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How do I plant to attract hummingbirds?

In general, plants that have red, hot pink, orange, and bright yellow flowers--all the hot colors--will attract hummingbirds. Although these tiny birds will feed on many flowers, the tubular ones are especially attractive. Hummingbirds sip nectar and also eat tiny insects and spiders. They may drink up to eight times their body weight daily in water. Although occasional rarities have been sighted in Missouri and Illinois, the Ruby-throated hummingbird is the only species commonly seen here and east of the Mississippi River.

You can attract hummingbirds to your garden in a number of ways. It's best to combine as many of these strategies as possible. Shade trees and shrubs provide perches, protection and shade. Provide a combination of flowering plants and several hummingbird feeders. A garden pond and waterfall or a shallow pan of water--no more than ¼-inch deep--will allow hummingbirds to drink and bathe.

Be patient if this is your first attempt to attract hummingbirds. It may take several weeks for them to find your flowering plants and feeders. Once they do, you will see them year after year--they must pass the word around.

Fill hummingbird feeders with a boiled solution of four parts water to one part white refined sugar. Do not add food coloring--it's not necessary. Clean sugar-water feeders every three to five days, using a brush and mild detergent solution. Rinse well.

The flowers of black locust, tulip tree and flowering crabapple will attract hummingbirds. They will feed on the flowers of many shrubs, including red buckeye, butterfly bush, forsythia, common witch hazel, rose of sharon, beauty bush, azalea, rhododendron and lilac. Vines that attract hummingbirds include scarlet runner bean, cardinal climbers, cypress vine, Japanese honeysuckle, trumpet creeper and red morning glory.

Many annual and perennial flowers attract hummingbirds including agapanthus, hollyhock, impatiens, jewel weed, snapdragon, red columbine, butterfly weed, Indian paintbrush, bleeding heart, gladiolus and daylilies. Other good annuals and perennials for your hummingbird garden include cardinal flower, blue lobelia, bluebells, monarda, nicotiana, penstemon, phlox, pineapple sage and nasturtium.

If you want hummingbirds in your garden, don't use pesticides. The birds might ingest pesticides that have been sprayed on flowering plants. Pesticides also eliminate the small insects that hummingbirds rely upon for protein.