hummingbird garden

How to Create a Hummingbird Garden

Creating a beautiful hummingbird garden takes time and effort, but once you’ve mastered the care and placement of your humminbird paradise, it will become a lovely escape where you can enjoy the beauty of nature. Hummingbirds enjoy brightly colored flowers: usually red, orange, pink and purple. Trumpet-shaped and hanging flowers are also a favorite of these fascinating birds. 

A hummingbird garden should have nectar-filled, brightly colored flowers, trees, or vines. It should also contain feeders, a water source, and plants or other contraptions that attract small, protein-filled bugs.

Fifteen types of hummingbirds can be found living in the United States steadily, while nine more species often visit some states from bordering areas. Since varying species thrive in different regions, you can use this guide for hummingbird populations and the hummingbird-friendly plants and flowers that thrive in your area.

hummingbird garden

The United States, at least the lower 48, varies in hardiness zones between 2-10. Generally, zones with a higher designation can handle flowers grown in the lower designations. However, to prevent scorching and keep your plants healthy and stable, always check with your local nursery to be sure the flowers and plants you choose will work in your area without disturbing indigenous plant species.

Fifteen types of hummingbirds can be found living in the United States steadily, while nine more species often visit some states from bordering areas. Since varying species thrive in different regions, you can use this guide for hummingbird populations and the hummingbird-friendly plants and flowers that thrive in your area.

hummingbird garden
Blue-chinned Sapphire feeds on a yellow Ixora hedge.

Hummingbirds are partial to certain flowers, trees, and vines for their sweet nectar and bright colors. Each USDA Hardiness zone grows hummingbird favorites that you can plant in your garden. 

Zone 2 and up:

Morning Glory and Cardinal Flower.

Zone 3 and up:

Bleeding heart, Columbine, Coral Bell, Day Lily, Delphinum, Fireweed, Gay Feather, Hollyhocks, Hosta, Larkspur, Liatris, Lilac, and Plantian.

Zone 4 and up:

Bee Balm, Bishop’s Hat, Coral Honeysuckle, Foxgloves, Giant Hummimgbird Mint, Honeysuckle, Horsemint, Ipomopsis, Morning Glory, Penstamon, Phlox, Rhodedendrom, Skyrocket, and Trumpet Vine.

Zone 5 and up:

Butterfly Bush*, Comfrey, Crocoamia Lucifer, Double Bubblemint, Gladiolus, Red Hot Poker, Red Yucca, Rose of Sharon, Sword Lily, and Tritoma.

Zone 6 and up: 

Cardinal Climber, Cross Vine, Cypress Vine, Indian Paintbrush, Lily of the Nile, Pervian Lily, Red Star Hibiscus, and Indian Paintbrush.

Zone 7 and up: 

Anise Hyssop, Autumn Sage, Cape Fuschia, Chaste Tree, Milkweed, and Red Mint.

Zone 8 and up: 

Bottlebush, Cannas Lily, Cape Honeysuckle, Cleveland Sage, Firebush, Four O’Clocks, Lantana, Mexican Sage, and Turk’s Cap.

Zone 9 and up:

Egyptian Star, Flowering Maple, Fuchsia, Kalanchoe, Mexican Cigar, Snapdragon Vine, and Shrimp Plant.

Zone 10 and up:

Bird of Paradise, Geranium, Egyptian Star, Kalanchoe, Pagoda Plant, Penta, Pineapple Sage, Snapdragon vine, and Yellow Bells.

*Just remember, if you are planting a Butterfly Bush, be aware that this plant does not support the full life cycles of butterflies. It’s recommended that you plant a supportive plant nearby like milkweed, which hummingbirds also enjoy.

hummingbird garden

Creating a Hummingbird Garden

Creating a beautiful hummingbird garden takes time and effort, but once you’ve mastered the care and placement of your hummingbird paradise, it will become a lovely escape where you can enjoy the beauty of nature. Hummingbirds enjoy brightly colored flowers: usually red, orange, pink and purple. Trumpet-shaped and hanging flowers are also a favorite of these fascinating birds. 

