Written by Ouina Rutledge
As I sit here by my breakfast nook window sipping tea I spy a Buff-bellied Hummingbird swooping in to sip nectar from a Red Sage flower. Hummingbirds love to flit, hover, and zoom around in my garden as I have planted a number of hummingbird attractant plants. I receive many questions from Valley residents wanting to know how they too can attract these colorful birds to their back yards.
Bringing these visitors up close and personal does require a little bit of knowledge of native plants and some gardening space, whether containers, small beds or large. Knowing what kinds of plants will do well in our Valley environment and what kinds of hummingbirds those plants will attract will improve your chances of seeing these beautiful, diminutive birds!
Two plants that are the very best natives that will attract hummingbirds and are readily available at local nurseries are the Tropical or Red Sage (Salvia coccinea) and Dwarf Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus drummondii). Both these plants are attractive additions to any garden. They need at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight to flower, are very drought tolerant, and are low-maintenance. Water to establish and then water only infrequently but deeply to maintain flowering. Both have deep red flowers and will flower nearly continuously all year. Prune back occasionally to maintain shape. But don’t prune all the plants at once as you want some plants to always be in flower so that you can attract the hummers!
Allow both plant species to seed and you will be pleasantly surprised to find other birds coming to your garden as I have seen Chachalacas, Northern Cardinals, Kiskadees, and Painted Buntings among the number of birds that fly in and devour the seeds. These birds are hungry – especially the migratory birds flying through on their way south.
Quinta Mazatlan in McAllen promotes and encourages use of native plants in the urban landscape. If you want to learn more about landscaping with natives – the how-to’s – join us every Wednesday 8:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m at Quinta Mazatlan for volunteer mornings. By planting Rio Grande Valley native plants, you not only enjoy seeing nature out your window up close and personal, you are conserving native plants and the birds that need these plants to survive. Hummingbirds are vulnerable to habitat loss and pesticides. Their chances of survival increase every time one zips over to a tasty meal provided by your small container garden or back yard habitat!