In the spring and summer months, fans of hummingbirds eagerly await the opportunity to welcome these tiny, colorful birds to their yard or garden.
It’s so great to see them flying backward, effortlessly hovering at flowers, and beating their wings so quickly that they can’t even be seen! Out of all the beautiful flowers we can grow to attract curious hummingbirds, which ones work the best?
Is the lilac a good option?
Absolutely! Lilacs are a lovely addition to any garden, and of course, they help to bring in our hummingbird friends.
Let’s explore why lilacs are such a draw for these miniature, energetic birds.
What Makes Lilacs So Appealing to Hummingbirds?
Lilacs are spring-blooming shrubs that produce wonderfully fragrant flowers in shades of purple, pink, white – or even combinations of those colors. The common lilac can grow quite large, but there are now abundant hybrid lilac varieties that stay smaller in size.
An important fact about lilacs is they bloom early in spring, providing a vital source of food for hummingbirds that have just returned from migration. This early nourishment is crucial because not many other flowers have bloomed yet!
Why Do Hummingbirds Favor Lilacs?
Hummingbirds have an extremely fast metabolism and must consume up to half of their total body weight in nectar each day, spread out over multiple feedings. Amazingly, they will visit between 1,000 and 2,000 individual flowers every single day!
Hummingbirds can lick up to 15-20 times per second with their specialized long tongues. The tubular trumpet shape of a lilac bloom is perfectly designed to match a hummingbird’s long, slender beak!
Additionally, lilacs produce an abundance of energy-rich, sugary nectar that helps satisfy a hummingbird’s extreme nutritional needs after their long migration and throughout the breeding season.
Since they bloom early, lilacs provide a critical food source for hummingbirds at a time when not much else has flowered yet. The sweet nectar content and quantity of blooms are ideally suited to a hummingbird’s digestion and high energy requirements after migration.
Do Other Pollinators Like Visiting Lilacs Too?
Yes, lilacs also attract a range of pollinators in addition to hummingbirds. Butterflies, bees, hawk moths, and other insects are likewise drawn to the sweet, abundant nectar inside the tubular lilac flowers.
The more pollinators that visit these flowers, the more effective their pollination will be! Lilacs and other flowers continue to grow each year because of these pollinators and how they propagate future generations of plants.
How to Grow Your Own Lilacs to Attract Hummingbirds
Lilacs are a beloved spring-blooming shrub that adds fragrant color to the garden. While the common lilac shrub is the most familiar, there are many more varieties available now. Let’s take a look at how to plant these blooms to benefit your garden – and attract more hummingbirds, of course!
Choosing the Right Kind of Lilacs
- The common lilac is the most prevalent variety, with many cultivars producing bright flowers in white, purple, pin, or combined colors. Common lilacs can grow quite large.
- Newer hybrid lilac varieties bloom more than once per season and are smaller in size. They tend to be less fragrant than common lilacs.
- Tree lilacs bloom in midsummer with cream-colored flowers. They can reach about 20 feet tall and require minimal pruning.
- All lilac varieties are deciduous, losing their leaves in autumn.
Where and When to Plant Lilacs
- Lilacs grow best in full sun (at least 6-8 hours per day) and slightly alkaline, moist, well-drained soil.
- The ideal planting time is in late fall before the ground freezes. Early spring after the ground thaws is the second best option.
Soil Preparation and Planting
- Test the soil pH and add lime if needed to reach the ideal pH of 6.5-7.0.
- Dig a hole twice as wide and deep as the root ball. Mix compost or Miracle-Gro Garden Soil for Trees & Shrubs with the native soil at a 50:50 ratio to fill the hole and give lilacs a strong start.
- Set the plant in the hole with the top of the root ball about 1 inch above ground level. Pack soil mix around the roots firmly and water thoroughly after planting.
- Mulch around the base to retain moisture and discourage weeds.
Care and Maintenance
- Water deeply once or twice per week until established, then you can water every other week or as needed.
- After blooming finishes in spring, feed with a fertilizer for flowering shrubs to encourage growth.
- Prune off spent blooms immediately after flowering, as this will promote more blooms for next year.
- You can rejuvenate old neglected lilacs by cutting back the oldest one-third of branches each year.
Follow these tips to successfully grow lilacs, whether common varieties or newer hybrids, and enjoy their magnificent spring blooms.
You will see hummingbirds visit these blooms as soon as their flowers open in the spring.
What Else Is Irresistible to Hummingbirds?
You’ll notice hummingbirds favor lilacs, but also enjoy many other brightly colored, tubular flowers too. Their favorites vary by region. Here are some of the best flowers to grow based on your geographic area in the US:
|Great Plains:||Firecracker Penstemon|
Using Hummingbird Feeders to Supplement Natural Food Sources
In addition to planting nectar-rich flowers, hummingbird feeders are another great way to supplement natural food sources and attract hummers.
Select feeders with appropriate perches and raised feeding ports suited to a hummingbird’s slender beak and tongue. Fill feeders with homemade nectar using a 4:1 ratio of water to white granulated sugar.
To prevent spoilage, change the nectar every 2-3 days, or even more frequently in hot weather. Rinse feeders thoroughly before refilling. When it’s time to clean the feeder, use a water and vinegar solution periodically to fully disinfect the feeders.
Position feeders in shady spots which helps keep the nectar fresh longer.
A few more tips:
- There are some concerns about the safety of red food coloring for hummingbirds. Because red food dye hasn’t been proven to be safe, and anecdotal evidence suggests that it might be dangerous, we recommend using clear nectar.
- If you want to attract hummingbirds with the color red, plant red flowers or get a feeder with red components.
- Avoid using any pesticides, as these can kill the insects that hummingbirds need for protein.
Enjoy the Magic of Lilacs and Hummingbirds!
By incorporating lilacs and other tubular flowers in your garden, you can invite lovely little hummingbirds to visit your yard!
Watching them feed at the beautiful blooms and seeing their iridescent feathers flash in the sunlight is a magical experience. By choosing their favorite flowers and installing feeders, you’ll be delighted to welcome these energetic tiny dynamos drawn to your lilacs!