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Flowers for Picky Hummingbirds

A ruby-throated hummingbird sipping from a bee balm (Monarda didyma) flower.

Why We Don’t Own a Hummingbird Feeder

The growing season is over, and it’s time to pore through seed catalogs to decide what to grow in the garden next spring. But this year, the birds are demanding a say.

A hummingbird appeared in front of our kitchen window in September, hovering and looking seriously annoyed. I’ve heard they do that when their feeder is empty, but, but, but… we don’t own one!

Why not?

  • Because providing dissolved sugar for wildlife feels too much like letting my daughter eat candy for dinner when she was young. No way. Granted, I’m wondering how strict I really was after listening to this confirmed chocoholic’s encyclopedic knowledge of Swedish Fish, gummy bears, Starbursts, Necco Wafers, Smarties, and Pixy Stix. Still, I know she ate a healthy meal first.

I hope.

  • Because I’m afraid the food will spoil, creating the greatest ruby-throated hummingbird die-off in US history. I don’t need that on my conscience.

Hummingbird Flowers

Yet, I feel an obligation to help them out at least a little. They are preparing for a 1300-mile migration. Maybe I could plant the avian equivalent of broccoli and kale in our backyard for them. What fall-blooming flowers do they feed on?

We’ve already planted pink Turtlehead (Chelone obliqua) and pink Wild Petunias (Ruellia humilis) for them in our wildflower garden. I don’t understand why they turned their long pointy noses (excuse me—beaks) up at them in favor of the orange Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) that has self-sown among our shrubs. Unless they just don’t like pink. As a female who prefers the color blue, I can relate to that.

Orange Jewelweed blossom, pink Wild Petunia flower, and dark pink Turtlehead bloom.
Our hummingbirds loved the Jewelweed, but turned up their noses at Wild Petunia and Turtlehead. Maybe they don’t like pink?

And I couldn’t do anything about the August demise of their beloved red Bee Balm (Monarda didyma, shown in the photo at the top of the page). Okay,  I admit that might not be accurate. Watering it during the summer-long drought could, possibly, have saved it. In my defense, I didn’t want to run the well dry, and, by September, it was much too late to pamper the plants, anyway.

So this winter I may be researching what plants are drought resistant, grow in partly sunny conditions, have red or orange tube-shaped blossoms, and bloom in early fall. Or I might read up on how to install a rain barrel without destroying the drain spouts we replaced last year. Or maybe I’ll cave and provide a hummingbird feeder.

Is there a Yelp site for hummingbird restaurants?

Any suggestions? Please leave them in the comment section, and I’ll post the best next week.

2 responses to “Flowers for Picky Hummingbirds”

  1. My mom used to plant a vine, called it hummingbird vine. It had little red tube flowers that hummingbirds loved, but I googled it and what comes up as hummingbird vine is not what she planted. I think what she planted is “cypress vine.”

    Necco wafers–used to love those things!


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