Make A Hummingbird Theater

Roll out the welcome mat for hummingbirds, and plan a spot for wing-side seating.

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Few creatures in the garden delight like hummingbirds. With whirring wings and hovering flight, these tiny birds defy gravity in ways that capture the imagination. I grew up watching hummingbirds as they feasted and battled over trumpet vines and red hot poker plants in my father’s garden.

Anna’s Hummingbird

Anna’s Hummingbird with Penstemon

Anna’s hummingbird visiting a native penstemon bloom.

Photo by: Used with permission. © 2016 Thomas Strich at

Used with permission. © 2016 Thomas Strich at

I have never intentionally designed a hummingbird garden, but my love for colorful flowers draws these tiny birds. I see hummers daily visiting blooms and sipping nectar. My office faces a flower garden, so I have a front row seat to hummingbird antics. Learn ways to integrate home and garden to create your own hummingbird theater.

Hanging Basket Hummers 

Swingtime Fuchsia


Fuchsia flowers are irresistible to hummingbirds.

Photo by: Julie Martens Forney

Julie Martens Forney

A hanging basket lifts flowers to a just-right height for hummers to zip and sip nectar. Place hanging baskets strategically near outdoor seating areas on a front porch or patio, then settle in for a daily show. Hummingbirds get used to human company, although quick movements will startle them into flight. Hanging basket plants that hummingbirds visit include fuchsia, petunia, lantana, mandevilla, calibrachoa (million bells) and tuberous begonia.

Frame Your View

Photo by: Julie Martens Forney

Julie Martens Forney

Maybe one of the coziest ways to birdwatch is sitting inside while you survey the scene outside. Plant containers packed with hummingbird favorites and display it near a window or door. I strategically place a container hummingbird garden beside a door, where I can watch the birds while I sip tea. The hummers fly right up to the screen to pay their respects before filling up on nectar.

This window box liner overflows with flowers that hummingbirds can’t resist, including lantana, verbena, pentas, ‘Victoria Blue’ salvia and ‘Summer Jewel Red’ salvia. These flowers showcase the types of blooms that make a hummer’s visit worthwhile: lots of individual blossoms arranged in a spike or rounded flower head. Tube-shaped flowers are hummingbird favorites, including salvia, monarda, penstemon, cigar plant and lobelia.

Include a Feeder

Anna’s Hummingbird Sipping Nectar

Male Anna’s Hummingbird with Aloe

A male Anna’s hummingbird sips nectar from an aloe blossom.

Photo by: Used with permission. © 2016 Thomas Strich at

Used with permission. © 2016 Thomas Strich at

Hang a hummingbird feeder near a breakfast nook or patio picnic area to enjoy an air show while you eat. Feeders typically come in red, the color guaranteed to catch a hummingbird’s attention. The best way to introduce a feeder is to place it near a mass of red flowers—something a hummingbird can’t miss. Hummingbirds follow a daily trapline or feeding route, stopping at blooms along the way. When a new food source appears on the route, the hummer notices and checks it out. Once a hummingbird is used to visiting your feeder, you can move it to a more convenient viewing location. Fill your feeder with a solution of one part water to four parts sugar, replacing the nectar every few days.

Make Hummers Feel at Home

Trumpet Vine on Trellis

Trumpet Vine Flower

Trumpet Vine (Campsis radicans) opens tubular orange blooms that beckon hummingbirds and butterflies.

Photo by: Julie Martens Forney

Julie Martens Forney

Filling the garden with plenty of nectar-rich flowers, like trumpet vine, is just one part of making hummingbirds welcome. These little birds also need protein to survive, which they consume in the form of insects. Avoid using pesticides in your hummingbird garden to ensure you don’t have an insect-free environment.

In addition to food, hummers need a place to rest. These little birds spend 80 percent of their time perching and resting between flights. Hummingbirds often sit outside my office window on a metal obelisk with metal the size of a pipe cleaner. Other perches hummingbirds favor include twigs, clothesline, wire fencing and leaf stems.

Include Cozy Seating

Birdbath and Chair in Garden

Chair with Binoculars and Birdbath

A comfy chair makes the perfect perch for doing a little garden birdwatching.

Photo by: Anthony Tesselaar Plants at

Anthony Tesselaar Plants at

Every theater needs comfy chairs, and a hummingbird garden is no exception. Make sure you get the best seat in the house by placing chairs near nectar-rich flowers or a birdbath. Position seating so it has firm footing and isn’t in a spot that’s too out of the way (which means you’ll rarely use it). Remember to turn off cell phones while enjoying your hummer show, because ringer and notification sounds scare hummingbirds.

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