|The 10 Best Plant Families for Attracting Hummingbirds*
Salvias (Salvia spp.)
Bee Balm (Monarda spp.)
Giant Hyssop (Agastache spp.)
esp. Trumpet Honeysuckle
(L. sempervirens) Bignonia Family
esp. Cardinal Flower (L. cardinalis)
Flowering Maple (Abutilon pictus)
Hollyhock (as Alcea rosea)
Rose of Sharon
Evening Primrose Family
Fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium)
California fuchsia (Zauschneria californica)
Fuchsias (Fuchsia spp.)
esp. Cypress Vine
Red Morning Glory
Bush Morning Glory
Chuparosa (Justicia californica)
Mexican Honeysuckle (J. spicigera)
Shrimp Plant (J. brandegeana)
Hummingbirds pollinate more than 160 native North American plants. Because of their extremely high metabolism, hummingbirds consume daily up to one-half their body weight in food and as much as eight times their body weight in fluids. Besides feeding on flower nectar, the ruby-throated hummingbird (the only hummingbird species found in Michigan) also eats small insects. Usually attracted to red, tubular flowers, hummingbirds also use a wide variety of other flowers. Thus, you can add both diversity and color to your yard while providing excellent sources of nectar and small insects for hummingbirds. Incidentally, because orioles use many of the same plants as hummingbirds, your hummingbird garden may provide additional habitat for them and increase your viewing pleasure.
Unlike butterflies, hummingbirds find sources of food regardless of sun or shade. However, the plants themselves can have specific sunlight requirements. So, when planning the location of your hummingbird garden, consider the sunlight requirements or limitations of the plants you wish to highlight there. You may also want to consider visibillity. Because hummingbirds are highly territorial, you might want to locate plants throughout your yard, in addition to the specialized garden.
You may also want to supplement natural nectar with hummingbird feeders near the garden and around the house. Place feeders in the shade and change the mixture of one part sugar (do not use honey) to four parts boiling water every three to five days. Cool the mixture before filling the feeder, and store the excess in the refrigerator. If the mixture in the feeder has spoiled (a black fungus or very cloudy water are clues), clean it with a small amount of vinegar mixed with water, then allow to dry thoroughly before refilling. Because they are migratory species, you only have to keep the sugar solution available from April to September.
In addition to sunlight requirements, be aware of other characteristics of your plant choices. Trumpet creeper, for example, is an attractive plant to hummingbirds, but it requires a fence or other structure on which to climb. Place vines and shrubs to the back, working down in height toward the front of the garden. Spread your blooming season as much as possible. Adding a few annuals to the variety of early- to late-blooming perennials will give the garden a head start. Refer to the accompanying list of plants that will provide both nectar and insects for hummingbirds. Also, realize insecticides not only kill the small insects that hummingbirds use for food, but large doses of insecticides can be directly lethal to the birds themselves.