Dear Mr. Sage,
While living in Arizona, I grew lots of drought-resistant Salvias that attracted hummingbirds and butterflies. I recently moved to Florida and face a different gardening challenge -- damp soil. We get lots of rainfall. Are there any water-loving Salvias and, if so, which ones attract butterflies and hummingbirds?
Soggy Salvia Gardener
Dear Soggy Salvia Gardener,
Congratulations on your new abundance of a resource in short supply for so many Salvia gardeners. Yes, there are many water-loving Salvias (true sages) of which a large percentage attract pollinators.
I could give you a list of choices from the butterfly-loving Salvia amplexicaulis to Salvia ionocalyx, which lures honeybees as well as butterflies and hummingbirds. However, it wouldn't account for other constraints, including your local USDA zone, that might affect your needs. I think it's better if I demonstrate how to cruise the Flowers by the Sea catalog to find what you need.
There are a number of easy ways to identify damp-tolerant, pollinator attracting Salvias in our catalog. These include three major routes accessed via clicking on links in our main menu -- the dark green ribbon atop each of our web pages. The links are Butterfly Plants, Hummingbird Plants and Salvias by Culture. The butterfly and hummingbird plant queues include companion plants as well as Salvias.
Hummingbirds are native to the Western Hemisphere and will, in general, access the nectar of any western Salvia whether from the northern or southern hemispheres. In contrast, plants that butterflies love anywhere in the world stand a good chance of attracting Lepidoptera in your yard.
Just because we haven't seen butterflies or hummingbirds on particular plants in our yard doesn't necessarily mean that these pollinators never visit them. It may simply indicate an abundance of other favorites where butterflies and hummingbirds prefer feeding. So visiting the Salvias by Culture queue may be helpful, because it contains the greatest number of water-loving Salvias.
Here are the steps to take to access these queues:
Butterfly Plants. Click on the Butterfly Plants link and a long queue of choices appear. To narrow down results, visit the FBTS Product Filters in the left-hand margin of the page. The last filter is Water Needs and offers a "water loving" choice to click on. This limits the queue to butterfly plants that tolerate lots of moisture.
Hummingbird Plants. After clicking of the Hummingbird Plants link, follow the same steps as for butterfly plants.
Salvias by Culture. Click on this link in the menu bar and a pull-down menu of icons appears in which you can select the Moisture Loving raindrop. Most of the plants in this queue do well with average watering based on local rainfall. Some are even drought resistant, so they can handle a broad range of water conditions. As you open the description of each plant, click on the Cultural Icons tab in the gray menu bar under the plant's scientific name. Scroll down the page. If the plant resists deer and/or attracts butterflies, honeybees or hummingbirds, there will be a section labeled Wildlife near the bottom of the page containing icons indicating these characteristics. We base this information on personal observations in our test gardens as well as customer reports.
Thanks for Your Question,
Ask Mr. Sage is a question-and-answer feature based on topics raised in calls and emails that Flowers by the Sea receives. To send a query, just click on the Ask Mr. Sage button on this page.