Steele: Attract hummingbirds with natural feeders

I gave up on feeders when I discovered the red beebalm was drawing in hummingbirds

By Gwen Steele

Two weeks ago I was delighted to see a dramatic splash of red when my beebalm burst into bloom.

Once again I was amazed at how it acts as a hummingbird magnet.

I don’t have a hummingbird feeder and had not seen many hummingbirds around my garden this year.

They are constantly visiting now that the beebalm is flowering.

At my old house I gave up on feeders when I discovered the red beebalm filling an oak barrel planter on my deck was drawing in hummingbirds as much or more than the feeder.

Supplying nectar just with plants is less work.

Recently news stories have emphasized the importance of keeping feeders clean to avoid spreading disease—another reason to focus on natural feeding.

While most beebalm varieties are susceptible to mildew, I have successfully grown two mildew resistant varieties of red beebalm: Monarda ‘Cambridge Scarlet’ and Monarda ‘Jacob Cline.’

Plants begin blooming late in June and continue through September.

Removing dead flowers encourages more blooms.

During dry spells, in part shade, they need some water.

In full sun or in a planter they require more water.

Plants grow 36 to 48 inches tall and wide and have square stems which means they are in the mint family so are fairly robust growers.

Divide in spring or fall to reduce size of the clump and to spread around the garden or share with friends.

Their splash of red is an eye catcher and a great contrast to enhance many other flower colours.

Hummingbirds feed on plants that have trumpet shaped flowers to accommodate their long, thin bills.

Although they are attracted to red, they are eager to feed on any plants that have a high sugar content in the nectar.

If you can find it, they really like Penstemon pinifolius.

It’s a low, evergreen, shrubby variety native to Colorado with red tubular flowers from June to September.

There are many other varieties of Penstemon that hummingbirds also frequent.

Most grow well in full sun and need moderate to low amounts of water.

In the spring Heuchera sanguinea (red coral bells) is a favourite.

It grows well in dry shade or in full sun with some water.

Cut off dead flowers to encourage repeat bloom.

Agastache, daylily, hollyhock, salvia, petunia, geranium, lantana and nasturtium, are low-water, summer blooming plants that attract hummingbirds.

Having some hummingbird attracting flowers in your garden from spring through summer will encourage them to stay.

For information on these and other water-wise plants for hummingbirds, search the special features list on the plant database at

If you also search by bloom time you can find plants for every month.

In addition to nectar, hummingbirds feed heavily on small insects so are an excellent natural form of pest control.

It is essential to avoid using pesticides in the garden as they can kill hummingbirds and other birds that feed on insects.

Gwen Steele is executive-director of the non-profit Okanagan Xeriscape Association.

Just Posted

Outbreak at Okanagan hospital

Gastrointestinal illness reported at Vernon Jubilee Hospital

Kelowna public menorah lit tonight to celebrate Hanukkah

The menorah will be lit tonight after celebrations at 5 p.m. in Stuart Park

Big Band supports children with disabilities in Lake Country

Proceeds from the Okanagan Big Band performance in Vernon supports local kids

Were your hockey cards stolen?

The Kelowna RCMP are looking to reunite a hockey fan with their cards

RCMP look to reunite owner with stolen tools

Kelowna police seek to identify the owner of tablet and tools seized by RCMP

VIDEO: New series takes in-depth look at sexual harassment in B.C.

Black Press takes a hard look at sexual harassment in B.C.

Warriors ground Rockets in Moose Jaw

Moose Jaw scores five in the third period to down Kelowna in Rockets’ third game of prairie road trip

Horgan says pot smokers may face same outdoor rules as cigarette smokers

B.C. is developing its rules on recreational marijuana

Dedicated volunteers look for clues

Police appreciate work of those who provide extra eyes for missing women investigations.

Truck driver volunteers to take dog lost in B.C. back home to Alberta

Frankie, a pit bull service dog, was found wandering in the Lower Mainland

B.C. teacher suspended after explicit images projected to class

Jeffrey Rohin Muthanna had been viewing porn on a school laptop for two years

Man who pledged to give B.C. hockey team millions charged with fraud

Mike Gould has since repaid $8,000 he allegedly owed Cranbrook restaurant, owner says

Horgan on Site C: ‘dammed’ if did, ‘dammed’ if he didn’t

B.C. premier didn’t like keeping massive hydro damn project going, but felt he had to

Strong economy fuels housing sales in B.C.: report

Economist says demand for houses is being supported by a large number of millennials entering the market

Most Read