Five Annuals That Attract Hummingbirds: Phlox, Garden Balsam, Jewelweed, Nasturtium, Tree Tobacco

by DerdriuMarriner

Annual phlox, garden balsam, orange jewelweed, garden nasturtium, and tree tobacco are five annual plants that are attractive to hummingbirds.

Five annual plants that are popular with hummingbirds are presented.

Annual phlox generally is favored by hummingbirds whereas garden balsam, garden nasturtium, orange jewelweed, and tree tobacco attract specific hummingbirds.

Seven hummingbirds (Allen's, Anna's, black-chinned, blue-throated, broad-tailed, Costa's, ruby-throated) are described along with the annual that attracts them.

Orange Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis): a familiar jewelled flower

forms a sparkling duet with Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds as their favorite resplendent floral nectar.
Orange Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis), Ottawa, southeastern Ontario, east central Canada
Orange Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis), Ottawa, southeastern Ontario, east central Canada


Annuals (Latin: annus, “year”) are plants that fulfill their life cycle of germination, flowering, and death within a season or a year. Annual phlox, garden balsam, orange jewelweed, garden nasturtium, and petunia are five annuals, grown throughout the United States as well as worldwide, that attract hummingbirds (family Trochilidae).


Closeup of annual Phlox (Phlox drummondii) flowers

Austin, Travis County, central Texas
Austin, Travis County, central Texas

Annual phlox


Phlox drummondii is commonly known as annual phlox or Drummond’s phlox.

Native mainly to central and eastern Texas, annual phlox has become a worldwide phenomenon since its discovery in 1835. Although Drummond’s phlox may favor the Texas landscape, the plant has adapted easily to a wide variety of environments and climates. It grows in a range of light and temperature conditions, and it survives in distinctly different environments. Although a wildflower, annual phlox responds well to cultivation so that easily over two hundred varieties exist.

Annual phlox produces a profusion of flowers in an array of colors, with special brilliant displays of pinks and reds, which are favored by hummingbirds.

Their flowers have the tubular shape which is desirable to hummingbirds with their long bills and tongues.

All in all, hummingbirds are attracted to annual phlox for their color, their floral shape, and their widespread distribution, all of which make annual phlox a reliable nectar source for hummingbirds.


Closeup of garden balsam (Impatiens balsamina) flowers

Kolkata, West Bengal, eastern India
Kolkata, West Bengal, eastern India

Garden balsam


Impatiens balsamina is commonly known as balsam, balsamine, garden balsam, rose balsam, or spotted snapweed. Two other common names, jewelweed and touch-me-not, are shared with other species in the genus. Garden balsam is occasionally called lady’s slipper, a name normally reserved for orchids in the genus Cypripedium, because its flower has a distinctive petal, botanically termed as a labellum (Latin: labellum, diminutive of labrum, “lip”) that resembles a slipper.

Originally native to tropical Asia, particularly in India and Myanmar, garden balsam has a long ethnobotanical history there for its culinary, dye, and medicinal applications. Garden balsam (Portuguese: bálsamo de jardim) was introduced in the 1500s to the western world by Portuguese sailors.

Although garden balsam genetically prefers the tropics and subtropics, it is widely and easily naturalized throughout the world.

Garden balsam produces flowers in enticing bicolor, solid, and spotted shades of pink, purple, red, rose and white.

Garden balsam is so named because of its congenial growth and floral display in gardens. It has been a favorite since its colorful participation in Victorian gardens.

Hummingbirds enjoy garden balsam for its three invaluable attractors: vivid flowers in the pink to red spectrum, floral shape conducive to extracting nectar and widespread availability.


female Black-Chinned Hummingbird (Archilochus alexandri)

Albuquerque, Bernalillo County, north central New Mexico
Albuquerque, Bernalillo County, north central New Mexico

Black-chinned hummingbirds and garden balsam


Garden balsam is one of the plants favored by the black-chinned hummingbird (Archilochus alexandri), a small hummingbird, about 3.25 inches (8.25 centimeters) in length.

The species name of the black-chinned hummingbird, bestowed upon it by French naturalist Jules Bourcier (1797-March 9, 1873) and French entomologist and ornithologist Martial Étienne Mulsant (March 2, 1797-November 4, 1880) in 1846, honors Dr. Alexandre, who practiced medicine in Mexico and sent bird specimens to Paris. Dr. Alexandre collected the first known bird of the species in the Sierra Madre in western Mexico.


male Black-Chinned Hummingbird

Del Rio, Val Verde County, west central Texas
Del Rio, Val Verde County, west central Texas


Black-chinned hummingbirds have metallic-green colored backs and crowns and a white spot behind their eyes. A black face, chin, and upper throat with an iridescent blue-violet lower throat bordered below by a white collar distinguish male black-chinned hummingbirds.

