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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.

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Q&A Weekly Article and Archives


                Wildscape is just a version of xeriscape that uses drought resistant plants that meet the needs of wildlife. Hummingbirds are one of the primary targets of wildscaping.

            The hummingbirds should return to San Antonio soon. If you have Texas Gold columbines or crossvine watch for them on the blooms; traditionally, that is where I notice them first. The lavender lantana and Salvia greggii are also blooming well because of the mild winter. Hummingbirds like those blooms as well.

            Later in the summer the blue salvias (indigo spires, Mexican bush sage, mealy blue sage) are good hummingbirds plants. In the shade, shrimp plant, Turk’s cap and pentas attract the birds. Pentas also make a good hummingbird attracting container plant for the patio. The pentas are very effective in morning sun. If you have full sun on the patio, firebush is a must. In a container it does not have the drought defying abilities that it does when it is planted in the ground, but it is the best hummingbird-attracting plant in my yard.

            Other outstanding full sun plants that are good hummingbird food sources are Texas bells (esperanza) and poinciana (Pride of Barbados). Both plants prosper in droughty conditions and are root hardy plants that can reach 8 to 10 feet in sheltered locations or if the winters are mild. Texas bells has a yellow bloom and poinciana is glow-in-the-dark orange. The Mexican selection of poinciana has a yellower flower, not quite as showy as the orange version but equally attractive to hummingbirds.

            For deep shade, the late season hummingbird plant is firespike. Firespike has large, shiny, green leaves that are so attractive that some gardeners bring potted firespike into the house in the winter to protect it from the cold and to serve as an indoor foliage plant. Planted in the ground in deep shade it freezes back to the ground every winter after producing spikes above the foliage with striking red blooms.

            Firespike and the pentas described earlier are not usually thought of as xeriscape plants but fit in a xeriscape if they are planted in soil enriched with compost and are mulched.

            Irises are blooming now and the daylilies will be blooming in early summer. They sometimes attract hummingbirds. A plant with similar upright foliage that makes a good lush liriope-like groundcover and is attractive to hummingbirds is red hot poker (Tritoma). The blooms look like glowing torches for a short bloom period every spring. In my yard, of the plants mentioned, the deer do not eat Turk’s cap, shrimp plant, red hot poker, lantana, iris, Salvia, and esperanza.

            In addition to planting a mix of flowering plants from early spring until deep winter, those of us who want to attract hummingbirds to our gardens feed sugar water to the interesting little birds.

            Obtain a sugar water feeder from your favorite nursery or wild bird supply store. Or, better yet, obtain more than one. Hummingbirds will squabble and chase each other but a large number, especially in spring or fall during migration, will share a yard. H.E.B. stores even sell the Best A-1 hummingbird feeders manufactured in Poteet, Texas.

            I like to place my feeders under the eaves or under an open part of the trellis in a spot that is easy to observe from the window or patio table.

            You can purchase the colored sugar from the feeder supplier but sugar from the pantry works just as well. Mix four parts water with one part sugar by volume and stir until the sugar dissolves. My wife places her sugar and water in the microwave for 10 minutes to dissolve the solution. Store extra mix in gallon plastic milk jugs in the refrigerator.

            There are some minor disputes in the bird-watching world about coloring the sugar water and how often the feeder should be cleaned. We use red food coloring although it is not necessary to attract the birds. There is no evidence that it hurts hummingbirds. It is probably a good plan to rinse your feeders out every week and add fresh sugar water. Definitely change out the solution if it clouds or bees get in the solution.

            Almost all brands of feeders have bee guards to keep the hungry, thirsty bees from dominating the feeders during periods when flower blooms are hard to find (winter, droughts). Unfortunately, golden-fronted woodpeckers have developed a taste for sugar water and are able to remove the bee guards. The bees enter the feeders and, in their zeal, often drown.