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Dig In: 5 perennials that hummingbirds can’t resist

Dig In video series: 5 perennials that hummingbirds can't resist

Want to attract hummingbirds to your yard but don't want the hassle of making nectar? In the 11th installment of the Statesman's Dig In gardening video series, Advanced Master Gardener Debbie Courson Smith shows off five plants in her yard that hu
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Want to attract hummingbirds to your yard but don't want the hassle of making nectar? In the 11th installment of the Statesman's Dig In gardening video series, Advanced Master Gardener Debbie Courson Smith shows off five plants in her yard that hu

One of the first things I put in my yard after moving into my house a few years ago was a hummingbird feeder. In fact, I hung two feeders in the hopes of doubling my odds of seeing these delightful little birds.

Everyone knows that hummingbirds are tiny. But did you know that the smallest bird in North America is a Calliope Hummingbird, and it is found in Idaho?

That’s what the National Audubon Society says. The Calliope is just 3 inches long and weighs one-tenth of an ounce (about as much as a single copper penny).

Some hummingbirds can flap their wings 70 to 80 times per second. Not per minute, per second. It’s no wonder these birds always have a voracious appetite, eating twice or more of their body weight each day.

They appreciate the snacks we put out for them.

Experts say you’re supposed to change out nectar (homemade sugar water) and clean hummingbird feeders a couple times a week — or more, if it’s hot. That’s just not feasible with my busy schedule.

Given that, I’ve decided to try a new tactic: Plants that attract hummingbirds. In this week’s Dig In gardening video, Advanced Master Gardener Debbie Courson Smith shows off five plants in her backyard that hummingbirds can’t resist.

There’s a bonus in the plants that we’re highlighting this week: All five are perennials. So you plant them once — and done — other than normal plant care. Here are the plants that she says have produced great results in her yard:

▪  Agastache, also known as hyssop or hummingbird mint. These grow from 2 feet to 6 feet tall and have the tubular blossoms favored by hummingbirds.

▪  Zauschneria garrettii Orange Carpet, also called creeping hummingbird trumpet. Low-growing plants that are drought tolerant.

▪  Monarda, also Bee Balm. Spectacular, fragrant flowers that grow up to 3 feet. Also attracts bees and butterflies.

▪  Nepeta, best known as Catmint. Not catnip but related. Drought tolerant and grows 1 to 4 feet tall.

▪  Buddleja, or butterfly bush. Fragrant, grows 3 to 6 feet tall. Blooms throughout the season.

The National Audubon Society offers a wealth of information online about what you can do to make hummingbirds feel at home in your yard.

A few tips they offer: Provide nesting opportunities on the edges of your yard (small shrubs and deciduous trees), create perches where birds can rest (some hidden from view), don’t use pesticides (hummingbirds eat spiders and insects), and install a misting device (they like to bathe regularly).

GOT FEEDERS? SPREAD ’EM OUT

One note about hummingbird feeders. I put mine fairly close to each other in the same tree — which may not be the best way to maximize visits by these birds.

Debbie says hummingbirds can be territorial, defending their favorite feeding sites. So spreading the feeders out can create an opportunity for more birds to feed.

Also, no need to go nuts in making the nectar recipe. Don’t dye the water red, and there’s no need to boil the water to dissolve the sugar (don’t use honey or artificial sweeteners). Just mix one part refined white sugar to four parts water.

Have your camera at the ready so you can get some photos of these beauties — and share your best with us.

Katy Moeller: 208-377-6413, @KatyMoeller

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