YAY! Yesterday marked the official first day of the ruby-throated hummingbirds/hummers return to my garden. Several reports all over Wisconsin have already come in as far back as the end of April that the little jewels had arrived, but yesterday was the first day I actually saw one. The little lady buzzed right past my head in that familiar whirring sound way.
I put my feeders out on May 1 like usual. Also like usual, I watched the feeders early in the morning when my dog woke me up and then again towards dusk since those are typical best times of day to catch sight of them. Finally, yesterday, while cleaning up my mess from a full day of gardening, she made her appearance, making sure I knew she was there. A perfect moment in time for me. I absolutely love the little birds.
Since 1989 when I discovered my first hummingbird, which was accidental, I have made an almost perfect habitat for hummingbird viewing. (I still need a misting water source to complete hummingbird paradise). At our home in Indiana, my husband and I had a trumpet vine that had grown into a shrub by wrapping around itself. It had been there when we moved into the house. I had never seen one before but I liked the trumpet shaped flowers. One morning, after it had bloomed, I saw quick, darting movements around the flowers and that’s when I discovered ruby-throated hummingbirds. There were five of them hovering around the shrub. I was hooked immediately.
Two houses later I have created a habitat that a few hummers enjoy. This habitat includes a shallow birdbath, vines, flowers and shrubs and trees that they like to nest in, rest on and eat from whether it’s tiny bugs or nectar.
First of all, if I had a stream, pond, river, natural water source, that would be fantastic as hummers love the water. I do not have any of these near our home so I have a shallow bird bath for them. Second, we do have trees in our yard and around us but the more trees you have, the better for the hummers.
Our trees include: chokecherries, mulberry, eastern redbud and a couple of pine trees. The chokecherries and mulberry provide tiny branches and twigs for the hummers little feet to wrap around while they rest or eat bugs. Th eastern redbud provides early flowers with nectar and when big enough, a nesting area. The pine trees are just for a little shade.
As for shrubs, we planted spirea for color and shape, weigela for nesting and nectar when they bloom, japanese maple for possible nesting and honeysuckle shrub for food in early spring.
My favorites though are the flowers. I have perennials and annuals. The annuals allow me to get my hands into the earth every year so I always plant some hummingbird favorites for instant color to my garden. Besides red, other colors of flowers they are attracted to due to their richer nectar content are purple, orange, white, blue and pink. Yellow, not so much as more bees attracted to the color yellow.
Here are my list of hummingbird favorite perennials and annuals that I have personally seen the hummers drink from. This list is by time of year the flowers bloom.
Late Spring –
Columbine – aquilegia
Bleeding Heart – dicentra
Coral Bells – heuchera
Bee Balm- monarda
Penstemon – penstemon (cut back spent flowers spikes to promote re-bloom)
Torch Lily/Red Hot Poker plant- tritoma (cut back spent flowers or deadhead to promote re-bloom)
Obedient Plant – physostegia (note, these will take over a garden)
Phlox – phlox
Larkspur – delphinium
Hibiscus – Hibiscus
Hollyhock – alcea rosea
Daylily – hemerocallis
Summer – Fall
Agastache – hummingbird mint Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’ is a long blooming perennial with masses of powder blue bloom spikes produces July through October. Blooming is robust and nearly nonstop in late summer when so many other flowers are waning. It grows to 3 or 4 feet high with a spread of 15 -18”. ’Blue Fortune’ is part of the group referred to as the Hummingbird Mints. The leaves can be used to flavor cold drinks or as a potpourri, both the leaves and flowers are edible. It is one of the hardiest Agastches that may also do well up to zone 4, tolerating moist winters if planted in well drained soil. Grow in full sun or part shade, but too much shade will produce lanky growth. ‘Blue Fortune’ is best grown in groups of 3 or more for best visual impact, or massed at the back of a border. Self seeds. Deer resistant is a bonus! http://www.midwestgardentips.com/agastache.html
Agastache foeniculum or anethiodorum is one of the best for the north central growing zones. Since it is found native in northern Wisconsin, it should be hardy to zone 4. It is commonly called anise hyssop or Blue Giant Hyssop. The leaves are often used for seasonings and tea, emitting an aroma similar to mint, anise or licorice. It grows up to 4 feet tall and produces dense spikes of bright blue tubular flowers in July and August. It grows sturdy and erect. Blue Giant prefers full sun and well drained soil, but will do quite well in part shade with moist conditions. For fragrance and attracting wildlife, this is a must have in the north central garden. Deer resistant! #hummingbird magnet For more info. about this fantastic plant go to: http://www.midwestgardentips.com/agastache.html
PERSONALLY, the agastache and bee balm are the flowers that get the most hummingbird action and will attract hummers to your yard no matter what.
Salvia – salvia
Milkweed – asclepias
Late Spring to Fall Frost
Salvia coccinea – This salvia has more hummers feeding from it than Salvia officinalis which is most often found in nurseries
I have honeysuckle vines and morning glory vines in my gardens for the hummingbirds to visit. They love both vines. I used to have a trumpet vine but it became invasive so it came out. These do best when they can wrap around themselves to make themselves a shrub which is the least invasive to your yard.
There you have it, my official low down on attracting tiny jewels to your northern climate garden. They are a wonder to watch. enjoy your garden.