Gardening for Hummingbirds

For me, I get more joy out of watching the birds and various insects using the plants in my garden, than having fancy showy flowers – some do not provide any nectar for our pollinators. In the lower mainland, we have the Anna’s hummingbird that now stays year round. The male has a rosy red throat and crown, that shines brilliantly in the right light, the female does not have this red colouring. Both the male and female are greenish in colour. I was told that the Anna’s nest in early February so they don’t have to compete for food until the Rufous hummingbirds show up in late February. The Rufous hummingbird spends its winters down around Mexico and can migrate all the way up to Alaska to breed and spend the summer before returning south in the fall.

Hummingbirds don’t just eat nectar, they also eat insects and will eat sap (and insects stuck in the sap) from holes in trees that Sapsuckers and some other woodpeckers make. This is an important connect, because it provides food for the hummingbirds if there are no flowers blooming. Usually if the hummingbirds arrive early or if it has been a cold spring and the flowers are late to bloom.

Gardening for hummingbirds means having plants that provide nectar for them early in the year, spring, summer, and fall. This list is a good start of plants that attract hummingbirds, though there are others as well. Hummingbirds seem to be fond of red and yellow flowers and flowers that are tubular in shape.

Also, please do not use pesticides, they are harmful to all life. The Rufous hummingbird is in decline and one of the main causes is the high use of pesticides, especially on blueberry crops. You can also attract Hummingbirds by putting up hummingbird feeders, but you need to regularly clean them and put new sugar water out. I have mine out in the winter and the Anna’s hummingbird comes all winter long, but when the plants start blooming I don’t see them much until next winter. Hummingbirds get water from the nectar they drink, but having water around is always a good idea for wildlife. It can be scarce at times in our urban environments.

Native Plants

Osoberry – is an important early blooming shrub that starts blooming around late February / early March depending on the weather
Red-Flowering Current – starts blooming late March / early April
Tall and Dull Oregon grape – early bloomers
Bleeding Hearts – are a shade herbaceous perennial that emerges around March and blooms around April
Red Columbine – spring blooming herbaceous perennial that likes part-shade
Salmonberry – spring/summer
Salal – spring/summer
Lupines – spring/summer
Honeysuckles – both native and non-native
Penstemons – summer blooming
Fireweed – Summer blooming
Tiger Lily – summer blooming
Arbutus Tree
Big Leaf Maple Tree

Non-Native Plants

Hardy Fuchsia / hanging basket fuchsias (the more simple the flower the better)
Blazing Star (Liatris spicata)
Bee Balm / Bergamont
Red-Hot Poker
Scarlet Runner Beans
Many of our culinary herb flowers

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