Early spring hummingbird sightings are exciting for many of us. Like other birds, they are searching for food and a safe place to raise a family. If these needs are met, they will most likely stick around.

They are very entertaining little birds. If feeders are provided for them, we are reminded by Wild Birds Unlimited lecturer Kent Hiday, to keep feeders clean and change the nectar often. This may require a change every day.

Temperatures of 80 degrees call for changing every two to three days, and when 90 degrees, change the nectar every one to two days. Use four parts water to one part refined, white sugar. Make sure it is CANE sugar, not beet sugar. Never use any other type sweetener. Never use dye. 

Of utmost importance is to have lots of plants that bloom, providing a food supply of nectar and insects from spring thru fall. The majority of a hummingbird’s diet is insects and small spiders, and flowers attract these, providing needed nutrition for hummers at all stages of life. We are fortunate here to be able to provide a wide range of nectar plants. Red gets their attention, but they also buzz around other colors.

In spring and summer, my native honeysuckle “Blanche Sandman” blooms profusely and then continues with some blooms until frost. “John Clayton” and “Dropmore Scarlet” are also favorite native honeysuckles, with lots of spring blooms but less in summer. Other easy-to-grow vines are Cypress Vine and Scarlet Runner Beans, both annuals, but they can reseed. The native Clematis “roogoochi” is a really pretty small vine that I highly recommend.

When a Red Buckeye tree/shrub blooms in spring, hummingbirds will find it for sure. Many of the old pass-a-long shrubs are good nectar plants. Weigela, Lilac, Flowering Quince, Rose of Sharon (Althea), and Abelia are favorites.

Plantings of any repeat blooming Azaleas are recommended. Since native Azaleas are deciduous, some people avoid using them in their gardens. In my opinion, native Azaleas are truly the stars in a woodland setting.

Be sure to have a wide variety of perennials and annuals for the hummers. Immediately, I think of native Columbine, the ease of growing it, and how much the hummers love it in early spring.

They also love the blooms on Hostas, Heucheras, Tiarellas, Daylilies, Bleeding Hearts, Bluebells, Jewelweed, Phlox, Snapdragons, Cleome, Zinnias, Four O’clocks, Larkspur, Cannas, Nasturtium, Hyssop, and the list could go on. Our beautiful orange Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa), seen along the roadside and open fields in summer, is useful to hummers too. We need to grow it in our gardens, because there is a lot less of it now than just a few years ago. Seeds are cheap, plants too, if you check around. Sometimes, there are plant rescues nearby.

I have never met a Salvia plant that I didn’t love, but I do have a few favorites. Hummers love their blooms, and they have a long blooming period, are drought and heat tolerant, and pest resistant. Salvia “greggii” blooms early and continues until frost if you remove dead flowers. It lives through some of our winters, and it’s easy to propagate from cuttings. Salvia “coccinea” is an annual here, but it will reseed. It blooms all summer if you remove dead flowers. Save the seed. I love the red, but it also comes in pink and white.

Happy Gardening!

Gardening Partners is a non-profit founded in 2003 to serve Dickson County with gardening education and advice.  Readers may submit gardening questions by email:, on the website:, or by mail:  PO Box 471 Dickson TN 37056

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