How to attract butterflies and hummingbirds to your garden in Canada

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Butterflies and hummingbirds are a staple image of a healthy environment. When winged critters show up in the garden it is a sign of health & vitality. So, no wonder everyone wants to increase the sightseeing adventure of butterflies and hummingbirds. Unfortunately, simply just adding pollinator friendly plants to the garden may not be the secret to attract unique critters to your Canadian gardens. The secret is in making the perfect overall environment with your garden.

Let me take you on the journey of making a microenvironment in your garden that hummingbirds and butterflies will truly enjoy. There are three main factors we are going to be looking at in this post. The first being food sources, secondly shelter and breeding grounds, thirdly ambiance (seriously you need to set the mood).

Food Sources That Attract Hummingbirds

When we think about feeding hummingbirds the image of the red and yellow feeders come to mind. While these are a popular option it is important to follow the rules when making the sugary mixture. Hummingbirds are notorious for being picky eaters. Too sugary and they will not drink it. To watery they will not drink it. Too old they will not drink it. I am sure you get the idea. This is my favourite feeder

The main objective is to follow the mixing instructions to a tee. If you want to take this one step further distilled water or rainwater as a base typically brings in more hummingbirds. Birds in general are sensitive to tap water so using something closer to nature means a happier bird population. Water temperature is equally as important so placing the feeder in a partially shaded place is ideal. The option below is a dye free clear nectar mix.

For water, the same rules apply. Hummingbirds need water even if they have a sugary water mixture. Imagine flapping your arms at lightning speed all day you most likely would want a Gatorade and gallon of water strapped to your back. Same applies to hummingbird expect these winged critters will also use the water as a place to bathe. That means we need to keep it clean in.

Flowers for Hummingbirds

  • Bleeding heart
  • Morning glory
  • Scarlet runner bean
  • Angel trumpets
  • Columbine
  • Foxglove
  • Fuscia
  • Nasturtium
  • Petunias
  • Snap dragons
  • Zinnias

Food Sources That Attract Butterflies

Butterflies are considered pollinators, so they have a wide range of food sources to pick from. If its early spring and your noticing butterfly activity but the flowers have not started to bloom, try fruit. Simply take an orange and slice it up on a kitchen plate. If you place the orange in a sheltered area out of direct sun and wind the butterflies will come over for a snack.

Water is also important to butterfly but they can be a bit pickier at times. Butterflies enjoy truly fresh water and that may mean running water in some cases. This can come in the form of a backyard pond or simply a shallow dish with a solar powered pump. One thing to keep in mind is you will need various depths to ensure all the different butterfly leg length have the opportunity to drink water safely.

Flowers for Butterflies

  • New England aster 
  • strawberry 
  • Pearly everlasting 
  • Yarrow 
  • columbine 
  • Wild bergamot
  • Black-eyed Susan 
  • Anise hyssop 
  • Virginia mountain
  • Lance leaf coreopsis 
  • Wild nodding onion 
  • Woodland Sunflower 
  • Evening primrose 
  • Pearly everlasting 
  • Chokecherry 
  • Pacific ninebark 
  • Nettles 
  • Common milkweed 
  • Willow 

Herbs That Butterflies Enjoy

  • Dill
  • Fennel
  • Parsley
  • Oregano
  • Chives
  • Rosemary
  • Lavender
  • Sage
  • Thyme
  • Lemon Balm

Shelter For Hummingbirds

You can buy hummingbird houses for them to rest their heads. However, as we already know hummingbirds are very active critters. So, going into a home is at the bottom of the humming bird to do list. Hummingbirds truly enjoy a safe perch to sit and observe from. This means a place out of the sun, wind and rain is the perfect space for a hummingbird nap (no matter how short they maybe).

Hummingbird perches are typically a bush of some sort. A brush that has openings that allow the birds to get inside is the perfect solution. Remember their tiny talons only need a twig sized branch to feel safe and secure.

Shelter For Butterflies

Butterflies enjoy a shelter that is the opposite of what a hummingbird is looking for. Butterflies want a home that is dark and dry. These butterfly homes are very easy to build and are simply a cedar box with slits instead of holes. This design means that birds will not be able to make a nest inside and it will be a butterfly only tree house.

Face the shelter openings away from direct sun and typically in a sheltered area where rain and dust cannot accumulate inside the house. For a fun experience want the house prior to a rainstorm. Butterflies can sense when a storm is arriving and will aim to seek shelter. This means your butterfly house could become the go to butterfly party place this summer.

Ambiance for both Butterflies and Hummingbirds

This seems silly but it’s very relevant especially in today’s world. Hummingbirds and butterflies can be shy, so it is important to set up you back yard as a peaceful place. Because these critters are both prey animals, they are very sensitive to fast movements and noises. The best way to ensure a happy place for them is to eliminate noise makers such as wind chimes.

Other noises such as construction can also cause an issue but unfortunately, we can’t control everything around us. However, if you are dedicated to a hummingbird and butterfly paradise you may want to plant tall bushy trees around the edges of your property line. This will give both a sound buffer but also a wind free zone that they will truly appreciate.

The other ambiance factor to consider is movements. This includes the windmills and spinning yard décor of course but one thing we commonly forget is light scattering. Things such as glass, metal or mirrors all refract light and if those are now set-in place this may result in a lot of flashing.

Hummingbirds are always on the lookout for light movements. The reason for this is because larger predatory before they strike will change the light intensity around the bird. This means bird in general are sensitive to rapid changes on lighting and flashing sun catchers look like a hoard of hawks to a poor tiny hummingbird.

I hope you found this article helpful! If you did be sure to leave a comment down below about what exactly you are going to try in your garden this year. Or let us know if your yard is currently a hummingbird and butterfly oasis and how you achieved this.

Ashley The Soil Scientist
Ashley The Soil Scientist

As a soil scientist my goal is to bring you one step closer to the garden of your dreams with science.

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