Cloud forests form on mountaintops worldwide. Some of the best-known ones in the Western Hemisphere are found in Canada, Mexico, Central America and South America. They are troves of plant diversity and major sources of oxygen production.
Plants from these misty, montane forests love humidity and partial shade. Many are well adapted to life in temperate climates, especially in areas with moderate year-round temperatures and plentiful fog, such as along our Mendocino coastline.
Due to their elevation, cloud forests are cooler than tropical rainforests. Instead of gaining their moisture from rain, plants in these areas absorb moisture from the clouds surrounding them similar to Northern California plants that quench themselves on fog drip.
Despite major differences in altitude, the growing conditions in Mediterranean coastal climates approximate the growing conditions in cloud forests. This is especially true where temperatures are cool-to-moderate, fog is plentiful and low evaporation occurs, such as in San Francisco.
Aside from loving moisture, cloud forest plants often prefer rich soil. Flowers by the Sea raises a variety of cloud-forest species, including Salvias and orchids. Cloud forests worldwide are suffering from deforestation and global warming. By growing their plants, you help preserve biodiversity.
(Sacred flower of the Incas) Long reddish blossoms with flared, trumpet-like corollas and bright blue pollen contrast with mid-green foliage in the long-blooming, South American species Cantua buxifolia.
Floriferous and heat tolerant, Cuphea 'Strybing Sunset' is a long-blooming addition to wildlife gardens. Similar to Salvias, Cupheas are rich sources of nectar that fuel hummingbird migration. Bees, butterflies and hoverflies are among the other pollinators that love this genus.
(Mexican Loosestrife) The tempting, purple-to-magenta flowers of Cuphea aff. aequipetala attract butterflies, honeybees and hummingbirds as well as gardeners who love color. Abundant blossoms flare into six-petal corollas at the end of long, cylindrical flowers.
(Candy Corn Plant) Due to their bright colors and rich nectar, Cupheas are magnets for pollinators, including butterflies, honeybees and hummingbirds. That's certainly true for the orange and yellow, candy-corn colored flowers of Cuphea micropetala.
(Nelson's Bat-Faced Cuphea) A tiny snout-like face emerges at the end of this Cuphea's tubular flower and beneath two red-orange petals shaped like bat ears. "Too cute!" is a typical response to these whimsical flowers that attract butterflies, honeybees and hummingbirds.
(Salvador Cuphea) Closely related to but distinct from Cuphea oreophylla, this rare species has small flowers in great profusion. A spreading shrubby grower, it excells in containers where it can be enjoyed close up.
(Chiapas Golden Fuchsia) Cool, moist and partially shady -- those are the conditions that this tall, rare shrub loves. Once native to the mountain cloud forests of Mexico's southernmost state, Chiapas, Golden Fuchsia in 1986 became extinct in the wild and now is primarily grown by botanical gardens.
(Bitter Mexican Sage) Hummingbirds love this heat-tolerant Salvia, which is one of our best choices for shady, moist areas. The large-lipped, baby-blue flowers with white striations bloom from late summer through fall.
(Amethyst Sage) Growing up to 12 inches long, the triangular basal leaves of Salvia amethystina subsp. ampelophylla are the largest we know among sages. They have long silky hairs on their undersides and are fragrant when bruised.
(Double Saw Tooth Sage) Vivid deep violet flowers bloom from summer into fall and contrast prettily with the bright green, rumply foliage of this tall sage from southeastern Mexico. Belgian botanist and orchid lover Jean Jules Linden was the first to record its discovery in 1838, according to records on file at Britain’s Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
(Blue Sky Mexican Sage) The small flowers of this plant from Neuevo Leon and Tamaulipas, Mexico, are an attractive combination of amethyst-purple and white. The spectacular leaves, which are large and lightly textured, appear blue-green on top and purple-green underneath.
(Columbian Mountain Sage) Deep purple bracts support the small, lighter purple flowers of Salvia cuatrecasana, which is a rare Colombian sage. White beelines mark the flowers of this long-blooming shrub, which is a hummingbird favorite.
(Peruvian Sage or Concolor Sage) Native to the high Andes of Peru, this is a distinctive Salvia with apple-green leaves that are smooth on top and silver-haired fuzzy on the bottom. The flowers are such a dark purple that they almost look black.
(Purple Bract Peruvian Sage or Concolor Sage) Similar to its wild relative, Peruvian Sage, which is also known as Concolor Sage, this cultivar has foliage that is smooth, apple green on top and fuzzy with silver hairs on the bottom. Major differences appear in the dramatic bracts.
(Southern Mexican Sage) With its graceful, shrubby habit, purplish green leaves and intense tomato-red blooms, this herbaceous perennial makes a delightful display in your garden. It begins blooming in October and continues sporadically through the winter and into spring in frost-free areas.
(Giant Bolivian Sage) Hailing from Peru and Bolivia, this tender specimen is found at altitudes of 9,000 feet in the wild. This multi-stemmed, woody-based, climbing Salvia needs support. Hummingbirds love its 5-inch-long, crimson flowers, which are the longest grown by any Salvia and flower from late summer through autumn.
(Shaggy Chiapas Sage) This is a sweetheart! Glowing magenta flowers lure the eye as well as hummingbirds to this heat-tolerant sage. It begins blooming in late summer where weather is warm and in fall where it is cooler.
(Silly Mexican Sage) Also known as Salvia roscida, this close relative of Blue Sky Mexican Sage (Salvia caudata 'El Cielo Blue') has thousands of deep violet-blue flowers with prominent white bee lines.