Plan This Fall for Hummingbirds Next Spring

Today I am writing about planning a garden or yard space this fall for the hummingbirds you will attract next spring.

In the upper Midwest, the ruby-throated hummingbirds start returning as early as April. These early arrivals are adult males and they are pretty hungry when they get here.

We midwesterners can be ready for them when they get here by first, putting up a hummer feeder* and second by putting out potted flowers that have plenty of nectar for them to feed from. hummer on deck

First, start with your yard space. Do you have any trees or shrubs in your yard? If so, this is a good start. How much sun or shade do certain areas of your yard get where you might want to plant a garden? There are plenty of hummingbird attracting and feeding flowers for every type of lighting.

Second, once you have designated that space for your garden make sure no water mains or cables and electrical wires run beneath it. (This is a common problem for several of our neighborhoods in my city.) Call your local service company to come out and mark these areas for you. It’s free and it could save your life.

Third, now that you have the go ahead, design your space to include at least a few varieties of perennials and some annuals. A flowering shrub that offers early spring treats for the hummers is always a good idea. In the back of the space, plant the tallest flowers or shrubs such as a weigela which blooms early spring, mid summer and late summer again. The best part about these beauties are that hummingbirds love them. weigela shrub

Included here are photos of my hummingbird gardens:


spring shed garden

Now if you do not have enough space for a shrub try adding height to your space with a trellis IMG_1746 such as the arch one seen here with honeysuckle on the left or with this kind IMG_1772  purple morning glories     that has annual morning glories covering it. Both honeysuckle (Lonicera sempivirens) and morning glories are hummingbird favorites. These morning glories shown have come back every spring since I planted the seeds three springs ago. They are supposed to be an annual but I let the seeds drop where they feel and I always have them come up the following year to my delight.

Fourth, if you are having trouble planning your garden, draw out your space with measurements so when you plan, you can allow enough space between plants for them to flourish. For each plant you choose, check to make sure they are zone hardy for your planting zone. plant zone hardiness map

Now that you have that done, I will share with you the best flowers for your garden that are zone hardy to zone 4 that I have had great luck with and that I know hummingbirds go to. I am starting out with the perennials.

Agastache (hummingbird mint) a hummer favorite: hummingbird agastache   IMG_1741 These ones pictured are Agastache barberi. It blooms mid summer through the first frost.

Aquilegia is a mid spring favorite. It’s known as columbine. This is wild columbine which is the first of the columbines they go to in my garden. wild columbine

Alcea (hollyhock) brings hummers to the garden as well. These regal beauties, stand between 5 – 8 feet tall. I have Alcea Rosea – Nigra which is black and appears so in lowlight conditions but in direct sunlight, shows up dark maroon. hollyhock

Bee balm (Monarda) is another favorite that I watch them flock to when they bloom in summer. field of monarda  This goes without saying that bees love bee balm just as much as hummers and both will fight over it. bee on monarda

Digitalis (foxglove) comes in perennial and biennial hybrids. Hummingbirds virtually disappear in these when they feed.

perennial foxglove  These bloom in early summer and will again in late summer if they are cut back.

Hemerocallis (daylily) blooms July through August. daylily

Hostas are great for shade gardens and bloom from early summer to early autumn depending on the hybrid.


Liliums (lilies) are actually bulbs but they do not have to be dug up every year like most bulbs do. Mine is a tiger lily.

tiger lily  It requires some shade the same as the hostas.

Lonicera, or honeysuckle vines need to be able to climb so a trellis works great. These are staple for the hummers for most of summer and into fall. honeysuckle hummer

Penstemons come in a variety of colors and their bloom time varies. These are also known as Beardtongue. Typically they bloom from May to June and then again in August but some bloom consistently from June through September.

The above are perennials. Now I will get to the annuals that you can plant to fill in the areas you do not have perennials yet.

Annuals give hummingbirds instant food and summer long feeding. I have used many different annuals but the ones I always buy that hummers always go to are Salvia. Specifically the ones that look like these: red coccinea salvia annual  They are called Salvia coccinea.

Petunias are another annual that hummers will go to but I have found that the salvia coccinea are their favorites time and again and so I only plant these.

Last, I do have a small tree  that the hummers absolutely love to feed at. The tree is an Eastern Redbud and it’s blooms in the spring providing much needed nourishment. eastern redbud    Honeysuckle shrubs, not to be confused with honeysuckle vines are shrubs that bloom only in spring. However, hummers may use these for nesting and they do use them for feeding when they first arrive.

This is it for what I have tried that works wells every year. Research  and plan well this autumn and you will have the vibrant and charming little jewels next summer for your entertainment.

If possible, provide a shallow water source for them to enjoy as well.

*Hummingbird feeders with homemade nectar use 1 part white sugar to 4 parts boiled water. Never use red food coloring as it can kills the hummingbirds if ingested. The feeders usually have red somewhere on them to attract them, if not, then attach a read bow or ribbon.

All photos, except the USDA chart, in this blog are copyrighted and belong to me, Traci Bold. The USDA chart is compliments of USDA.

For more resources about hummingbirds and attracting them check out these links and visit your local library for great books about them.

This is just a start as to what kinds of plants the ruby-throated hummingbirds like and how you can attract them to your yard.


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