Plant flowers to attract hummingbirds

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By Dennis Morgeson

We recently noticed a hummingbird at our house, so we promptly went out and bought a feeder…well, actually two; one for the front and one for the back.  We wanted to keep them around and hoped to get more because, for some reason, we find them adorable!  This past weekend we had two males feeding at the same time and are just as happy as can be!  You can tell the males from the females because of the red markings on their breasts.  If you want hummingbirds you should start feeding now and plant accordingly. More on that later.
When feeding hummingbirds, store-bought nectar mixes are fine, however not needed, you can make your own.  A basic recipe consists of four parts water, one part sugar (don’t mix it any stronger), boil the water and sugar for 2 minutes to kill any harmful bacteria.  Cool the solution in the refrigerator and fill your feeders.  Don’t add any dyes or coloring to your feed; it’s not needed, and some of them can actually harm the birds.
With all of the sugar water out in the elements, your feeders will need to be cleaned regularly, weekly or bi-weekly.  Wash it with a mild soap, rinse with bleach, and rinse thoroughly with water.  Insects can become a problem, but don’t ever spray insecticides near your feeders.  If you follow the recommended mixing rates bees may not like it, if they do, mix a double strength amount in another feeder and the bees are likely to go to that feeder and leave the one for the birds alone.  For ants just rub petroleum jelly on the wire hanger and the ants can’t get to the feeder.
Hummingbirds need fresh water so feel baths up daily.  They really like fresh nectar so plant many types of flowers; they also need trees and shrubs to nest and rest in.  An open sunny area for flying is also preferred.
If you want to plant flowers for attracting hummingbirds, several plant families are the best such as: the mint family which includes salvia, bee balm, and hyssop, the honey suckle family wild or tame with the native trumpet honeysuckle as a favorite, the columbines wild or tame, the bignonia family which includes trumpet creeper and cross vine, the penstemons, the lobelias which includes the native cardinal flower as well as cultivated species, the mallow family which includes hollyhock, hardy hibiscus, and rose of Sharon, the morning glory family, and woody species such as buckeye, clethra,  Carolina Silverbell, native and cultivated azaleas and rhododendrons, and weigela.  Other particular plants that hummingbirds prefer are nicotiana (flowering tobacco), zinnia, Mexican sunflower, snapdragon, obedient plant, foxglove, cleome, and canna.
If you don’t have some of the hummingbird’s favorite plants, then now is a good time to plant some.  You will get a multitude of benefits such as beauty, butterflies, and most of all the summer long excitement of hummingbirds in your garden!
We can now officially plant all of our frost tender plants outdoors so get out there and plant your vegetable garden!  Anyone that is interested in having a plot at the community garden should call me at the Extension Office so I can assign you a plot (336-7741).  For those that had plots last year please let me know if you would like to keep the same one you had last year.