Do You Want to Attract Hummingbirds to Your Garden?

Here are some pro tips, specific to gardens in the United States.

hummingbird takes nectar from a poppy

SusanGaryPhotography / Getty Images

I have recently been working on a garden design for a client in the United States who is keen to attract hummingbirds to her garden. So, today I thought I would share some tips for those who would like to aid and attract these amazing birds to their U.S. gardens.

Hummingbirds are present in every state except Hawaii. Some states host these birds year-round, while others will find them during the summer months. Many hummingbird species arrive in spring from wintering grounds to the south, then breed and nest before returning back south in the fall. 

Remember that adding hummingbird feeders is only ever a small part of the picture if you want to help protect and aid hummingbirds in your area and attract them to your garden. And you will want to attract them, as they are crucial pollinators that play an important role in a number of ecosystems.

Make Sure Your Garden Is Safe for Hummingbirds

First of all, keep your garden safe for feathered friends by always gardening organically. Don't leave netting or other items around in which the birds may become entangled.

And, especially during key migration periods, keep hummingbirds safe from pets and consider keeping cats indoors.

Choose Native Plants

No matter where you live in the U.S., attracting hummingbirds means providing them with a habitat that meets their needs. The best way to do this is to select and plant a wide range of native species.

Aim for biodiversity, and incorporate as much variety as possible. Think carefully about how plants are combined to create functioning ecosystems within the space.

When attracting hummingbirds, one of the most important things to think about is providing these birds with food.

Nectary Plants

Hummingbirds need nectar, of course, which they obtain from a wide range of native flowering plants. It is better to provide these birds with natural food sources preferentially to providing nectar from feeders. Though once you have planted for wildlife, feeders can also be a beneficial additional feature in your garden. 

Hummingbirds will be attracted most of all to tubular flowers in red or orange hues, such as cardinal flowers and trumpet honeysuckle. Bee balms (Monarda ssp.) and Salvia ssp. are also common native plants to choose, but many others can be beneficial, too.

Try to plant a range of flowering plants that are in bloom over as much of the year as possible. 

hummingbird sips nectar from a bee balm (monarda ssp.) flower
Hummingbird feeds on bee balm (Monarda ssp.) flowers.

Robin Wilson Photography / Getty Images

Insect and Arachnid Attractants

Hummingbirds, however, don't just need nectar. They also eat some insects and spiders, so it is important to attract plenty of this life to your garden, too, if you want the birds to feel at home. 

Native lowering plants and herbs often help to boost insect life in your garden by attracting a range of different species. 

You can attract more prey for hummingbirds and other wildlife by creating habitats, such as wildlife ponds.

Perching Places and Nesting Sites

Hummingbirds need places to perch close to food sources. It is important to make sure that you have plenty of trees and shrubs in your garden that provide shade, shelter from winds, and places for hummingbirds to rest and hide. Native trees and shrubs provide hummingbirds with potential nesting sites on your property. 

Provide Water for Hummingbirds

Hummingbirds get the water they need to drink from nectar and insects they eat. But they do like to bathe frequently, and will feel most at home near water. 

Provide a pond and/or water features like delicate fountains or misting features so they can bathe and cool off during hot weather.

hummingbird feeder with bird hovering nearby

Jeff R Clow / Getty Images

Hummingbird Feeders

Only once you have created a truly hummingbird-friendly garden should you consider adding hummingbird feeders. These can help provide hummingbirds with "nectar," especially during key migration periods.

Place hummingbird feeders a couple of weeks before you expect the first hummingbirds to arrive in your area, and take them down only when you have no longer seen any hummingbirds for a couple of weeks. This might mean leaving them up year-round in some areas.

Hang multiple feeders, ideally far enough apart that a bird using one cannot see a bird using another. Place them in the shade and clean them out regularly.

Remember, creating diverse planting plans with native plants is the best and most important way to aid hummingbirds and attract them to your garden. So, always think about these things before you place feeders on your property.