Planting Hummingbird Annuals Now
Red, red, red. You'll hear that a lot when planting annuals for hummingbirds, because it is the crucial color in any hummingbird garden of tubular, nectar-rich flowers. Yet orange is another hummingbird favorite not to be neglected, especially if you don't want a whole wildlife garden shouting, "What's red, and red and red all over."
Yes, we're terrible at jokes. But we're good at hummingbird gardening. We're also deep into the whirlwind shipping season for annuals, so please forgive us for being a bit dingy. The point here is that orange is a top draw for hummingbirds.
Our online Salvia nursery, Flowers by the Sea, has some spectacular long blooming species for your landscape that begin shouting "Orange, orange, orange" in spring. This is particularly important news for hummingbirds that are big-time hungry now, now, now as they head north for the nesting season.
And, although hummingbirds love their favorite hues on Salvia plants of all sizes, they are particularly fond of large ones that provide massive displays of color. In a wildlife garden, large plants are also useful because they make hummingbirds less vulnerable to attack by cats and other small mammals.
Mixing Big Orange with Other Colors
So big truly is beautiful for hummingbirds as is orange in all its shades, including reddish, yellowish, pinkish and pure orange.
Massing a variety of oranges and pure reds certainly creates Hummingbird Magnetville. But you can also mix these hot colors with cooler blue and purple Salvias for an electric, come hither look.
As long as a plant's blooms are tubular and well supplied with nectar, hummingbirds will drink from many colors of flowers. When you mix some blues, burgundies, lavenders, pinks, purples or whites with stands of orange and red, hummingbirds are more likely to visit a rainbow of colors.
Providing Good Growing Conditions
Without too much further ado, we'd like to introduce five orange beauties for your hummingbird garden. Although these plants are tender perennials that may return year after year in the warmest winter zones for which they are considered hardy, most are grown as annuals in North America. (Please click here for more information about USDA Plant Hardiness Zones.)
All of the plants here may possibly provide repeat performances in USDA zones 9 to 11 if they avoid frost. Except for False Tropical Sage (Salvia pseudococcinea), which is native to subtropical America and the Caribbean, all are South American natives.
Salvias, in general, need excellent soil drainage to avoid root and crown rot. These five are no different, except perhaps for False Tropical Sage -- one of the rare sages that tolerate damp roots. Also, most of them prefer rich soil, such as garden loam. Sun exposure requirements vary by plant.
We've organized our list based on the amount of water these Salvias need from drought tolerant to water loving. Although Straight Spike Sage (S. orthostachys) is good at surviving unexpected dry spells, it prefers a bit of average supplemental watering based on whether local rainfall is insufficient. At the other end of the range are three Salvias that thrive on average watering, but love an ample supply of moisture.
Five Easy-to-Grow Oranges
That's right. These Salvias are easy to cultivate if you pay attention to their basic needs. Plus, all handle heat well. Deer can be desperate when food is limited, but they generally avoid Salvias, including these five.
Finally, a note about color: Growing conditions, including soil pH (chemical balance), affect the color of flowers. So a plant's flowers may look more orange in one yard or region than in another.
Drought Tolerant to Average Moisture
Straight Spike Sage (Salvia orthostachys)
Bolivian Sage (Salvia praeclara)
Average to Ample Moisture
False Tropical Sage (Salvia pseudococcinea)
Giant Brazilian Sage (Salvia subrotunda)
Cundinamarca Sage (Salvia gachantivana)
Helping You to Feed the Hummers
If you have questions about these plants or any of our Salvias and Salvia companions, we're here to help you and the hummingbirds. Please feel free to call or email us, and expect a prompt response. We'll be out in the gardens, but there's always a telephone or computer nearby. Give us a buzz, and we'll give you our best.