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Milberger's Nursery and Landscaping
3920 North Loop 1604 E.
San Antonio, TX 78247

Open 9 to 6 Mon. through Sat.
and 10 to 5 on Sun.

Three exits east of 281, inside of 1604
Next to the Diamond Shamrock station
Please click map for more detailed map and driving directions.

Click here

Weekly Express-News Article
By Calvin R. Finch, PhD, SAWS Water Resources Director, and Horticulturist
Saturday, July 21, 2007

“Formula for Attracting Hummingbirds to your Patio”

One of the best things about late summer and autumn in San Antonio is that hummingbirds lose some of their territoriality, and later in the period, move in waves through our City.

The black chinned hummingbirds nest in San Antonio. The young of the season are now on their own and the older birds are seeking nectar sources to build up their bodies for their eventual migration south. Ruby throated and rufous hummingbirds also move through.

The most effective way to attract a large number of these interesting little birds to your patio is to add a few nectar producing plants in containers and supplement them with one or more sugar water feeders.

Hummingbirds eat nectar from flowers to maintain their active bodies. There are a number of flowers that provide nectar. Two of their favorites are firebush (Hamelia patens) and pentas (Pentas lanceolata).

Firebush requires full sun to prosper. It will grow in our native soils or in a container on the patio. In a three-five gallon container the plant grows to a compact globe about two feet in diameter. The foliage is a red green and the outer surface of the globe is covered by tubular red flowers that are about an inch long. Based on hummingbird attention on my patio, firebush is a favorite source of nectar. The most dominant bird at any one time assumes ownership of the firebush and defends it with aerial attacks on any interloper that attempts to feed.

In the garden, firebush is very drought-tolerant, in the league of esperanza and poinciana, but in a container it requires watering every two days.

Firebush is root hardy in South Texas. With the first cold wave the foliage turns purple red and when temperatures freeze the top dies-back. Firebush is a heat lover, so do not expect it to re-sprout in the spring until May. The difference in drought-tolerance between a soil grown firebush and a container grown is probably because the fibrous root system can spread widely and into every nook and cranny in the soil, and is limited to a relatively small reservoir in a container.

The nursery trade recognizes the popularity of firebush in a container to attract summer and autumn hummingbirds so they are readily available in decorative pots all over San Antonio. Obtain one in full bloom for immediate hummingbird attracting power.

Pentas are nearly as attractive to hummingbirds as firebush. Pentas also have shade tolerance so they can replace firebush in shady situations. Pentas have small red, pink or lavender flowers in clusters on a plant that is about the same size as firebush, but less compact. It makes an attractive patio plant.

Penta is a tropical plant, so it does not survive the South Texas winter most years unless protected in a greenhouse. Until cold weather arrives it is in constant bloom. Firebush is pest free, but pentas will sometimes be attacked by hornworms. They can be picked off or sprayed with a Bt product such as Bio Worm Killer, Thuricide or Dipel.

Other plants that do well in containers on the patio and attract hummingbirds include zinnias (full sun), firespike (deep shade), and shrimp plant (sun or shade).

To supplement the hummingbird plants on the patio, hang a sugar water feeder from a screw-in hook under the eaves or from an arbor. Place the feeder where you can see it from the kitchen table or other comfortable air conditioned locations.

Hummingbird feeders are for sale everywhere, including your favorite nursery, the supermarket and bird supply stores. They include a plastic or glass reservoir and a plastic bottom where the birds suck the sugar water. Select a feeder that comes apart for easy filling and cleaning. The feeder will have to be rinsed and refilled every week.

The sugar water solution should be four parts water and one part sugar by volume. Mix it in a large bowl and then store extra mixture in a one gallon plastic milk jug. A few drops of red food coloring has traditionally been added, because red seems to be attractive to hummingbirds. The coloring is probably not necessary, but there is no research results that determine that it is detrimental to the birds.

Most hummingbird feeders are engineered to discourage access to the sugar water by bees and ants. If ants persist, you may have to move the feeder between two or three locations every few days. In addition to hummingbirds, house finches and golden fronted woodpeckers will visit your feeder.