How to Make a Hummingbird Garden! (20 tips)
A hummingbird garden is the gift that keeps on giving!
Seriously, now that my hummingbird garden is established, it has very little maintenance. But as the flowers continue to grow and get bigger, I keep attracting more and more hummingbirds. 🙂
And the best part of a hummingbird garden is that there are no feeders to clean or nectar to make, which are common complaints of people who have hummingbird feeders.
But creating a successful hummingbird garden is not as easy as buying a few flowers and randomly planting them around your yard. To attract the most amount of hummers, you want to have LOTS of nectar-filled flowers blooming for as long as these winged beauties are in your area.
Today, you will learn 20 tips for creating a flower garden that hummingbirds can’t resist!
I’ve organized the information into three sections. Click the links below to jump to whichever information interests you most:
Good luck with creating your hummingbird garden. If you have any tips, tricks, or techniques to share, please leave a COMMENT at the end!
5 Tips BEFORE planting flowers!
Before you go and start planting a bunch of flowers, make sure you are strategic about the location of your hummingbird garden. It’s incredibly beneficial to think about the following things first.
#1. Determine a spot with the right amount of sun!
Most successful hummingbird gardens typically receive A LOT of sun. This makes sense since most flowers prefer being in the sun for long stretches of the day.
But the BEST hummingbird gardens are strategically placed where there is some shade during parts of the day. These shaded areas give you space to plant additional flowers that require some shade, such as the Red Cardinal Flower (a hummingbird favorite pictured above!).
In a nutshell, make sure you analyze the amount of sun your potential hummingbird garden receives. You want most of the area to receive full sun and, if possible, a few shaded areas throughout the day.
#2. Think about YOUR visibility!
If you are going to put in all the work to build a world-class hummingbird garden, make sure you can see it too! The more visible the flowers are to you, the more you will be able to watch and get excited about the hummingbird activity.
If possible, try to place your hummingbird garden within view of a frequented window in your house. If that’s not possible, try to plant all the flowers near a deck or patio where you often sit.
And worst case, you can put benches in your hummingbird garden, which is what I do! Unfortunately, I can’t see the flowers well from the back of our house. But I put a wooden bench and arbor in the hummingbird garden, which has become an incredibly relaxing place to sit.
#3. Determine the shape.
Now that you know WHERE you’re putting the hummingbird garden, you need to determine the overall shape.
I love aesthetically pleasing curved beds. But you can also go with a standard rectangle or square approach.
#4. Create a mulch bed and select the border.
To have the most success growing plants, you will need to create a mulch bed. Here is a video that easily shows how to accomplish this:
Now that you have a new mulch bed for your hummingbird garden, you should think about the border. Here are a few options:
- A. No border. The mulch meets the grass.
- B. Rocks. It’s surprising how inexpensive I found these beautiful rocks for my hummingbird garden.
- C. Bricks or blocks. Available at any large garden center or big box hardware store.
- D. Raised beds. Some people choose to create their hummingbird gardens in a raised bed.
#5. Add a walkway!
This tip isn’t required, but definitely something to consider.
Personally, adding a path through my hummingbird garden was one of my best decisions. I’m surprised at how often we walk around in circles through all the flowers. My kids especially enjoy using the path and flipping over all the stones to look for worms and other creatures.
Having a designated path has also helped keep the hummingbird garden organized, especially towards the end of summer, as all the plants are mature. I know exactly where and what to prune so we can still easily walk through all the plants, especially to the back of the flower garden.
10 Tips for Hummingbird Garden Flowers
This section is SUPER important because there is no hummingbird garden without flowers! Hummingbirds rely upon flowers for their sweet, energy-rich nectar, and it’s the main reason they will start visiting your yard.
My recommendation is to spend time reviewing this section and making a plan BEFORE you start buying flowers. 🙂
#6. NATIVE plants are best.
Whenever possible, you want to choose plants native to North America and your area. The reason is that hummingbirds have evolved and adapted with these plants for thousands of years.
In addition, and probably most importantly, NATIVE plants attract NATIVE insects and other invertebrates. This is incredibly important because hummingbirds eat many different types of bugs, in addition to nectar. Also, most hummingbird species rely upon spider webs to build their nests. And spiders don’t show up unless there are insects around for them to eat. I don’t know about you, but I definitely want hummingbirds to raise their families in my yard.
The BEST hummingbird gardens don’t just have pretty flowers, but they are thriving ecosystems with insects, spiders, decomposers, etc. And NATIVE plants are the perfect way to create this type of habitat.
So even though you may see a flower at your nursery that looks pretty, if you find out it hails from Asia, it’s probably not the best choice.
#7. Select flowers with different bloom times!
This tip is my favorite when creating a garden that attracts hummingbirds ALL summer long.
