Flowers that butterflies and hummingbirds favor are rich sources of nectar. But not all nectar-rich butterfly favorites are easy to access with long hummingbird beaks. Conversely, many flowers designed by nature to attract hummingbirds don't have the structure necessary for feeding butterflies or providing a perch.
Butterflies need to alight and stand still on flowers from which they drink whereas hummingbirds, similar to helicopters, are magnificent at hovering and can pause without support to take long sips.
When backyard space is limited, it can be daunting to design wildlife habitat that will attract butterflies and hummingbirds. So we've explored our catalog to provide you with planting choices that appeal to both.
Salvia Nectar Plants for Butterflies and Hummingbirds
When citing height in our catalog and blog, we often give a range, because many Salvias increase in height when their flower spikes emerge. Please note that the second figure in a height measurement refers to how tall the plant is when in bloom.
Butterflies and hummingbirds access nectar from a wide variety of Salvias. However, hummingbirds, which are only found in the Western Hemisphere, tend to prefer sages from their half of the world. Here are some favorites that attract each kind of tiny garden visitor.
Silver Cleveland Sage or California Silver-Blue Sage (Salvia clevelandii 'Deer Springs Silver') Zones 8 to 11
Honey Melon Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans 'Honey Melon') Zones 9 to 11
Wild Thing Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii 'Wild Thing') Zones 6 to 10
Pink Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha 'Danielle's Dream') Zones 8 to 11
Big Pitcher Sage (Salvia pitcheri 'Grandiflora') Zones 4 to 9
Jean's Purple Sage (Salvia x 'Jean's Purple Passion') Zones 8 to 11
Waverly Sage (Salvia x 'Waverly') Zones 8 to 11
Salvia Companion Plants for Butterflies and Hummingbirds
At Flowers by the Sea, we primarily focus on growing Salvias but also raise a number of useful, colorful companion plants. Butterflies love tanking up on the rich nectar of Salvias, but rarely if ever lay eggs on them. So to encourage Lepidoptera to stop and stay awhile in our sage gardens, we grow host plants of other species that protect their eggs, feed their baby caterpillars and provide plenty of nectars for the adults.
Butterflies can be extremely specific about host plants. The most famous example is the Monarch (Danaus plexippus), which is a member of the Brushfoot family of butterflies and only chooses Milkweeds for egg laying.
Be sure to include some butterfly host plants in your backyard habitat, including Showy Milkweed, and plenty of nectar-rich favorites including Hot Poker plants and Red Betony -- a close relative of Salvias.
Showy Milkweed (Asclepias speciosa) Zones 4 to 9
Pineapple Popsicle Hot Poker (Kniphofia 'Pineapple Popsicle') Zones 6 to 9
Red Betony (Stachys coccinea) Zones 7 to 9
Buzzing with Questions?
At FBTS, we know a lot about the birds and the bees, not to mention the butterflies. At least, we know a lot about plants they enjoy and how important these small animals are to pollination in home and commercial gardens.
So give us a call or write; we're always willing to answer questions. For in-depth information about butterflies and caterpillars, including host plants, the North American Butterfly Association is an excellent resource.
Remember that when you grow wildlife habitat, you aid everyone's gardens in your neighborhood. We owe a lot to these hard-working pollinators.
Photo credit: Donna DeSousa