Saturday, June 24, 2017

Hummingbird Happiness

Black-chinned male hummingbird May 2017
The first thing I do in the morning, pre-coffee and still in my nightgown, is traipse out the back door to hang the hummingbird feeder on the back porch.

A hummingbird usually buzzes by my ears before I can take my hand away from the hook.

Smiles are better than coffee. 

Back yard bermuda grass, April 2014

We didn't get much bird traffic our first year in this house because the back was mostly weedy bermuda grass, although ringed by trees. Without water and a variety of habitat plants, birds had little reason to visit.

Terraced beds to cope with slope, a fountain for joy.
Then we spent the next two years digging and planting. Now the yard hosts a happiness of hummers and birds, attracted by plants, baths and fountains. Beauty for us and life for them.

Female black-chinned hummer on zinnia.
Zinnias are annuals but grow easily from seed, and the plants re-seed readily. Butterflies and bees like them too. They bloom so readily I enjoy a bouquet in the house as well.
Black-chinned hummer (female?) on pineapple sage, May 3, 2015

Pineapple sage (Salvia elegans) is a must for warm-region gardens (zones 8a-11) because it blooms prolifically in early spring and late fall, perfect timing for hummingbird migration when the birds are desperate for food. More good news--the plant is evergreen in mild winters and the leaves make a tasty tea.

Black-chinned hummingbird on red yucca, May 2017
Drought tolerant and easy-care, red yuccas attract hummers to long-lasting spikes of red tubular blooms.

Female black-chinned hummingbird, June 21, 2017
I didn't know when we bought this fountain that the hummingbirds would love it more than their favorite plants, staging air wars for bathing rights. 

Female hummingbird on sweet basil, September 2016.
We garden for habitat but we eat too and I love fresh herbs. This female hummer surprised me by sipping from flowers of my over-the-hill basil. 

Female hummer on Mexican oregano, June 20, 2017

Most hummingbird visitors take a turn at the Mexican oregano (Poliomintha bustamanta). The individual flowers are probably not a favorite nectar source but the blooms are so prolific that a bird can sip her fill in a small space. I like it because the blooms brighten our garden from March into November depending on the weather, and the plant is evergreen most winters. Deer don't like it, so the herb is a bonus plant for folks with neighborhood deer. As an aside, we don't eat Mexican oregano since an expert left me this comment: " least one species of Poliomintha is known to contain acutely toxic compounds..."

Female hummer on Shrimp plant, see the orange pollen on her beak? 
I love this Shrimp plant (Justicia brandegeana) for the generosity and kindness of the friend who shared it; and the way it fills a shady space under an oak tree, adding bounce and color. The hummingbirds don't swarm it but they like it too when the flowers are full and open.
Female hummer on Texas Betony

Every garden needs hardy low-growing evergreen plants. They soften edges along walkways and beds and disguise stalky bottoms of taller plants behind them. How much better if those plants sport prolific red tubular blooms that hummingbirds like? Texas betony is Texas-tough, a drought-tolerant, deer-resistant evergreen that can also be used as a ground cover.

Female black-chinned hummer on a native ruellia. 

I'll admit I included this plant, Wild petunia, AKA Prairie petunia, (Ruellia humilis) because I'm fond of this picture. I had ruellia in pots and beds for years and only saw THIS happen one time, AND I had my camera out. But really, how cute is that female black-chinned hummingbird with her beak buried in the well of the purple flower?  ... I can't honestly say hummingbirds seek Wild petunia out, so don't plant it unless you want a shady-area groundcover that blooms from May-September, attracts butterflies and is a larval host to buckeye butterflies.

At last count our small garden has more than 20 species of hummingbird plants. Some bloom early, some late and some in the scorch of summer. Vines, groundcovers, bushes, flowers, herbs and succulents. Two are annuals but reseed readily, the rest are perennial. 

I haven't taken pictures of hummingbirds on most of them yet...I need to sit outside more, watching the birds and smiling.

Copyright 2009-2017 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.


  1. Good morning, Kathleen,
    Thanks for this great article. Valuable advice! I just saved it to read it again when necessary, i.e. when we decide what to plant in our garden. But then, we'll have to find out which of those plants the deer don't like. Not many, I'm afraid. But we want to do whatever we can to attract hummingbirds [yesterday, in the evening, I watched 4 flitting around our feeders and also drinking in our Vitex] and butterflies.
    Have a wonderful Sunday,

    1. Hi Pit, let me know which plants you're interested, I know the deer resistance.

  2. But a smile and coffee together is even better! Great capture of that hummingbird on the fountain.


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