A hummingbird garden should have nectar-filled, brightly colored flowers, trees, or vines. It should also contain feeders, a water source, and plants or other contraptions that attract small, protein-filled bugs.

bird

Hummingbirds by Region 

New England

Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont do not support a great number of hummingbirds. However, you can still attract the species that frequent these states with a little hard work.

Open spaces near trees make the best hummingbird garden spaces in these areas. Even a small garden will do—with hanging plants or climbing vines that have a decent amount of sun. 

The few species of hummingbird that arrive in this region usually do so by April or May. The most commonly found is the Ruby-Throated hummingbird which is in fact the most populous species east of the Mississippi. Hummingbird enthusiasts in the region have also reported seeing Rufous hummingbirds, though they’re not as common. 

Since New Englanders live in USDA Hardiness zones 3-7, it’s wise to check your specific area’s nurseries to see what will grow well in your outdoor planting space. Some favorites in this region include Bee Balm, native Honeysuckle vine, and Pink Turtlehead. These hardy plants grow as perennials, are easy to care for, and look great grouped together.

Mid-Atlantic States

This area includes Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. 

Like your New England neighbors, you may see plenty of Ruby-Throated hummingbirds and some Rufous hummingbirds. But in New York and PA, Calliope hummingbirds have been spotted, and some lucky Pennsylvanians have also reported Anna’s and Allen’s hummingbirds in their gardens. 

Encompassing USDA Hardiness Zones 3-8, these areas support a variety of plants and flowers, lush trees, and plentiful water sources. Though only upstate New York sits in zone 3, Mid-Atlantic gardens mostly sit around zone 6. The Mid Atlantic contains many forests and trees, though development has pushed into some hummingbird habitats. Planting lush shrubbery that has flowers can be a great way to support hummingbirds in this area.

While in urban areas, you may not see hummingbirds as often as your rural or suburban neighbors, it is still ok to plant a small hummingbird supportive garden on your patio or small porch. Planting window planters with red tubular flowers will help feed hummingbirds that may be migrating to other areas. 

hummingbird garden

Mid-Western States:

Midwesterners can enjoy a beautiful hummingbird garden as well. In Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin a greater variety of hummingbirds roam the skies and gardens than your neighbors to the east.

The species that roam this area include the Allen’s, Black-chinned, Broad-Billed, Calliope, Costas, Green Violet Ear, and White Eared as well and the Rufous and Ruby-throated. Since this group makes up a few different climate zones, be sure to check with your local nursery regarding which plants will do well in your area. 

For the most part, the Midwest falls between zones 2-6. This means you can enjoy some beautiful hummingbird gardens filled with climbing Morning Glories. It’s important to support hummingbirds by supplying perches for them as well as food, and the Morning Glory does well with both as it needs to be supported by poles or a trestle. 

Southern States:

The South is known for having some of the most beautiful botanical gardens in all the US. Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia boast lush greenery due to the humid conditions and healthy soils in these areas.

Because of the warmer climate, there are a few more varieties of hummingbirds than your northern neighbors. Eleven species have been spotted recently in these states: Ruby-throated, Black-chinned, Bahama Woodstar Anna’s, Costa’s, Broad-tailed, Rufous, Allen’s, Calliope, and Broad-billed.

In places like Florida and Alabama, you can sometimes find visiting hummingbirds from neighboring countries, though these sightings are rare. Floridians have spotted Bahama Woodstars which are normally found in the Bahama archipelago. Other rare sightings in the South include the Broad-tailed hummingbird which normally live in mountainous regions then migrate to Southern Mexico during cooler months.

The warmer climate also offers the opportunity for some less weather-hardy planting. Beautiful blooms like Birds of Paradise that are not possible in cooler climates can be enjoyed in your garden. Floridians can enjoy the hummingbird migration from February until March which brings northern dwellers down to enjoy the sun. Be sure to plant in partial shade and provide a water source for your visitors within your garden space.

