Ask Mr. Sage: What Hummingbird and Butterfly Salvias Tolerate Lots of Moisture
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, beginning by accessing our Salvia Finder, which includes filters for identifying plants by water needs and attractiveness to pollinators. After opening a plant description, click on its "cultural icons" tab near the bottom of the page. Scroll to the bottom. If the plant resists deer and/or attracts butterflies, honeybees or hummingbirds, there will be a section labeled Wildlife containing icons indicating these characteristics. We base this information on personal observations in our test gardens as well as customer reports.
You may also want to cross check Salvias in three plant queues -- Butterfly Plants, Hummingbird Plants and Salvias by Culture (it covers water needs) -- which you can access via the main menu on our home page. The butterfly and hummingbird 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.
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.