By Tina Shearer, Colorado Master Gardener
What comes to mind the middle of April? Okay, besides taxes? Hummingbirds return this month. Eleven different types of hummingbirds migrate to Colorado each year. They are more likely to nest in the foothills and mountains, but even out on the plains, you can entice them to your yard. For those who revel in these glorious pollinators, it’s time to put out feeders with home made nectar.
The basic recipe calls for 1 part white granulated sugar (no other type of sweetener is acceptable) to 4 parts water. Stir in a small pan until the sugar dissolves, bring to a boil, and boil gently one minute. Cool to room temperature before filling your clean feeders. The nectar can help migrating hummers, and also fill in for the times when your garden is low on blossoms. Feeders must be cleaned and filled with fresh nectar every several days until mid October.
Those feeders need to come in at night if you’re in bear country, but even on the lower-elevation Front Range, I have had raccoons drink every last drop. Don’t want to provide the means for raccoon dinner? Or nectar for scavenging ants? Invest in plants that attract hummingbirds.
Their favorite plants include bee balm (monarda), cardinal flower (lobelia cardinalus), columbine (aquilegia), larkspur (delphinium), beardtongue (penstemon), coneflower (echinacea), phlox, honeysuckle (lonicera), catmint (nepeta), sage (salvia), and agastache (hyssop). Many of these plants come in Plant Select varietals, like Coronado Red Hyssop, which perform well on the Colorado Front Range. Ask at garden centers for Plant Select and native varieties. Plant them in groups after the last freeze date in your area, and prepare to be dazzled by color, scent, and a variety of visiting pollinators.
Yep, that’s the big bonus. These plants attract not only hummingbirds, but also pollinators of all kinds including bees (964 species native to Colorado), moths (over 1,000 species), and butterflies (250 native species) (thanks for the figures, Colorado Department of Agriculture). Successful pollinator gardens help create habitat and food for pollinators, who create fruit and vegetables for other animals, and for us.
I can hardly wait to hear the buzz.
Other Resources About Hummingbirds and Other Pollinators