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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, May 3, 2008
“Attracting Hummingbirds”

Sugar water feeders will attract hummingbirds to most patios.  Mix four parts water and one part sugar by volume to attract the interesting little birds.  Increase the number of birds that visit by also including a few nectar producing container plants.


            There is a huge selection of hummingbird feeders.  Some are very decorative and many are just functional.  Whichever feeder you select, make sure it is easy to clean.  Especially in the summertime, the feeder needs to be rinsed out every week and brushed clean every month.  Hummingbird feeders are available at many retailers including retail nurseries, wild bird supply stores, pet supply stores, hardware stores and even supermarkets.  For those of you who like to support local manufactures, Best A-1 Feeders are manufactured in Poteet, Texas. 


            To reduce the time involved in mixing the sugar water, mix it a gallon at a time and store it in the refrigerator.  Place the sugar and water in the microwave to accomplish the sugar dissolving with minimal stirring.  Red food coloring has traditionally been used to color the sugar water.  There is no research that establishes any danger to the birds, but it does not appear to be necessary to attract the birds. 


            Hang the feeder on a trellis or the eaves in a spot where it is easily viewed from the kitchen or a picnic table.  There are even some hummingbird feeders that can be attached to a window.


            Fire ants and bees are often pests that feed on the sugar water.  Thwart the ants by moving the feeder around.  Ant guards that rely on water in a thimble-size container on the hanging line are not practical because the water evaporates dry in about two hours in a typical San Antonio summer day.  Bees can be an issue when the weather is droughty.  They need moisture and the sugar is an added dividend.  The demand seems to be seasonal and concentrated in the morning.  In most cases, the hummingbirds manage to get their share.  Often just adding another feeder or two will solve the problem.


            Golden-fronted woodpeckers and house finches will also feed on sugar water.  They are just an added divedend. 


            To increase the number of hummingbirds that visit your patio or balcony, include some potted plants that provide nectar for hummingbirds.  My favorites include pentas, firebush, spreading lantana, and zinnias. 


            Pentas are available in red, pink, lavender or white.  All will attract hummingbirds, but pink or red seem to be the most popular.  The best thing about pentas is that they are shade-tolerant.  Place one in a three gallon to five gallon container in sun or shade and you will have blooms every day until cold weather arrives.


            Pentas are not xeriscape plants so keep them well watered.  The only pest I have encountered is hornworms.  The same caterpillars that eat tomatoes seem attracted to pentas.  Control hornworms with Spinosad or a Bt product.


            Lantana montevidensis (spreading lantana) does not have as much shade-tolerance as pentas, but they do relatively well in partial shade and very well in full sun.  Both the lavender and white versions will attract hummingbirds and butterflies.  The low growing nature and drought-tolerance of spreading lantana makes it a good choice for hanging baskets. 


            Firebush has small tubular flowers on a rounded bush with red-green foliage.  Keep it in a small container (three – five gallons) and the plant stays about 1.5 feet tall and around.  Hummingbirds love firebush.  The toughest bird in your yard may surrender the sugar water feeder in favor of the firebush. 


            Zinnias make great cut flowers and they are also a favorite of the hummingbirds and butterflies.  Use one of the many seed grown selections in a container or the Dreamland transplants available at most nurseries.  Zinnias last about four months in a San Antonio summer so be prepared to make a second planting later in the summer.  Zinnias like hot weather, but they also require generous applications of water. 


            If you enjoy birds as much as you do blooming plants in your garden, you may want to support the Mitchell Lake Audubon Center.  One of the best ways to support the Center’s education and habitat programs is to Pledge to Birdathon.  It just so happens that Jerry Parsons, Milton Glueck, Jane Davis-Toerner, and I are one of the Birdathon teams. 


            Last year we spotted 81 species and were able to donate nearly $2,000.00 to the Wildlife Refuge because a large number of my readers and listeners committed $.25 cents per species towards our quest.  If you would prefer, pledge a set amount of $20.00 or more.  To pledge to support Birdathon, send me an e-mail at or call (210) 382-4455.  It is a good cause.