You need to select flowers that bloom at different times. This way, hummingbirds have nectar to eat throughout the season, not just in spring when your Columbine is flowering or in August when your Red Cardinal Flower blooms.
And having flowers with different bloom times adds a lot of visual interest to your backyard. For example, I can walk outside in Ohio from May until October and know that something is always flowering!
I have found most flowers tend to bloom in the middle to late summer. But don’t forget about providing blooming flowers during spring when hummingbirds are just returning from migration or early fall when they are migrating south. And make sure to adjust your blooming schedule based on geographic location. Some of you are lucky enough to see hummingbirds all year round. 🙂
Approximate blooming schedule of my hummingbird garden in Ohio.
The above table doesn’t represent ALL of my flowers. I just wanted to give you an idea of what you should do!
Having flowers blooming all season long is also a great way to attract butterflies!
#8. Include long, TUBULAR flowers in your hummingbird garden.
Some of the best flowers for attracting hummingbirds are long and look like a tube. Some great examples include Trumpet Vine, Red Cardinal Flower, and Honeysuckles.
First, these types of flowers typically have the most nectar. For example, there is so much nectar in the flowers of my honeysuckle vine my kids and I can suck it out ourselves for a sugary treat!
And second, because of their tubular shape, most insects can’t reach the bottom of the flower to get the nectar. But hummingbirds have no problem with their long beaks and long tongue. This fact means that hummingbirds have these types of flowers all to themselves!
Interestingly, most plants with long, tubular flowers rely on hummingbirds for pollination.
#9. Pay attention to spacing requirements.
When you buy a plant or flower, it almost always includes a small tag that gives you vital information, such as sun requirements or hardiness.
One important thing you need to read is the spacing requirements! Most plants at a garden center are young and will get bigger. It’s easy to put flowers way too close together, and in a year or two, they crowd each other out.
So take it from experience. If the recommendation is to provide 24 inches of space, make sure to listen and plan accordingly. It may look bare at first, but don’t worry; everything will fill in eventually. 🙂
#10. Here are some ways to design your hummingbird garden.
Don’t just buy a bunch of flowers and randomly spread them around your designated garden space. Instead, try to have a plan.
Typically, the best strategy is to organize the plants in your hummingbird garden in a tiered height approach. For example, you will want the shortest plants up front and have them slowly get higher toward the back, where you’ll have the tallest flowers.
Not only is this the most pleasing to the human eye, but it’s also helpful for hummingbirds to find ALL your flowers. Imagine if some of your short flowers were surrounded by super tall plants? The low ones may never get found!
Implementing the tiered height approach will depend on your specific hummingbird garden. For example, some people have an area where they can walk around the entire garden, so they want the tallest flowers in the center, with the shortest ones on the entire outside.
My hummingbird garden backs up to a marshy area. As you go through my hummingbird garden, the plants get taller and taller. I have the tallest flowers at the back to border the marsh. Lastly, I have scattered shorter plants everywhere they fit along the pathway.
Here is a diagram of how my hummingbird garden is designed. I hope it helps illustrate how a tiered height garden should look.
My hummingbird garden!
I try to keep patches of the same plant together. My rule of thumb is to buy at least three of the same types of flowers together. I never buy just a single plant.
#11. Think about vertical plants too!
Some of the BEST flowers for hummingbirds are vines that have tubular flowers, like Trumpet Creepers and Honeysuckle. But since these plants need something to climb, they are sometimes left out of hummingbird gardens.
If possible, it’s beneficial to add a feature that vines can climb. A popular option is some sort of trellis.
To include vines in my hummingbird garden, I installed an arbor with honeysuckle on each side. In addition, I put a bench underneath, which provides an incredible spot to relax and enjoy nature.
#12. Keep track of the plants you have planted!
Here is a quick tip that will save you headaches in the future. Figure out a way to remember the exact flowers and shrubs you plant in your hummingbird garden! Trust me, after a few months, you will not remember everything that is growing, in addition to information like bloom times.
I have a plastic bag in the garage. Every time I buy a new flower, I take the tag and put it in the baggie. This system is super easy to implement.
If you are a bit more motivated, you should consider a journal. Specifically, it would be helpful to write down or map out exactly WHERE you planted everything. I wish I had done this when I first started. 🙂
#13. Select different colored flowers
Even though red is the best color to attract hummingbirds, they will visit all colored flowers.
So don’t be afraid to have your hummingbird garden mimic a rainbow!
#14. Annuals or perennials?
An extremely common question when it comes to selecting the best flowers for hummingbirds is whether you should pick perennials or annuals.
Perennial flowers are popular and my favorite choice because they grow back year after year. You just have to plant them once and watch them produce flowers yearly. In addition, most perennials require very little attention to flourish.
On the other hand, annual plants die at the end of each summer. They must either be re-planted each year or regrown from the seeds that were produced. You can obviously see the negatives to annuals. But their biggest benefit is they typically produce more flowers and bloom longer than perennials during the growing season.
