Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Are you ready for the hummingbirds?

Trumpet honeysuckle and Eastern Columbine have bloomed just in time for migrating Ruby Throated Hummers and that's no coincidence. Hummingbirds and certain flowers have coadapted over millions of years to form a mutually beneficial relationship. Hummingbirds migrate thousands of miles annually and they're movement north typically coincides with the blooming of these preferred flowers.
Check out the map below to get a sense of the magnitude of their migration north and you'll understand why they need nectar rich flowers all along the route. By the time they reach our gardens they are hungry and searching for food. 

Hummers hover below these flowers to feed on nectar

 The red tubular and trumpet-shaped flowers of both columbines and trumpet honeysuckles hold more nectar than other flowers and are irresistible to hummingbirds. Their coadapted/mutually beneficial relationship is pretty cool. The long bill and tongue of these hummers fits into the throat of preferred flowers like columbines and trumpet honeysuckle flowers to easily reach the nectar, and while feeding, grains of pollen spill onto the head of the bird and is carried to other Columbines and Trumpet honeysuckle.

It's a marvelous dance that happens in gardens all over the Eastern United States and it's show time in Middle Tennessee.
'Cedar Lane' Trumpet honeysuckle/Lonicera sempervirens
It's not difficult to attract migrating RTH to your Middle Tennessee garden. Like all bird visitors and residents they need food, shelter, water, nesting sites and perching sites.
Columbine/Aquilegia canadensi
Just plant more flowers and shrubs with nectar bearing flowers. The following is a list of plants that you might consider adding to the garden.

red buckeye 
trumpet creeper 
red morning-glory 
wild bergamot/bee- balm  
trumpet (or coral) honeysuckle
cardinal flower 
royal catchfly and  round-leaved catchfly 
four o’clock (e)
salvia and scarlet sage

 There may not be as many nectar sources available with this crazy up and down spring we've had, so please consider hanging feeders. It's fun to watch the hummers up close and it's an easy way to supplement their nectar needs. You don't have to buy nectar, make your own, it's just sugar and water! There are recipes on the internet. Do not use the red dyed syrups.

this source/link will take you to the website
Have fun and remember this please! Never, ever, ever, ever, ever use pesticides. I mean that now! Never. You really do want insects in your garden. Insects are a primary food of most birds, including hummingbirds.


Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone. She reminds all that the words and images are the property of the author and cannot be used without written permission.


  1. Yes! As soon as I see buds on my Red Buckeyes, I hang up two feeders of sugar water (the real thing, not the red commercial stuff). I saw the first Hummingbird here in northeast Mississippi on March 24, five days before last year's date of March 29. As more birds arrive, I add more feeders.
    Your flower photos are beautiful!
    Hope you are having a great week!

    1. It's so exciting to watch them dart about.

  2. Wow, it is nice that your columbines and honeysuckle are now blooming. I have a few columbine with buds but no blooms other than daffs. I can't hardly wait until those little winged jewels arrive. I know when the columbine are blooming they will be here soon.

    1. Let me know when they get to your garden, Lisa.

  3. Great post! Here in the mountains, the columbines and coral honeysuckle are nicely coordinated with the arrival of hummingbirds this year. Sometimes it was out of synch in the Piedmont!

    1. Sometimes, it's out of sync here, but, oh so marvelous when it works out.

  4. Just added two coral honeysuckles to my garden. (I had a couple in the past, but removed them when they got too rampant. I hope I've sited them better this time around.) Once they get established, I do hope to attract more hummers again.

  5. My sunbirds get our aloes (later) and your autumn sage (also later)
    Now I have Leonotis for them.

  6. I love seeing the hummingbirds in the garden. I just may hang up a feeder for them this year. Of course, that will be after the snow melts.
    Denise at My Life in Retirement Flanders Fields

  7. Hi Gail, Your posts are always packed with so much useful information. Thank you! Hummingbirds are one of the reasons I garden. They are amazing little creatures. There is one who has claimed my gardens as her territory and fights fiercely to keep all oth!ers out. Happy Gardening

    1. I popped over to see your garden, it's beautiful! Thank you for stopping by and the sweet compliment.

  8. Hi Gail!! I think of you often! Remember when you sent me Tennesee Coneflower? It lived up here for several years! I even shared it with one of my neighbor's, but eventually it succumbed to the detestable north country winters! I so enjoy your Spring step-ahead-of-us! Shades of things to come!

  9. I am inspired by your photo to go out and try to get a better photo of the A.canadensis which appeared in my garden this year. We only ever get a few hummingbirds and they are so territorial we could never have more than one at a time. I marvel when I see those feeders with multiple birds all getting along with each other. This year the hummers can feast on S.leucantha which is a fall bloomer. I worry it won't be there in the fall for them.

  10. Well, I'm ready with columbine and honeysuckle. They should bloom by the time the hummers get up here to Ohio. But I suppose I should start putting out my feeders again. Will make myself some nectar tomorrow, and get going on that. So I'll be ready soon!

  11. The Humming Birds will not be here fro a couple of months. Nice to have some anticipation of things to come. I get the Green Throated Humming Bird. Jack

  12. We have Anna's hummingbirds here in the pacific northwest year round so the feeders are always out. There are three other species that migrate up for the summer. Like little flying jewels they are.


"Insects are the little things that run the world." Dr. E O Wilson