Flying Jewels

Written by: Ann-Marie Sedor | Photos by: Melanie McCabe

The blink-and-you-might-miss-them qualities of hummingbirds are also their most endearing. These tiny, energetic birds are a visual pleasure in the garden, made all the more fanciful by their fleeting presence.


Found only in the western hemisphere, early Spanish explorers to the new world called them joyas volardores—flying jewels. Their feathers shimmer in the sun thanks to iridescence similar to soap bubbles, while their hearts beats have been measured at a powerful 1,260 times per minute. Together, their fast wings and darting flight patterns take an enormous amount of energy from their small bodies.

In their non-stop quest for food, it’s no wonder that hummers crave any sugar source they can find. Known to be very intelligent birds, they seek out flowers with high concentrations of nectar and are most attracted to red, orange, pink and purple blooms. Trumpet-shaped and downward-facing flowers are favorites, such as early-summer blooming foxglove, trumpet vine or purple sage.

Meadow Sage ‘Purple Sage’
• A favorite of hummingbirds!
• Spikes of violet-purple blooms top velvety, robust, mounding foliage
• Full to part sun
• Well-drained soil
• Blooms from June through September
• Can be cut back to rebloom in the fall
• Disease resistant
• Also attracts  butterflies

Madame Rosy® Trumpet Creeper

• Blooms Spring through Fall
• Full sun
• Keep soil evenly moist but well-drained
• Clusters of large, intense rose colored flowers
• Grows best on a trellis but can be grown on any vertical structure

The color red will definitely pique hummers’ interest. Some of the most popular red-blooming plants include agastache, bee balm, bleeding heart, calibrachoa, cardinal flower, firecracker (or cigar) plant, lobelia, lupine, nicotiana, penstemon, red cosmos, red morning glory, red salvia and red weigela shrubs, scarlet runner beans and zinnia.

Calibrachoa MiniFamous ‘Vampire’

• An abundance of bright red trumpet-shaped flowers
• Blooms all season long
• Easy to grow
• Full to part sun
• Keep soil evenly moist but well-drained
• Perfect for window boxes, hanging baskets, and containers

Of course, a specially-designed feeder is a must for any hummingbird aficionado and the best ones have red at the feeder spout to attract attention, though they need to be cleaned frequently. A hot water rinsing is needed at least once a week, and even more often in hot weather. If necessary, a small amount of vinegar can be used for extra-strength cleaning power. The small amount of time spent in upkeep will be well worth keeping the birds happy and healthy.

Pick your favorite style of feeder from the selection in the garden supply department at Homestead Gardens. Traditional vertical spout feeders have replaceable feeding flowers, bee guards and perches to give the hummers a rest during feeding time. Another popular style is a circular tray model made of BPA-free plastic and comes with four perches, a built-in ant moat, bee guards and even a non-scratching cleaning brush.

Non-traditionalists can also find whimsical feeders at Homestead Gardens, including handpainted and antique bottles to hold nectar, all with plastic or metal red flowers around the spout to attract the birds.

For the highest hummingbird attraction, hang the feeder near a basket of flowers. Hummingbirds are territorial so if you have the space, consider purchasing two or three and hang them out of sight of one another to bring even more birds.

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