Beet vs. Cane and Hummer Plants

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Which is better sugar to use in my hummingbird feeder? Beet sugar? Cane sugar? Does it really make any difference? The short answer – NO! I guess if you are baking a cake, cane sugar would be the best choice. For ever other use – especially in a hummingbird feeder – beet sugar is just fine.

The biggest reason I like to use beet sugar is that it is almost certainly an all American product. Sugar beets grow in the Midwest (quite a lot in Michigan). I like to support the American farmer over the rest of the world. I especially like supporting my state. Cane is grown in four states (Florida, South Carolina, Texas and Hawaii), but far more is grown in Brazil and other countries in Central and South America.

Yes, I always have lots and lots of hummingbird feeders (15 at present); however, I always plant for hummingbirds as well. Some of these plants are very happy up here in Michigan – most are not.

Among those that grow very well in Michigan is Trumpet Creeper. This can be very invasive in areas further south. It can get that way  up here, too, but it takes a very long time. These giant red/orange blooms are full of nectar and are favorites among the hummingbirds up here. Another reason that they are so popular with our birds is probably because they do grow well and have here for so long.

Another native that is a beacon to hummingbirds is lobelia cardinalis (cardinal flower). This gorgeous flower comes in pink and almost blue, but the red is gorgeous and really draws the hummingbirds.

Here’s another photo of cardinal flower

Monarda 'Jacob Cline'

Another flower that is perennial here that the hummingbirds really appreciate is monarda (aka bee balm). We have several colors here. Right now, only the bright pink and red are still blooming. The lighter pink and salmon varieties seem to bloom much earlier here.

Pink/purple monarda

I must mention that local columbine is a very early-flowering perennial that hummers use. Weigeia grows well here, also, but commonly blooms in late May and early June. Surprisingly, it is re-blooming this year in our yard. Jewelweed should be starting to bloom in very wet areas. We do have some, but have never seen hummers choose that over the other plants in our yard.

'Black & Blue'

This beauty is my very favorite purchase every year. This is salvia ‘Black and Blue.’ It’s a cultivar of salvia guaranitica (anise sage). This is the plant that the White-eared Hummingbird favored. I’ve also seen more ruby-throated hummingbirds on this plant than any other (well, perhaps equally to monarda). Another cultivar of salvia guaranitica is ‘Van Remsen.’ The human Van Remsen was the listmeister of one of the best hummingbird Listservs (Humnet). I’m certain it’s one of the longest lived listservs as I’ve been reading it for well over a dozen years.

'Van Remsen'

This salvia is really red. It’s ‘Lady in red’ (salvia coccinea). I really wish I had room to plant more salvia because there are so many types and they are so beautiful. That’s one of the only drawbacks of living in the woods. There isn’t enough sunny area for large beds of salvias and I can’t grow tomatoes (well, the deer would take care of those, anyway).

This odd-looking flower is cigar flower! No kidding, it does look like a cigar with an ashy end. It’s cuphea ‘David Verity.’ I’ve grown this
every year for well over a dozen years (both in Georgia and here in Michigan). I’ve had it come back from seed a couple of years, but will always have it in the yard.

This is catmint (nepeta). I thought it was supposed to stay low. Obviously, either I had that thought wrong, my idea of low is different than the mail order house, or I got the wrong cultivar. It’s staying, although I may have to cut it back some. I have seen hummingbirds try to feed from it, but it’s really better for butterflies and bees. I also have tropical milkweed for butterflies. Native milkweed does grow in our yard. It’s a host plant for monarch butterflies, so I look for other varieties of milkweed to see what kind of cool butterflies I can attract.

'Tropical' milkweed

I’m including a photo of my giant phlox. Is it a hummingbird plant, too? Nope! Not really. It HAS served as a perch, but I’ve never seen a hummingbird attempt to feed from it. It’s just so PRETTY! I love this plant. It grows like this every year without one smidgen of work from me. Gotta love a plant like that.


Is there a plant that you can suggest I try in my hummingbird garden? I’d love to hear from you.

Up Next: Appalachian Hummingbird Lore

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