This minuscule hummingbird species frequents a breeding habitat that stretches across western North America from south central British Columbia all the way down to the northern sectors of the north Mexican states of Baja California, Chihuahua, and Coahuila. The breeding habitat encompasses eastern Washington, central Idaho, western Montana, southwestern Wyoming, southeastern Colorado, and southwestern Oklahoma, as well as an expanse from coastal California to central Texas.

The black-chinned hummingbird overwinters in the southern sectors of the states of Arizona and California and along Mexico’s Pacific slope from northwestern Sonora to the south central state of Morelos.


Closeup of orange jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) flower

Patapsco Valley State Park, near Catonsville, Boltimore County, north central Maryland
Patapsco Valley State Park, near Catonsville, Boltimore County, north central Maryland

Orange jewelweed


Impatiens capensis is commonly known as jewelweed, common jewelweed, orange jewelweed, spotted jewelweed, or orange balsam.

Impatiens capensis is native to Canadian and American North America.

In Canada, orange jewelweed’s native habitat comprises every province except Labrador and every territory except Nunavut. Orange jewelweed also occurs natively on the Territorial Collectivity of Saint Pierre and Miquelon (Collectivité territoriale de Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon), the French archipelago located in the North Atlantic Ocean south of the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

In the continental United States, orange jewelweed occurs natively in forty-one states and the District of Columbia. Orange jewelweed is not native to Alaska, Hawaii, or the western states of Arizona, California, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. Orange jewelweed also is not native to Puerto Rico or to the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Jewelweed's flowers are orange with darker or lighter spotting and striations. Flowers have a three lobed corolla (Latin: corolla, diminutive of corona, "crown"), the collective botanical term for all of the petals. With similar coloring to the corolla, one of the sepal (i.e., special floral leaves) lobes in the calyx (Greek: κύλιξ, kylix, "drinking cup"), that is, all the sepals collectively, shoots out from the base of the flower as a hooked conical spur, which is elongated and hollow.

The orange-flowered Impatiens capensis is similar to the yellow-flowered Impatiens noli-tangere (Latin: impatiens, “impatient, not allowing” + noli tangere, “be unwilling to touch”), which, native to Europe and Asia, is naturalized now in North America and is known commonly as touch-me-not, wild balsam, yellow balsam, and yellow jewelweed.


female Ruby-Throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris)

Biltmore Estate flower gardens, Asheville, Buncombe County, northwestern North Carolina
Biltmore Estate flower gardens, Asheville, Buncombe County, northwestern North Carolina

Ruby-throated hummingbirds and orange jewelweed


Impatiens capensis is a favored plant of the ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris), which is drawn to jewelweed's sparkling orange flowers throughout their habitual range.

From the tip of their beak to the tip of their tail, ruby throats have a length of about 3 inches (7.5 centimeters), of which about one-fifth comprises their long, thin beaks.

The backs and crown of ruby throats are metallic green or bronze green in color, and their wings are nearly black. A brilliant red metallic gorget (Old French: gorgete, diminutive of gorge, “throat”), that is, throat, distinguishes male ruby throats.


male Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

ruby-throated hummingbird
ruby-throated hummingbird


Ruby throats favor seven Canadian provinces --- southern sectors of Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan, and the maritime provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia --- for their northernmost breeding habitats.

In the United States ruby throats are the only hummingbird species that nests east of the Mississippi River. They regularly breed in thirty-eight states. Apart from a small section of northern Montana, their furthest western extent in the United States is demarcated from north to south by the eastern sectors of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas.

Ruby throats overwinter from October through March primarily in Central America and in the United States along the Texas Gulf Coast and southern Florida. They migrate as snow birds to nine Central American countries: Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, central and southern Mexico, Nicaragua, and Panama.


garden nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus)

Harold W. Rice Memorial Park, Kula District, central Maui
Harold W. Rice Memorial Park, Kula District, central Maui

Garden nasturtium


Tropaeolum majus is commonly known as garden nasturtium, Indian cress, or monks cress.

Native to the Andes Mountains from Bolivia north to Colombia, garden nasturtium was introduced into the United States, especially continentally in California, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, as well as offshore in Hawaii and Puerto Rico.

Garden nasturtium was introduced as Indian cress to Europe in the seventeenth century.

