Attracting Butterflies and Hummingbirds

Attracting Butterflies and Hummingbirds
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Attracting butterflies and hummingbirds to our yards and gardens is often science mixed with a little luck. I've ran into people who plant everything they believe will work, only to find a neighbor or family member that does nothing special and has these wonderful creatures flitting around daily. My mom puts out her hummingbird feeders each May and they love to visit her all summer long. I on the other hand am still searching for the trick she must be hiding from me. (Just kidding Mom!)
First, a couple of general tips. Insecticides and chemicals may keep pests away but will often keep butterflies away or harm them, and often kill the caterpillars that become butterflies. Also, sometimes the neat and well manicured gardens don't attract butterflies as well as allowing a little bit of a cottage garden look to your yard beds. One option is to have areas that you keep neatly landscaped, but other sections that you consider wildlife gardens. Both can be beautiful additions!

Some plants that attract butterflies are: asters, butterfly bush (buddleia davidii), butterfly plant (asclepias tuberosa), cosmos, gaillardia, lilac, marigold, sunflowers, sweet peas, verbena and zinnias.

As you can see some are larger shrubs, but there are also flowers that can easily be planted in the same bed or area. Herbs such a bee balm, dill, fennel and parsley are butterfly plants too, but if you use them in for this purpose mix them in with the flowers and don't consider them as part of your kitchen garden, since the butterflies will munch them.

Many of the same tips apply to hummingbirds as to butterflies. Insecticides should be avoided because many times hummingbirds are looking for tiny insects to eat, and you don't want to kill those types off, not to mention the potential for harming the birds themselves.

Hummingbirds are attracted to some of the same plants. They like red, pink and orange. Impatients, salvia, lilies, trumpet vine, morning glories, hosta, four 'clocks, lupine, yukka, columbine, foxglove, coral bells, fuchsia, petunia and bee balm are some plants to start with. Do you see a pattern? These flowers have what I think of as "tubes" that the birds can drink the nectar from.

There is no need to buy nectar. You can make it by placing 1 part white sugar and 4 parts water into a pan and boiling it for 2 minutes. Cool completely and fill feeders 1/2 way or so. NEVER use honey or other sweeteners. There is no need to use red food coloring-in fact it could even be harmful. Use feeders that have red on them and that should be enough.

Rinse and clean your feeders every 2-3 days in hot weather. If you see any mold (black spots) scrub them using a bottle brush or toothbrush. Add salt or sand to parts you can't reach with hot water and try shaking to remove. Apply petroleum jelly to the string/plastic that the feeder hangs from to help keep the ants out. Use your feeders with the flowers to really get the most enjoyment. Place them in different spots around the yard so they "work" with the flowers.

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About The Author

Brenda Hyde is a freelance writer living on ten acres in rural Michigan with her husband and three kids. She is a mom, grandma, gardener, cook and writer. She blogs on all of these topics at


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