Hummingbird Gardening In a Container

Costa’s hummingbird and Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha) flowers

I love to watch hummingbirds fly through the garden, pausing to drink nectar from colorful blooms when I spend time outdoors. Adding plants to attract hummingbirds is the best way to entice them to stop by for a visit and maybe take up residence in your garden.

Whether you have a large or tiny garden, you don’t need a lot of space to enjoy a hummingbird garden if you create one in a container. All you need is a pot and 2 to 3 plants that attract hummingbirds, and before you know it, you’ll soon be watching the antics of these “flying jewels” as they sip nectar from your potted plants.

Creating a hummingbird garden in a container is a fun and easy project to do, so let’s get started:

A colorful group of containers with plants that will attract hummingbirds.
1. Select an area that receives at least 6 hours of sun.

Most flowering plants need a sunny exposure in which to bloom. It is also important that the pots be in an area that is visible to hummingbirds as well as near where you can view them.

Colorful containers
2. Choose your container.

Any type of container will work, but bigger is better since you can fit more than one plant in it and it takes longer to dry out. This means you don’t have to water as often. I recommend selecting one that is at least 16 inches tall and wide, or larger – for an extra splash of interest, pick a colorful pot.

Hummingbird-attracting plants
3. Visit your local nursery and ask for recommendations for plants that will attract hummingbirds.

Shrubs, perennials, and even succulents can grow successfully in containers. For the pots in my Arizona garden, I use flame acanthus (Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii), Baja fairy duster (Calliandra californica),  ‘Blue Bells’ (Eremophila hygrophana)Mexican honeysuckle (Justicia spicigera), purple trailing lantana (Lantana montevidensis), and dwarf lady’s slipper (Pedilanthus cymbiferus).

For more ideas of plants to attract hummingbirds check out the lists from the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Arranging plants
4. Fill pots with a planting mix and begin arranging your plants.

Taller plants should be put in the back with shorter plants in front. Don’t be afraid to have fun with color combinations. For example, pair of orange and purple flowering plants for dramatic color contrast. Or, you combine plants with complementary shades such as white, pinks, and purples. This is where your personal style shines through in creating a beautiful container planting, although to be perfectly honest, the hummingbirds won’t care what colors you put together.

My newly-planted hummingbird container garden
5. Fertilize and water your new container garden as you would your other plants growing in pots.

It’s important to note that perennials and shrubs need less water than flowering annuals. A good rule of thumb is to water deeply when the top 2 inches of soil is barely moist. I recommend using a slow-release fertilizer such as Osmocote every four months.

Three years later…
6. Prune as needed to keep plants attractive and from outgrowing the container.

The mature size of plants in pots is smaller than if they are grown in the ground since their roots have less room to spread out. I prune mine back severely in spring (once the danger of frost has passed), removing approximately 2/3 of their size, which allows them room to grow back throughout the summer. Light pruning can be done throughout the summer months as needed to control their size.

Black-chinned hummingbird perching on a lady’s slipper planted in a container

Creating a hummingbird garden is a fun project to do for both adults and kids and before you know it, you will have hummingbirds flocking to your mini-garden.

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