Its flowers tend to have five petals and five sepals. One of the sepals shoots out near the floral base as a long nectar spur. Floral coloring generally varies from orange to red or yellow, but cultivars also are ablaze in crimson, pink, russet, and scarlet.


female Broad-Tailed Hummingbird (Selasphorus platycercus)

female feeding nestlings
female feeding nestlings

Broad-tailed hummingbirds and garden nasturtium


Garden nasturtium is favored by the broad-tailed hummingbird (Selasphorus platycercus). Broad tails have iridescent emerald backs and crowns with a white breast. A metallic iridescent rose colored gorget distinguishes male broad tails.



male Broad-Tailed Hummingbird

Metallic iridescent gorget distinguishes males.
Metallic iridescent gorget distinguishes males.


This high-altitude nester, at elevations up to 12,700 feet (3,871 meters), comprises migratory and tropically residential populations. Migratory broad tails base their breeding habitats in the western states of Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, and Wyoming. They also breed in extreme western Texas near its border with the north Mexican state of Chihuahua.

Central Mexico is the breeding habitat for resident broad tails, the sedentary subspecies (Latin: sedentarius, from sedere, "to sit").

Migratory and resident broad tails generally overwinter from northern Mexico to northern Guatemala.

Broad tails are attracted to the brilliant orange and red floral displays proffered by garden nasturtium, which, with its origin in high elevations, easily and sturdily flourishes as a wildflower.


tree tobacco (Nicotiana glauca)

Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix, Maricopa County, south central Arizona
Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix, Maricopa County, south central Arizona

Tree tobacco


Nicotiana glauca is a wild tobacco that commonly is known as tree tobacco.

Native to southern Bolivia and northern Argentina, tree tobacco was introduced primarily into the continental United States through Ohio, five southwestern states (Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas), three southeastern states (Alabama, Florida, Georgia), and two mid-Atlantic states (Maryland, New Jersey).

Tree tobacco was also introduced in the mid-nineteenth century into Hawaii, especially on the islands of Lanai, Maui, Molokai, and Oahu.

Tree tobacco is a hardy plant that, with its resistance to drought, easily proliferates and dominates its habitats. As such, tree tobacco often poses a threat to native species that may be sensitive to ecological changes and variations.

A shrub that may reach heights of well over 10 to 20 feet (3 to 6 meters), tree tobacco produces long, tubular yellow flowers.

Normally yellow flowers are not sought by hummingbirds. Nevertheless, tree tobacco is favored for its nectar by such hummingbird species as Allen’s (Selasphorus sasin), Anna’s (Calypte Anna), blue-throated (Lampornis clemenciae), and Costa’s (Calypte costae).


female Allen's Hummingbird (Selasphorus sasin)

"Nature at Its Best"
"Nature at Its Best"

Allen's hummingbird: Enamored of tree tobacco


Selasphorus sasin is commonly known as Allen’s hummingbird in honor of Charles Andrew Allen
(August 21, 1841 - June 1930), an American bird collector and taxidermist originally from Massachusetts who lived in Marin County, California, from the late 1800s to the early 1900s. Allen is credited with differentiating between Selasphorus sasin and a closely related species, Selasphorus rufus (rufous hummingbird).

Allen’s hummingbirds measure around 3 to 3.5 inches (7.5 to 9 centimeters) in length. Allen’s hummingbirds have a white chest with cinnamon-rust colored flanks and metallic bronze-green backs. A fiery red-orange gorget distinguishes male Allen’s hummingbirds.


male Allen's Hummingbird

El Polin Spring, Presidio of San Francisco, northern California
El Polin Spring, Presidio of San Francisco, northern California


Allen’s hummingbirds nest in coastal California and southern Oregon.

Selasphorus sasin sedentarius, a subspecies in southernmost California, is residential (sedentarius) and, therefore, does not migrate.

The migratory subspecies overwinters in central Mexico.


male Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna) displays its red gorget

Baker Beach, Presidio of San Francisco
Baker Beach, Presidio of San Francisco

Anna's hummingbird: A preference for tree tobacco


Calypte anna is commonly known as Anna’s hummingbird. This hummingbird was named by French naturalist and Napoleonic War surgeon René Primevère Lesson (March 20, 1794-April 28, 1849) in honor of Anna Masséna, Duchess of Rivoli (1802 - 1887), whose husband François Victor Masséna, 2nd Duke of Rivoli and 3rd Prince of Essling (April 2, 1799-April 16, 1863), was an amateur ornithologist.


nesting female Anna's Hummingbird



Measuring 3.9 to 4.3 inches (10 to 11 centimeters) in length, Anna’s hummingbird has a glossy bronze-green back and dull grey undersides. An iridescent crimson forehead and gorget distinguish male Anna’s hummingbirds.

