Gardening for Hummingbirds

Gardening for Hummingbirds, Tracy Koehler, Horticulturist U City in Bloom

I love having hummingbirds visit my garden and look forward to it every year. I have never had feeders but instead choose to use annuals and perennials to feed these tiny, beautiful birds. I usually plant containers with nectar plants near a doorway or window to get a good view of the birds. There are so many plants that attract hummingbirds to choose from and easy ways to find them. A few internet resources you can use to search for plant recommendations are the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Plant Finder, Missouri Wildflower Nursery, and

If you want to use feeders there are some things to keep in mind.      In an Audubon article, “Turn Your Yard into a Hummingbird Spectacular”, Scott Weidensaul gives dos and don’ts on using feeders:

Choose a hummingbird feeder that comes apart completely for regular scrubbing, inside and out, with a bottlebrush and hot water. Use only a mix of four parts water to one part plain white sugar—never use honey, which promotes dangerous fungal growth, molasses, or brown, raw, or organic sugar, which contain levels of iron that could be lethal. Plain white sugar perfectly mimics the chemical composition of natural nectar; don’t waste money on commercial mixes. It’s not necessary to boil the water, but keep any extra nectar refrigerated, and empty the feeder every few days, more often in hot weather. Never use red dye; nectar is naturally clear, and the coloring could be harmful.

Hummingbirds also feed on insects, spiders, and arthropods, so they are another reason to stop or at least limit using insecticides!

Here are some of my favorite hummingbird attracting plants: I gravitate towards Salvias of all kinds, they’re one of my favorite plants, and a bonus is hummingbirds love them too! We have used ‘Wendy’s Wish’ Salvia many times in U City in Bloom gardens;  it blooms nonstop all summer. There are many different Canna, tall or short, and in many different colors. Centennial Commons had birds regularly feeding on the tall Canna in 2015. One native that I like to use is Lobelia, especially Lobelia cardinalis. There are native Monardas as well as many cultivars. Monardas not only attract hummingbirds, but bees as well. I watch bumble bees fly around my patch of Monarda frequently.  Lonicera sempervirens, cypress vine, scarlet runner bean, and hyacinth bean are attractive climbing/vining nectar plants. If you are looking for a native flowering tree that feeds hummingbirds Aesculus pavia is an option.

We have many garden centers/nurseries in the St. Louis area that would be help you find plants for attracting hummingbirds. One nursery that is out of the area that I visit every year and has an awesome variety of plants (especially Salvias) is Cottage Garden Nursery in Piasa, Illinois. It is well worth the drive! The owners are knowledgeable, helpful and grow very unique plants (many annuals you won’t see anywhere else).  (Also, our very own U City in Bloom Plant Sale on April 28-30, 2017 has some wonderful varieties to choose from as well).

So if you love hummingbirds put the sugar water away and try planting some attractive nectar plants. You’ll have the beauty of the flowers, the joy of bird watching, and you could provide a food source for other pollinators.

Wendy’s Wish Salvia

Wendy’s Wish’ Salvia The flowers don’t need to be red! ‘Black & Blue’ Salvia is a magnet for birds.

Black & Blue Salvia




Agastache Black Adder


One thought on “Gardening for Hummingbirds”

  1. I’m done with the hummingbird feeder mixtures. I’ll just stick to plants that attract hummingbirds. Thanks for the advice.

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