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Planting a Garden for Hummingbirds and Butterflies

Updated on August 14, 2011
Beautiful Butterfly Bush
Beautiful Butterfly Bush | Source

Clean Water Attracts Wildlife to Your Garden

Garden enthusiasts and nature lovers enjoy not only their flower gardens, vegetable gardens and digging in the dirt, but they also enjoy the wildlife that surrounds them.

Butterflies and hummingbirds love flowers with bright colors such as red, purple, orange, blue, yellow and white. Flowers with nectar are more popular to hummingbirds rather than scented flowers, so I'm sure whatever the color, as long as there's nectar, they will like them.

Bunching your flowers and bushes together helps attract them more than just a single plant and it looks better for landscaping. Plants that have flowers that hang downward seem to be harder for butterflies to get to, but hummingbirds enjoy them, using their long beaks in mid flight to gather nectar! Flowers, such as Clematis, trumpet vines, morning glories and honeysuckle, to name a few. Plants that grow up a trellis, poles or on a garden fence, is a great way to grow your vine plants. Butterfly bushes, with their tubular shaped flowers are actually lots of little blooms on one stem. There are endless types of bushes and shrubs, like mock orange, rose of sharon, wagalia, roses, forsythia and spirea, that attract wildlife and love being in a peaceful, but busy garden.

Hummingbirds love many of the same flowers as butterflies, which are the great pollinators. Bee balm, hollyhock, hibiscus, trumpet vine, honeysuckle, clematis, day lilies, impatiens, phlox, fuchsias and petunias, are some of the flowers that attract hummingbirds to your garden. There are so many to choose from, but these are just a few of their favorites.

Hanging hummingbird feeders is easy and the hummers will love you for it, coming back year after year! I prefer to make my own sugar water without the red coloring. If you hang a feeder in a safe place with the sweetness they love, they will come! I'm not sure its the colors that attract as much as the sweet scent of nectar! Hanging a hummingbird feeder where you can easily see it is the best way to observe the hummingbirds in action.

Don't pay for expensive hummingbird food when you can make your own from this simple hummingbird feeder recipe.

Hummingbird Food-Feeder Recipe
To begin, you will need one part sugar to four parts water. Boil the water first, then measure and add white sugar. Add 1/4 cup of sugar to 1 cup of water. Let it cool and store the excess in the refrigerator until you're ready to use it. Keep the sugar solution for just two weeks. Don't add food coloring or honey, which can ferment and grow bacteria. I've even tried making the hummingbird food with boiled water, mixing it with the sugar and not cooking it on the stove. I've had good results and I've never had bacteria grow in my feeders. Often, they eat so much, it doesn't get to stay out there too long. When they go dry or empty, often the hummingbirds come to my windows to let me know!! Especially the ones that come back, year after year!

Keep your feeders clean and free from ants. It's not always easy to do once they find a sweet supply, but checking them often and perhaps giving the ants something else to eat can help. Place a small container, even a top to a jar with something sweet in it and place it nearby. The ants will be too busy to bother the hummingbird feeders. I avoid using pesticides because it will harm the ants and possibly other life too. Also, beware of bees, they hang around hummingbird feeders a lot because they like the sweetness too!

Some plants are irresistible to butterflies and hummingbirds! Just a few they love are marigolds, zinnias, hollyhocks, morning glories and day lilies. Planting herbs are good too and some of their favorites are borage, dill, fennel, chives and wild bergamot. They also seem to like wild clover flowers. I see butterflies and bees getting pollen and nectar from them along with wild honeysuckle and wild mountain laurel, which is very similar to wild rhododendrons, a beautiful flowering bush. Some other favorite plants are wisteria, coreopsis, white clover, sweet alyssum and sedum. In one of my flower beds, I have day lilies and sedum mixed with Echinacea, (purple coneflowers), daisies and also a trumpet vine growing along an old country fence. I also have wisteria growing up my second story deck and on the chimney. I love how it all looks and the hummingbirds and butterflies love it too!