During the twentieth century, a dramatic expansion in the breeding habitat of Anna's hummingbirds occurred. Until mid-century, Anna's hummingbirds only nested in southern California, the slopes of the Sierra Nevada, and the San Francisco Bay Area. Now Anna’s hummingbirds breed along the western North American coast, from British Columbia to Arizona and western New Mexico. They often reside year-round in most areas, although they have been enlarging their non-breeding range to extend from the Alaskan coast to northern Mexico.


female Blue-Throated Hummingbird (Lampornis clemenciae)

Durango Highway, State of Sinaloa (Estado Libre y Soberano de Sinaloa), northwestern Mexico
Durango Highway, State of Sinaloa (Estado Libre y Soberano de Sinaloa), northwestern Mexico

Blue-throated hummingbirds: A liking for tree tobacco


Lampornis clemenciae is commonly known as the blue-throated hummingbird, blue-throated mountain-gem or blue-throated cazique.

Averaging 4.92 inches (125 millimeters) in length, blue throats are easily identified by white facial stripes that trail down from their eyes and the corner of their bill.

Undersides are light grey, and backs are bronze to golden green. An iridescent azure blue gorget distinguishes male blue throated hummingbirds.


Blue-Throated Hummingbirds (Lampornis clemenciae):

Delattria clemenciae, with Yellow Trumpet Vine (Adenocalymna comosum): perching female (above) with two males (below, left and right).
Delattria clemenciae
Delattria clemenciae


The blue-throated hummingbird was described by English ornithologist and bird artist John Gould (September 14, 1804–February 3, 1881) as:

"a large and powerful bird . . . distinguished for the quietness of its colouring, rather than for any of those brilliant metallic markings so prevalent among Humming Birds in general." (A Monograph, Vol. II, Plate 60)

Blue throats are native to the vast highland and central plateau area of Mexico, extending as far south as the southwestern state of Oaxaca. In addition to their homeland, they regularly breed in mountainous areas of southern Arizona, New Mexico, and western Texas in the United States.They favor building their nests near water.

These altitudinous fliers, inhabiting elevations averaging 5,905.5 to 10,826.8 feet (1800 to 3300 meters) are able to thrive in low-nectar environments by gleaning flowers and foliage for small arthropods, such as insects (aphids, beetles, fleas, wasps) and spiders.


male Costa's Hummingbird (Calypte costae)

Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, Colorado Desert, southern California
Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, Colorado Desert, southern California

Costa's hummingbirds: Favoring tree tobacco


Calypte costae is commonly known as Costa’s hummingbird. French naturalist Jules Bourcier (1797-March 9, 1873), an expert on hummingbirds, named Costa’s hummingbird in 1839 in honor of Louis Marie Pantaléon Costa, Marquis de Saint-Genix Beauregard (June 19, 1806-September 19, 1864), a nobleman and politician interested in ornithology who collected hummingbirds.


Costa's Hummingbirds: female (upper), males (lower)

Atthis costae, Reich. Coste's Humming Bird.
Atthis costae, Reich. Coste's Humming Bird.


Measuring around 3 to 3.5 inches (7.62 to 9 centimeters) in length, Calypte costae have iridescent green backs and heads. A metallic purple gorget distinguishes male Costa’s hummingbirds.

Except during heat waves when they escape to proximitous chaparral, scrub, or woodland habitats, Costa’s hummingbirds favor the Sonoran and Mojave Deserts of California and Arizona. The southern extent of their range is central Mexico.

Costa’s hummingbirds occasionally stray east to Louisiana and Texas along the Gulf Coast for winter.


female Costa's Hummingbird nectaring an aloe vera

"a female Costa's hummingbird sipping some nectar from an aloe vera plant
"a female Costa's hummingbird sipping some nectar from an aloe vera plant

Five annuals alluring to hummingbirds


Hummingbirds generally are attracted to orange, pink, or red flowers.

Nevertheless, hummingbirds are really seeking nectar. They know that, while color generally is an important indicator of their floral preferences, a tubular shape and plant availability in their range are also critical features. Of the five annuals presented, tree tobacco alone has yellow flowers, but it entices hummingbirds with its nectar, appropriate floral shape, and sturdy availability.

Two of these annuals --- annual phlox and orange jewelweed --- are native to North America. The three others --- garden balsam, garden nasturtium, and tree tobacco --- are introduced species in the United States. However, all five of these annual plants share in their allure to hummingbirds. 

Hummingbirds are irresistibly drawn to these five annuals, wild or cultivated, in
fields or in gardens.


