Attract Hummingbirds with These Four Flower
Some of my favorite memories are hummingbird watching with my grandchildren. Problem is, attracting hummingbirds is easy – sometimes too easy.
In an age when you can fill a feeder with nectar and hang it all in ten minutes, sometimes I feel like we need to slow down and appreciate the birds. Don’t misunderstand me; I think birdfeeders are great. But sometimes getting your hands dirty with your grandchildren (or children) can just connect you and them with nature better.
I think the best way to get this experience is to grow your own feeders. Invest time into nurturing flowers that hummingbirds love. Not only is it a fun project to do with your children or grandchildren, it will make you that much more proud of your work and better connected with the bird when it finally visits.
Here are four flowers that attract hummingbirds regularly. They don’t all thrive in the same conditions so there’s a good bet you can grow at least one of these in your area.
The cardinal flower is my favorite. It can grow anywhere from 2 to 5 feet tall and is an eye-popping red. Its tubed flowers are ideal for the hummingbird. These traits make the flower a great choice for a window garden where you’ll be able to see the hummingbirds from the inside (with a cup of coffee!).
The cardinal flower enjoys rich, wet soils, and needs shade during the afternoon (another argument for a garden close to the house). The seeds need light to germinate, so plant them in a flat and keep them under light. Transplant at the 4-6 week mark. Keep them in a pot for another 4 weeks before transplanting to the garden. The flower will bloom in the second year and will self-sow.
In contrast to the cardinal flower, the penstemon (also called “beardtongue”) prefers sunny, hot locations with well-drained soil. It also produces tubular flowers, but in a number of different colors. Make sure you plant those that are red (they’ll attract hummingbirds better).
The penstemon doesn’t like to be crowded, so be sure to leave plenty of space when planting. Plant in the spring. Water the flower well initially, but remember that it prefers arid soil after it establishes roots.
The daylily grows between 1 and 4 feet and provides excellent ground cover. Additionally, they don’t require a lot of maintenance and can see themselves through the winter. (These are probably the best choice if you’re planting with children!)
You can plant the daylily almost any time of year, provided the soil is soft enough (although it’s best to transplant during the spring). Plant it where it gets at least 6 hours of sunlight. Water about once a week. The daylily grows well in moist soil with good drainage (consider it a cross between the cardinal flower and penstemon in this regard).
The sunset hyssop is on the opposite extreme from the cardinal flower. It prefers dry, hot areas. In fact, this flower is your best bet if you’re expecting a drought. It can grow as tall as 4 or 5 feet (but don’t expect this your first season) and looks like a shrub with a diameter of about 1 ½’. Its tubular flowers produce a lot of nectar, and it will bloom for about two months during the summer.
The sunset hyssop needs sunlight, so plant where it can get lots. Don’t sow these seeds until the temperature is above 55 degrees F. Space them between a 1” and 1 ½” apart. Water them often during the first summer so it can establish its roots (but make sure the soil is well drained). You can water less during the second season and after, when it can tolerate drought better.
Ernie Allison loves nature. More specifically, he loves birds and wants to teach others how to appreciate them, too. To help further this mission, he writes for the bird feeder website, birdfeeders.com