When planting a butterfly garden, you're also creating an environment that's good for them to lay their eggs that grow and become caterpillars. Try not to have your butterfly garden too close to your vegetable garden because they'll mature and eat cabbage, squash, radishes and bean leaves like crazy. I used to like to plant flowers around my vegetable garden until I found this out! I still plant a few, like zinnias, marigolds and morning glories, and don't have too much trouble as long as I have plenty of other flowers to keep them busy in other areas! A garden friend, we all like to see are ladybugs, and they love many of the plants and herbs I've mentioned here. Ladybugs are natural garden helpers, eating moth and other insect larvae and aphids that would normally hurt the garden.

It's all worth it, to have these beautiful creatures in your special rainbow garden! Hummingbirds will return every year once they know there's a good supply of what they love and need! Butterflies will come in hoards when you have the plants they love. Water is important to attract wildlife to your yard or property, so place bird baths, ponds, rocks and interesting containers for them to drink from and I know you'll be very happy with the results. Dragonflies and frogs like the mosquitoes and hang out around water, so consider a frog pond that will attract lots of wildlife. A lovely natural landscape can be beautiful and helpful to nature and to all living things.

Do your best to buy healthy plants and learn about them before you plant. Don't plant them too close to each other, allowing adequate room to grow. Some butterfly bushes can grow 20 feet across and 20 feet high. Take this into accord when choosing your plants and where you will plant them. Dig your holes big enough. Normally, twice the size of the roots for a bush or shrub. Bulbs should be planted in the Fall to bloom in spring or summer.

Perennials are good because they come back year after year, whereas, annual plants die and have to be planted again every year. You can mix and match and always have the colors and types of plants you want and like, understanding that not all plants are good for certain areas.

Prune your plants in Fall for new growth in Spring and Summer. Good mulch and compost help keep moisture in the soil in your garden and around your plants. Don't pile it up too thick or up on the plants, because it can kill them, especially if the mulch isn't organic and has chemicals on them, which some companies add it for richer, deeper color. A nice amount of good rich soil and compost is good and then mulch the whole bed to help with moisture. Be prepared and have all the right tools, shovel, rake, gloves, sun hat, sun block, a spade or multi-tool to break the soil up or perhaps a Mini Tiller to do the job for you.

Follow the instructions for each plant, bush, bulb or even trees that bloom too, and soon, you'll be sitting back, sipping on the drink of your choice and watching and enjoying the butterflies and hummingbirds visiting your garden!

2000-2011©Mystickblue/Fran Hafey All rights reserved.


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    • Mystiblu profile image

      Fran Hafey 7 years ago from Virginia, USA

      Hi Lmblackman. Thank you for reading and commenting on my article. Bees love borage and borage loves the garden. Borage is a good companion plant for lots of vegetables and attracts bees and because of its small little blooms, their color and scent also attract butterflies and hummingbirds. The only negative thing about it is that its an annual and has to be planted every year. Do you save your seeds? I'm always amazed to see what plants the hummingbirds and butterflies like, flowers and herbs! I hope you have lots of hummingbirds this summer!

    • profile image

      Lmblackman 7 years ago

      I have borage in my garden! I've seen lots of hummingbirds around my feeder and certain flowers planted around my house, but I have never seen any in the garden. I love borage flowers and the fact that they attract the bees. I'll be on the lookout for hummingbirds around the borage this summer!

    • Mystiblu profile image

      Fran Hafey 7 years ago from Virginia, USA

      Thank you Peg, I'm glad you enjoyed the article and it was helpful. I just love sitting outside and seeing all the birds and butterflies all around the gardens! They love the scents, but also the colors and I enjoy it all! Thanks so much for reading and commenting, I really appreciate it! Blessings~

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 7 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      This is a good rundown on what to plant to attract these beautiful creatures. Since I put an orange birdfeeder in the front yard I've noticed lots of birds seem to enjoy the colorful addition. Great advice here.