Allen’s, Anna’s, blue-throated, and Costa’s hummingbirds are attracted to tree tobacco, but not for its sunny yellowness.

Nicotiana glauca, Biology Department Greenhouse, Florida International University, Miami, southeastern Florida
Nicotiana glauca, Biology Department Greenhouse, Florida International University, Miami, southeastern Florida



My special thanks to talented artists and photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the internet.


Broad-Tailed Hummingbirds appreciate the sensational showiness of Garden Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus)

Tropaeolum majus ~ Lower Austria, northeastern Austria
Tropaeolum majus ~ Lower Austria, northeastern Austria

Sources Consulted


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Baltosser, William H., and Peter E. Scott. "Costa's Hummingbird (Calypte costae)." In: Alan F. Poole and Frank B. Gill, eds., The Birds of North America, No. 251. The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA, and The American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C., 1996.

Burritt, Patrick, and Jay Taylor. "Lampornis clemenciae." (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. 2002. University of Michigan.

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Christman, Steve. “Tropaeolum majus.” Floridata > Plant Profile List. Updated 5/16/05. Jack Scheper.

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Copron, Beth. 2001. "Calypte costae." (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. 2001. University of Michigan.

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Dick, Gary Owen. “Blue-throated hummingbird Lampornis clemenciae.” Field Guide to Birds of North America. Mitch Waite Group.

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Gould, John. A Monograph of the Trochilidae, Or Family of Humming-Birds. In Five Volumes. Vol. II. London: Taylor and Francis (Printers), 1861.

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Harris, Marie S., Robert Naumann, and Kari Kirschbaum. 2000. "Archilochus colubris." (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. 2000. University of Michigan.

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“Hummingbird Summer & Winter Distribution (range map).” Operation Ruby Throat: The Hummingbird Project. Bill Hilton Jr. and Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History. 

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Lobas, Abigail. 2001. "Calypte anna." (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. 2001. University of Michigan.

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Mailliard, Joseph. “Charles Andrew Allen, With One Illustration.” The Condor, Vol. 33, No. 1 (January-February 1931): 20-22.

Mitchell, Donald E. “Allen’s Hummingbird (Selasphorus sasin).” In: Alan F. Poole and Frank B. Gill, eds., The Birds of North America, No. 501. Philadelphia: The Birds of North America, 2000.

Olson, Erin. 2002. “Selasphorus platycercus.” (On-line). Animal Diversity Web. 2002. University of Michigan.

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Ortho's All About Attracting Hummingbirds and Butterflies. Des Moines IA: Meredith Books, 2001.

Pineda, Noemi. "Selasphorus sasin." (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. 2001. University of Michigan.

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Reports of Explorations and Surveys To Ascertain the Most Practicable and Economical Route for a Railroad from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean. Made Under the Direction of the Secretary of War, in 1853-6, According to Acts of Congress of March 3, 1853, May 31, 1854, and August 5, 1854. Volume X: Part VI Zoological Report, No. 3-Report Upon the Birds of the Route by C.B.R. Kennerly, M.D. Washington: Beverley Tucker, Printer, 1859.

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Roth, Sally. Attracting Butterflies & Hummingbirds to Your Backyard. Rodale Organic Gardening Book. Emmaus PA: Rodale, 2001.

Sohl, Terry. “Broad-tailed hummingbird Selasphorus platycercus.” South Dakota Birds and Birding > Species. Terry L. Sohl.

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Trussler, Anita. "Archilochus alexandri." (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. 2001. University of Michigan.

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Garden Balsam (Impatiens balsamina): a jewel in the nectar crown for Black-Chinned Hummingbird

Garden Balsam - Impatiens balsamina ~ Sri Lanka
Garden Balsam - Impatiens balsamina ~ Sri Lanka
the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

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DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
Updated: 08/02/2021, DerdriuMarriner
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DerdriuMarriner on 11/08/2013

Me, too, I enjoy phlox. They're so abundant and display such a pretty range of colors. And the crowning touch are the winged visitors who value phlox nectar. I'm glad that you appreciated the pictures ~ I found them easily, and they're exactly what I had in mind.

AbbyFitz on 11/07/2013

Phlox are one of my favorite wild flowers here in the springtime. Pretty pictures!

DerdriuMarriner on 11/06/2013

jptanabe, Me, too, I love hummingbirds. If you have one or two, you can always attract more. It's a honor and a blessing for them to visit you: it means that they like your yard!

jptanabe on 11/06/2013

Love hummingbirds! Nice to know what attracts them - we usually see one or two in our yard, I'd love to attract more of them.

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