Southwestern States:

These states include Arizona, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Texas. Hummingbirds are most populous in this area of the US. These states generally range from 5-9 on the USDA Hardiness zones chart. In this area, plants such as Desert Willow, Autumn Sage, and Trumpet Vines do very well in hummingbird gardens. 

Arizona has the largest hummingbird population in the US. In the southwest in general, hummingbirds enjoy the dry, warmer climates. Multiple species call this area home including the Black-chinned, Anna’s, Rufous, Ruby-throated, Broad-billed, Broad-tailed, Costa’s, Calliope, Violet-crowned, Allen’s, Lucifer sheartail, Blue-throated mountaingem, Berylline, Calothorax, White-eared hummingbird, Plain-capped starthroat, Starthroat, Cynanthus, the elusive Bumblebee, and the Cinnamon hummingbird. In fact, Arizona hosts multiple hummingbird tours, hummingbird sanctuaries, hummingbird museum exhibits, and even a hummingbird festival. 

Due to wildfires in the Southwest, hummingbirds are losing some of their natural habitat. If you live in these states, you can make a difference for these amazing birds by offering a well-laid hummingbird retreat in your garden. 

Western States:

Western states where hummingbirds have been spotted include California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. Because hummingbirds in the west are highly migratory, several species that were once attracted to only one area have now ventured to other Western states. 

Just like the Southwestern states, Western states have been ravaged by wildfires over recent years. This has caused many species to migrate further East due to the loss of their habitats. Creating a special space for your hummingbird friends not only creates a beautiful garden retreat for you, but it can help preserve their numbers by supporting their life cycles. 

Several hummingbird species frequent the Western States include: Allen’s, Anna’s, Black-chinned, Blue-throated, Broad-billed, Calliope, Costa’s, Green Violet-ear, Ruby-throated, Rufous, Violet-crowned, Xantus’, and Magnificent. 

USDA Hardiness zones in the West range all the way from 3-10, depending on your area. Small areas of northern Montana even have areas in zone 2. Because Western states generally have drier and sometimes more compact soils, be sure that you are tilling or aerating, fertilizing and watering properly to support your garden. 

Some plants in this region do very well with dry soil like the Columbine and Catmint. Both of these plants provide delicious nectar for hummingbirds.

Anna’s hummingbirds once only bred and fed in California. They are partial to Red or Fuchsia Flowered Gooseberry, Eucalyptus, Red-Hot-Poker, Lantana, the Hummingbird sage, California fuchsia, and the Desert Willow. These days, the Anna’s hummingbirds have spread their wings from southern Canada to northern Baja California, and inland to southern and central Arizona, extreme southern Nevada and southeastern Utah, to western Texas, and even some eastern states. 

Not included in this list of states which range from the West to the Pacific Northwest is Alaska and Hawaii. 

Alaska has surprisingly been home to both Rufous and Anna’s hummingbirds. Plantings for your hummingbird gardens will range from USDA Hardiness zones 2-3. It’s best to always check your local sources to see which plants will work best in your area to attract these breeds.

Hawaii hosts no hummingbirds, and has in fact banned them in order to protect their pineapple crops. 

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Creating a Hummingbird Paradise

Your hummingbird paradise should be more than just flowers. Layering different plants to support the ecosystem, and adding feeders and other necessities is a must. To keep your hummingbirds coming back season after season, add some hummingbird favorites to keep your visitors happy.

Layering your Garden

The key to beauty in your hummingbird garden is layering. Planting several species with varying colors, sizes, and fragrances not only helps to attract multiple hummingbirds, but it also is most pleasing to the eye. 

Think vertically when planning your hummingbird garden. Use trellises, trees, garden sheds, or other structures to support climbing vines; add window boxes, wooden tubs, or ceramic pots to create a terraced effect and provide growing places for a variety of plants.

