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How to Attract Hummingbirds to Your Garden (Because They’re Absolutely Stunning)

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Hummingbirds are some of the most gorgeous little birds you’ll ever see. Their iridescent plumage, acrobatic flight patterns and the humming whir of their wings make them unique and delightful visitors to your garden. They’re often quite curious, too! After they get used to my presence every spring, I’ve had many hover in front of me, as if to investigate who else is in their garden. So, how do you attract hummingbirds to your yard? Well, it all comes down to just a few simple things.

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4 Keys to Attracting Hummingbirds

1. Plant lots of different kinds of flowers

Hummingbirds will visit 1,000 to 2,000 flowers per day for the sweet nectar. This makes them excellent pollinators, but it also means that the wider the variety of flowers you offer, the more likely they’ll visit frequently. They adore native plants such as lupines, bee balm, honeysuckle, salvia and milkweed, but they’ll sip from many different flowers. They especially love red and orange flowers (which are easier for fast-flying hummingbirds to spot!) or tubular flowers, into which they’ll insert their long bills and grooved tongues.

2. Limit pesticide use in your garden

Hummingbirds also are skilled aerial hunters. Although they get most of their nourishment from nectar, they also eat small insects, including spiders from webs and leaves, especially during breeding season. So, use care with pesticides; the other pollinators, such as bees, will thank you, too.

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3. Make sure hummingbirds have a place to perch

A hummingbird likes to sit and survey its territory from a safe spot, so plant trees and shrubs, especially along the perimeter of your yard for them to perch. Shrubs and trees also provide a place to nest.

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4. Provide a water source

Hummingbirds like to bathe frequently, often to remove sticky nectar from their feathers. But they don’t use birdbaths, which are too deep. Instead, set up a source of water from a drip fountain or misting device. Solar-powered misters can be a good option.

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Your Biggest Questions About Hummingbirds, Answered

Is it ok to feed hummingbirds?

Absolutely. Hummingbirds love nectar feeders. You can hang up a few feeders because hummingbirds often get territorial, with the males scaring off others from their favorite feeders. Place them in shaded areas.

Most importantly, you do not need to buy special food because it’s so easy to make your own nectar at home: Bring ¼ cup plain white sugar and one cup water just to a boil, making sure the sugar is dissolved; let cool and fill the feeder. Never use honey, which fosters dangerous bacterial and fungal growth. Also, do not use red food coloring in hummingbird food. It’s not necessary to attract birds, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology reports, and it’s not known whether it’s harmful. (At best, though, it’s a waste of money, says Sheri Williamson of the Southeastern Arizona Bird Observatory.) After all, real nectar is clear in color.

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What’s the best hummingbird feeder?

The best kinds of hummingbird feeders are those you can take apart to clean, which is vital for the birds’ health. They won’t visit dirty feeders. Clean the feeders, especially in all the nooks and crannies, every few days in hot weather, or at least once a week in cool weather with a solution of one-part white vinegar to four parts water. Then rinse three times before refilling with nectar. A little feeder brush also is helpful.

How do I keep bugs out of my hummingbird feeders?

Ants and bees are the biggest issues. Use a feeder with a built-in moat, which is filled with water so that ants cannot reach the water. Also, look for feeders that do not have yellow flower-shaped bee guards around the feeding holes; ironically, these tend to attract bees.

Do hummingbirds migrate?

Believe it or not, these little birds are some of the strongest long-distance fliers. More than a dozen species of hummingbirds summer in the U.S., so when fall begins, many head south from northern climates. In some parts of the country, such as the Gulf Coast and the Southwest, you’ll see hummingbirds all winter long—so keep your feeders up year-round.

Should I stop feeding the hummingbirds in fall so they can start migrating?

Nope! Like all migrating birds, they know what they’re doing, and the change in day length is one of the factors which stimulates them to migrate, not whether or not food is handy. In fact, experts suggest leaving your feeders up for a few extra weeks after you see the last hummingbirds to provide food for any stragglers on their way south. In the spring, put them up a few weeks ahead of when you expect them in case of early arrivals. That’s early March in the Southeast and late April in the Northeast.