This is the ULTIMATE guide on how to attract hummingbirds and butterflies to your garden! Learn about hummingbird feeders, preferred plants and butterfly and hummingbird baths to create the perfect habitat for these delicate creatures.
There's something magical about witnessing a hummingbird or butterfly flitting about the garden. In this guide, you'll learn how to attract hummingbirds and butterflies with the right nectar, plants and baths to entice these delicate creatures to stick around longer!
This post contains affiliate links for your convenience. Purchases made through these links may earn me a small commission at no additional cost to you.
How to Attract Hummingbirds
Hummingbird Flowers and Plants
Hummingbirds and butterflies both love flowers with nectar, and finding the right plants will draw them to your garden. Not only are these winged creatures pretty and fun to watch, but they're essential pollinators, too, helping to keep your plants happy!
Hummingbirds are attracted to anything that is red, yellow, or orange. That's why most of the hummingbird feeders and the premade nectar you see in stores are red. They also prefer flowers with long, tubular blossoms. Their pointy beaks make it easy for them to reach the nectar at the bottom that others may leave behind.
Some examples of hummingbird flowers are:
Be sure to select the right plants for your growing area and sunlight levels!
Hummingbird Flower Placement
Hummingbirds prefer having a variety of places to feed. Create low planter boxes like this one to fill with bushy hummingbird flowers, and go vertical with a trellis for flowering vines. Check out these garden trellis plans, and lots of other DIY arbor and trellis ideas here. You can learn more about how to choose the right climber plants for your trellis here.
Plan out your garden ahead of time and attract hummingbirds as soon as they arrive! This handy FREE printable garden planner will help you keep track of the seeds and plants you have or need, and the best time to plant them!
Best Hummingbird Feeder
The best hummingbird feeder has:
- Red accents to attract the birds.
- Plenty of feeding ports to prevent fighting.
- Easy to clean.
- Avoid models with yellow "flowers" around the holes, which will attract bees instead!
This particular model is very highly rated, inexpensive, and comes in a pack of two for twice the hummingbirds!
If you have problems with a leaky feeder or ants getting into the sugar water, you may want to switch to a saucer style version instead. The nectar is held underneath rather dripping down from above. This one has a "moat" around the handle that protects it from a marching army of ants!
How to Make Hummingbird Nectar
Making your own hummingbird nectar is cheaper and better for the birds. You can even store extra in the refrigerator so you always have more on hand!
- Mix four parts water and one part sugar in a pot.
- Bring sugar water mixture to a boil.
- Allow to cool before pouring it into the feeder.
Don't buy hummingbird nectar at the store! It may be more convenient, but it's usually filled with red dye, which isn't good for the birds to digest. The red color on the feeder is more than enough to attract their attention.
How to Clean a Hummingbird Feeder
After about a week, the nectar in your hummingbird feeder can start to go bad. Mold can build up in the crevices, driving away your feathered friends or even making them sick. The best hummingbird feeders are easy to clean, so you can put them back out quickly.
Here are the basic steps to clean a hummingbird feeder:
- Empty the feeder and take it apart.
- Soak the feeder in warm, soapy water (I use Dawn dishwashing soap).
- Use a pipe cleaner or small cleaning brush to scrub the inside of each feeding port.
- Scrub the inside of the glass with a bottle brush.
- Rinse all the parts and allow to dry before reassembling.
Depending on your feeder, you may even be able to stick it in the dishwasher. Just make sure it won't melt!
When to Put Out Hummingbird Feeders
Hummingbirds migrate like many other birds, and they spend their winters in Central America before heading back north in spring. You can see in this hummingbird migration map that most species have already left their winter homes and are headed to their summer habitat by late March.
Start putting out half-full feeders in mid-March to help out the early birds (pun intended). This way, you don't waste a lot of sugar water if it sits uneaten all week. Once the weather warms up and flowers are blooming, you can leave the hummingbird feeders out all summer long. Repeat the process in reverse in late October to give the stragglers a last meal before they head south.
Some species of hummingbirds stick around all winter long! Anna's Hummingbird stays in the Pacific Northwest year round, and relies on feeders and insects to survive our mild winters.
Hummingbirds don't like deep bird baths, so make sure yours has a shallow area around the edges. Some birdbaths are made specifically for hummingbirds, although the shallow pans mean you will need to refill them frequently.
Another option is to add misters around the garden. Position the misters by the leaves of plants so that the water will glisten, attracting the hummingbirds. They then rub against the wet leaves to bathe.
How to Attract Butterflies
Butterfly Garden Plants
Butterflies are attracted to red, orange, yellow, pink and purple blossoms. They are also looking for nectar but need flowers that are flat or in clusters so they can perch on them while they feed.
Some examples of flowers that butterflies love are:
Again, make sure the plants you select will work for your climate and sunlight levels.
Plant your butterfly flowers in an area that will get between 5-6 hours of sunlight each day. Butterflies prefer to be warm & dry when they fly.
Butterflies don't like the wind because it causes them to have to fight to stay on the flowers. If possible, place your butterfly plants in a calm area or plant larger bushes on the perimeter to protect it from the wind.
Butterflies have different water needs than hummingbirds. They prefer to drink from very shallow puddles, preferably with sand or soil underneath. Using colored sand in their favorite color may draw them in easier.
You can make one of these puddlers with a simple pie tin! Bury the pie tin in your garden, and add colored sand to the bottom. Place flat rocks sticking up from the water line so butterflies will be able to land on them and dry off. Refresh the water as necessary, adding a pinch of salt to provide minerals for the butterflies.
You can also find beautiful puddler stones with a shallow water areas built into a ceramic disk. Surround it with the butterfly plants listed above, and you'll have the perfect refuge for these delicate creatures.
Avoid using pesticides in your garden. Hummingbirds don't just eat nectar, but also small bugs that pesticides may kill off. In addition, pesticides are one of the reasons why butterfly populations such as the Monarch butterfly are dwindling. There are lots of different ways to garden organically and not hurt the butterflies and hummingbirds that you want to stop by.
Attracting hummingbirds and butterflies to your garden isn't difficult once you have the right elements in place. After you're done, you'll love being able to sit outside and watch your visitors day after day!
Want more gardening ideas? These flowers bloom in winter, to give color to your garden and potential nectar for hummingbirds as well!
Here are some tips for the perfect flowering plants for shade gardens.
Want to enjoy the soothing rustle of wind through bamboo without the headache of controlling it? I have some tips for planting bamboo too!
If you would like to keep up to date with my latest posts about gardening, home decor and more, you can follow me on Facebook, Pinterest, or Instagram. You can also sign up for my email list below so you never miss a post!
Want more DIY projects?
Subscribe to get project ideas, home improvement tips, woodworking plans and more delivered straight to your inbox!