Monday, September 12, 2011

A Hum Dinger: Attracting humminbirds to the native Landscape

Add a delightful element to your landscape and attract hummingbirds. Luring these energetic creatures to the native garden enlivens your yard and provides these winged visitors with a variety of benefits.

"Hummingbirds and the native flora that they feed from and nest in have co-evolved for thousands of years," says Rob Moore of California Native Landscape Design in Brea, California. "Native plants that attract hummingbirds and provide them with the best source for a balanced diet are the flowers, shrubs, and trees that naturally occur along their migration routes and native haunts."

To make your yard a preferred hummingbird dining and nesting spot, Moore suggests a few tips.

Provide quality food sources.  Hummingbirds have to eat twice their body weight in nectar and insects daily, so the ideal menu is important to maintain their energy. Flowers, hummingbirds like dining on include Diplacus species, better known as Monkey flower. All colors are used by hummingbirds, but they seem to prefer the red species such as  Diplacus puniceus, D. rutilus and Mimulus cardinalis. Penstemon spp, such as Scarlet Bugler, Penstemon centranthifolius, are preferred by hummingbirds as well.

Trees and shrubs favored by hummingbirds include Sambucus Elderberry, Arctostaphylos spp.. Manzanita and Ceanothus are popular examples.

Choose red and orange tubular-shaped flowers whenever possible. Hummers flock to red flowers, which tend to be overlooked by insect pollinators who fail to see this color clearly according to scientists.

When choosing plants focus on variety of species. Hummingbirds prefer a mixed diet of nectar from multiple sources for their daily diet. Arrange and locate plants throughout your property with species that bloom at different times and that are in eye-shot of places you enjoy viewing the garden.

Provide water. Hummingbirds especially like bird baths that drip or recirculate and will hover and sip the flowing water. They will also perch on the edge and drink as other birds do. The sound of running water is like a magnet to humming birds and other species such as goldfinches. Additionally, it will add the soothing and relaxing element of sound to your landscape.

Keep snags and introduce deadwood. Both provide food, shelter, and nesting places for many birds, and other garden friendly critters. For example hummingbirds, most often perch on dead limbs rather than living ones, and decomposing deadwood provides added food sources. 

– Julie Bawden Davis

Master Gardener Julie Bawden Davis is author of "Indoor Gardening the Organic Way" (Taylor Trade, 2007).

Excerpted from Wildflower, the Magazine of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center University of Texas at Austin


  1. Good information! I love hummingbirds and enjoy watching the antics and displays. Thanks for the tips. I intend to implement them immediately.
    Paulette - Fallbrook, CA

  2. Oddly, our hummingbirds ignore the native plants I've given them, and spend all their time at the citrus and non-native sages. Silly birds.