirds’ attention and attract them to a yard, where they can then discover other, more suitable flowers, feeding areas, and nesting sites.
~ Replacing Flowers
If a yard has flowerbeds filled with inappropriate types of flowers, it doesn’t matter how beautiful the bed may be or how lush the flowers; hummingbirds just aren’t interested. Fortunately, it’s easy to replace flowers in order to attract more hummingbirds without destroying the integrity of established flower beds.
Ideas to attract hummingbirds:
Watters Aqua Boost Crystals reduces water needs of flowering plants and keeps nectar flowing in your hummers’ favorite plants. Especially valuable for raised beds and container gardens.
When an established flower or shrub dies, replace it with bloomers that appeal to hummingbirds.
Expand flowerbeds to include hummingbird-friendly flowers as borders or edging.
Fill in bare spots with tall hummingbird-loved flowers.
Add hummingbird feeders to flower beds to provide convenient food stations for the birds. This also will keep bird droppings out of traffic areas.
Add new flowerbeds, containers, and/or hanging pots with flowers hummingbirds can’t resist.
Plant trees for hummingbirds that are attractive for nesting. I regularly find hummingbird nests in my Bradford Pear and Prescott Blaze Maple.
Flowers that are unsuitable for hummingbirds, may be enjoyable to other birds, attracting them to make use of your less hummingbird-friendly flowers. The yards most attractive to hummers include a range of flowers to meet all birds’ needs, as well as other trees, shrubs, and vines that can provide food, shelter, and nesting sites for all types of birds.
OK, enough of the bad plants for hummingbirds here’s a link to plants hummingbirds find irresistible:
Free Gardening Class
April 28 @ 9:30 am Growing Your Own Groceries and BIGGER Tomatoes
Until next issue, I’ll be here at the garden center helping gardeners grow better hummingbird flowers.