It’s hummingbird time in the landscape

A hummingbird feeds on a firebush blossom.
--Norman Balliviero Photo

HAMMOND — Many people think attracting hummingbirds is as easy as hanging a feeder. But that is not always successful because many hummingbirds are not accustomed to using feeders. It can be frustrating to put out a feeder and never see a hummingbird.
Many people have found that planting a garden full of hummingbird-attracting plants, in addition to maintaining feeders, is a more reliable method for successfully attracting hummers. It’s important to be patient the first year. A hummingbird garden is an invitation, and it may take some time for the garden to be a destination for hummingbirds. The longer you stay with a good plan to bring hummingbirds to your garden, the better it will work.
A well-chosen variety of flowering trees, shrubs, vines, annual flowers and flowering perennials can produce an excellent supply of nectar over a long time. At the same time, the landscape will be beautified. Insects that live on the plants and the flowers’ nectar will provide hummingbirds with a complete, balanced diet. Because they obtain nearly all the water they need from their foods, it’s not necessary to provide them with drinking water.
Typical hummingbird flowers are red, have a tubular shape and don’t have a strong fragrance. There are however exceptions. Many plants with red flowers may not have nectar, and not all good nectar plants have red flowers. Roses, petunias, geraniums and zinnias have brilliant flower colors — with red prominent — but little nectar.
Plants that produce an abundance of flowers over longer periods and those that are low-maintenance and require little care are good choices. When several color varieties of a plant are available, select the brightest red.
Insecticides generally should not be used in hummingbird gardens. If absolutely needed, they should be used sparingly and only on non-flowering plants. Use pesticides low in toxicity, such as horticultural oils and insecticidal soaps. Never use systemic insecticides or rotenone on plants where hummingbirds may feed.
Trees to add to the landscape for hummingbirds include the crybaby tree, loquat (Japanese plum), mimosa and citrus.
Good shrubs for the hummingbird landscape include Turk’s cap, pagoda plant, Mexican cigar plant, shrimp plant, firespike, hibiscus, bird of paradise, azalea and red buckeye.
Hummingbirds like the following vines — coral honeysuckle, Japanese honeysuckle, cape honeysuckle, cypress vine, bleeding heart vine and trumpet creeper.
Annual and perennial flowers for hummingbirds include salvia, iris, red hot poker, impatiens, cardinal flower, standing cypress, bee balm, pentas and lantana.
You can see more about work being done in landscape horticulture by visiting the LSU AgCenter Hammond Research Station website at www.lsuagcenter.com/Hammond.

By Allen Owings LSU AgCenter horticulturist

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