Be sure to select native plants for your garden. Native plants attract local hummingbird species and have a long association with the plants that serve as a reliable source of nectar at the same time in each area each year. Avoid exotic flowering plants when possible, such as Japanese honeysuckles, which are attractive to hummingbirds but invade neighboring fields and woodlands. When in doubt, keep it local. 

Plant some red, tubular flowers, as these are hummingbirds’ favorites. Hummingbirds also enjoy orange and pink flowers, but they find yellow and white blooms less attractive. Red flowers such as roses and geraniums may lure hummingbirds with their blooms, but they offer less nectar, so the birds quickly reject them. Also, planting patches of the same species provides larger quantities of nectar to attract a greater number of hummingbirds. 

Layer your garden with trees, vines, and shrubs. Many of the flowering varieties not only feed hummingbirds, but they can also support hummingbirds by providing perches, shelter from predators, shade from hot sun, and places to lay eggs. 

Plant flowers that bloom at different times of the year to provide nectar throughout the hummingbird season. This will keep them coming back all year in some places, and it will also help support their life cycles. 

Hummingbird Feeders

Hummingbird feeders are an important addition to any hummingbird garden. But it’s important to understand the do’s and don’ts of hummingbird feeder nectar and care. 

  • Do: always make your nectar at home. Don’t: purchase hummingbird nectar as many have unnatural additives, preservatives, or dyes. 
  • Do: make your nectar with 4 parts boiled water to 1 part sugar. Don’t: make your nectar too sugary. It can harm the hummingbirds’ kidneys and livers. 
  • Do: use only organic granulated white cane sugar. Don’t: use any synthetic sugars or brown sugars. 
  • Do: clean your feeder 2 times a week. Don’t: purchase feeders that are difficult to clean or have pockets where bacteria can build up. 
  • Do: purchase a feeder with red on the lid, bottom perch, or all over. Don’t: add red food dye to the nectar mixture. 
  • Do: place your feeder in a place that gets both sun and shade. Don’t: leave your feeder in full sun as it may ferment. 
  • Do: hang two or more feeders. Hummingbirds don’t like to share. Don’t: expect birds to share. They’re territorial, not reasonable.

Supply a water source.

While hummingbirds get most of their hydration from nectar and hummingbird feeders, they enjoy having a water source to clean the sticky sustenance from their plumage. However, traditional bird baths are too large for hummingbirds, and the stagnant water is also unenticing. Misters, dripping water, and mini waterfalls are great for hummingbirds as long as they’re kept clean. 

Create some perches. 

Planting trees or tall shrubs is a great way to add perches to your hummingbird garden. However, if you have a smaller space that cannot support planting large shrubs or trees, adorable hummingbird perches are available for sale at many retailers and online. 

Attract protein-rich insects to your garden. 

Hummingbirds love eating small bugs. Many species of gnats, caterpillars, aphids, spiders and ants are enjoyed by hummingbirds. 

Many of these insects live in and around trees. But trees can also support the full life cycle of hummingbirds. If you have room for trees or have existing trees in your outdoor space, hummingbirds and their food sources are partial to Crabapple trees, Eucalyptus Trees, Hawthorne trees, Horse Chestnut trees, Tulip trees, Maple Trees, and Red Buckeye trees. 

Insects are also attracted to other plants. Planting supporting flowers such as Goldenrods, Asters, Sunflowers, and Coneflowers attract gnats and other bugs, and make lovely additions to your hummingbird garden. 

If you don’t have space to plant more plants, or if you want to host a variety of bug snacks for your hummingbirds, there are new protein feeders, one of which is called the “Humm-Bug” feeder which re-uses your fruit scraps to naturally attract bugs. 

Even leaving a pile of dead leaves nearby will attract insects to your garden, but be sure to position them in a way that does not cause rot or harm to your other plants. 

Whatever method you choose, just keep in mind that hummingbirds cannot live on nectar and sap alone, so they need a protein source to stay healthy. 

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