Honestly, the BEST hummingbird gardens tend to have a mixture of both perennials and annuals. In my garden, it’s about an 80/20 division. 80% of my plants are perennials, with the other 20% being annuals that I purchase at my local garden center each spring. The hardest part for me with annuals is finding options that the rabbits won’t eat! 🙂
#15. Don’t forget about nesting material.
To help encourage hummingbirds to nest nearby, include a few “fuzzy” plants they can use as nesting material!
Here are a few examples that are fairly widespread across North America:
- Pussy Willow tree: At the end of winter, fuzzy silver tufts appear along the branches.
- Cinnamon Fern: The fronds that appear first in spring are silvery, furry fiddleheads.
- Dandelion and Thistle: These two common weeds are often used by hummingbirds to line their nests. Remember that the term “weed” is only in the eye of the beholder.
5 Tips for Making Your Hummingbird Garden Thrive
Once you have everything planted, you have done most of the hard work. But, to really have an incredible hummingbird garden, you will want to review the following section, which provides actionable info to make your plants flourish.
#16. Deadhead dying flowers
The goal of a flower is to attract a pollinator to get pollinated and then produce seeds, which ensures the survival of that plant’s species.
And once a plant has produced enough flowers that turn into seeds, it will stop making new flowers. So from the plant’s perspective, its job is done.
But from a hummingbird’s perspective, a plant that quits producing flowers is useless! They want fresh flowers full of nectar; otherwise, they need to look for a new food source.
Luckily, we can encourage plants to keep producing more flowers by pruning, otherwise known as deadheading, the dying or fading ones. Since we are removing the potential seeds, the plant will continue growing new flowers, which is excellent for hummingbirds! The ABOVE video gives a demonstration.
#17. Don’t use pesticides in your yard.
Nectar is only a part of a hummingbird’s diet. They also eat lots of small insects and spiders, which provide them with protein and other nutrition. So by using pesticides, you are killing and eliminating a significant source of potential food. Not to mention that hummingbirds can easily ingest poisons when they eat contaminated bugs, or the fact herbicides are found in nectar that has been exposed.
Interestingly, hummingbirds use spider webs to help construct their nest and hold it together. You may hate spiders, but they are beneficial for attracting hummers.
Protect your hummingbirds and avoid or severely limit the number of poisons (pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, insecticides) that you use in your yard.
#18. Add THIS type of water to your hummingbird garden.
Just like all creatures, hummingbirds need to drink. And you might be thinking that you already have a birdbath that you plan on putting in your hummingbird garden, so any visiting hummers will be satisfied.
But, you would be wrong. Unfortunately, you probably won’t see any of these winged beauties visiting your traditional birdbath.
That’s because hummingbirds like MOVING water!
Here are a few easy things that produce moving water you can add to your hummingbird garden. 🙂
Having a fountain is a great way to get the attention of hummingbirds. There are many decorative outdoor fountains available, which will look great in your flower garden.
Or you can purchase an inexpensive solar fountain that should fit inside an existing birdbath. The best part about a solar fountain is you won’t have any annoying cords to deal with.
Hummingbirds LOVE flying through mist. The light spray is perfect for their tiny bodies. Not to mention, having a mister around is great for human enjoyment too! If you need a recommendation, here is an inexpensive, highly-rated misting system on Amazon.
Getting water movement can be as simple as having a dripper. And it’s easy to make your own by filling a used milk jug with water and creating a tiny hole at the bottom. Then, hang the jug over a plant so the water will slowly drip out and soak the leaves, leaving an excellent place for hummingbirds to get a drink. You can also purchase a dripper, which are actually made for pet reptiles!
#19. Improve the soil of your hummingbird garden.
The flowers in your hummingbird garden depend upon the fertility of the soil. The better the dirt, the bigger and brighter the blooms!
Every spring, I add a layer of mulch, which also helps retain moisture and add compostable material. If needed, you can also add additional compost or organic fertilizer.
If you’re concerned with the soil quality, it’s beneficial to test it. Here are a few at-home soil tests kits you can buy on Amazon:
#20: Be patient!
As your hummingbird garden is getting established, please tame your expectations. It’s unlikely that you will create a beautiful space filled with nectar-rich flowers, and suddenly dozens of hummingbirds appear.
It can take days, weeks, months, or even years before hummingbirds find your yard and start visiting regularly. First, they need to know that your backyard habitat is a place that is worth visiting continually.
But once they trust you, watch out. They will start visiting all the time. Hummingbirds will even remember where your garden is located from year to year.
Don’t get discouraged! And make sure to keep improving and adding to your hummingbird garden every year.
Tell us about your hummingbird garden!
Please leave a COMMENT below. We’d love to hear your favorite tips, tricks, or techniques.