We love hummingbirds, and they love us back with lots of visits. That's because our gardens are abundant in the tubular-shaped, nectar-rich flowers of sages and companion plants. Almost any sage (Salvia spp.) will attract hummingbirds. However, this list is based on the plants that hummingbirds regularly swarm in our garden and sneak into our greenhouses to sip.
You'll find a wide range of Salvia species and varieties here, especially ones from the Western Hemisphere. Over the years, we have noticed that hummingbirds seem to prefer mint-family plants (Lamiaceae) from the West. This makes sense considering that these flying jewels aren't found in the Eastern Hemisphere; native animals prefer native flora.
Plants and pollinators in a region coevolve to meet each other's needs. For example, the tube-shaped flowers of North and Central American Lamiaceae particularly fit the beaks of hummingbirds living in those areas whereas some South American sages with longer blossoms require the longer beaks of South American hummers for pollination.
North or South, the super-rich nectar of Salvias and other mint-type plants keep tiny wings whirring. Also, insects attracted to their nectar give the birds an added dietary boost of protein.
We have discovered some happy contradictions to the Hemisphere rule. So we include some Eastern Hemisphere plants here that hummingbirds crave, especially ones from South Africa. These include Salvia companions that are also Lamiaceae. Birds in South Africa, with similarly long beaks, go crazy for the nectar in their trumpet-shaped blossoms.
In addition to basing our selections for this list on years of observation, we also listen to what you have to say. Based on customer feedback, all these plants seem to be hummingbird favorites wherever they are grown. But keep in mind that just because a sage is not listed here does not mean it won't attract and nourish hummers.
(Uruguayan Firecracker Plant) Mint-green foliage felted with a covering of fine hairs provides a cooling backdrop to the hot orange tubular flowers of this long-blooming member of the acanthus family (Acanthaceae).
(Lion's Ear or Wild Dagga) "Leon" is Greek for "lion," whereas "otis" translates as "ear." The appellation "leonurus" equals "lion colored." Actually, we think the tawny orange blossoms of this mint family (Lamiaceae) species look more like a lion's mane.
(Mint Lion's Ear or Klipp Dagga) Here's another plant for Dr. Seuss gardens. Mint Lion's Ear produces intermittent, shaggy whorls of fuzzy, rosy orange tubular flowers that butterflies and hummingbirds love. The blossoms burst from prickly, round clusters on stems as tall and slender as auto antennas.
(Queen Victoria Cardinal Flower) Calling all butterfly and hummingbird lovers in areas with chilly winters: This one's for you. Lobelias are well known for attracting pollinators. This one is extremely cold tolerant and even does well in the Rocky Mountain West.
(Sierra Madre Cardinal Flower) Butterflies and hummingbirds love the long, scarlet and orange trumpet blossoms of this Lobelia native to the Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains of Southern Arizona and Northern Mexico.
(Giant Red Cardinal Flower) Similar to the plumage of a Northern Cardinal, the flowers of this Lobelia hybrid are startlingly red. The tubular blossoms have lips that flare at their openings into petals shaped like poinsettia bracts.
(Lemon Spritzer Cape Fuchsia) Slender, hot pink trumpet blossoms of Lemon Spritzer Cape Fuchsia dangle from red flower spikes. They hang over variegated foliage that looks like someone sprayed it with lime, forest green and cream accents.
(Friendship Sage) Thank you Rolando Uria of the University of Buenos Aries for this very fine plant. Discovered in 2005 at a plant show in Argentina, this truly unique hybrid sage has generated a great deal of excitement in the Salvia world.
(Blue Chiquita Sage) This unusual and now rare variety was first discovered by the Yucca Do Nursery during their 1997 expedition in Mexico. Growing into a small, tight mound with silvery-blue leaves, it explodes in the fall with pale blue flowers on tall spikes.
(Fancy Dancer Sage) Sages can be such tough plants withstanding heat and drought. Yet so many, including Salvia 'Fancy Dancer' have delicate looking blossoms. This one has bicolor flowers combining light and hot pink tones.
(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.
(Rhythm and Blues Anise-Scented Sage) New for 2017, this variety is a superior version of the older standby 'Black and Blue'. Easy to grow and rewarding, this hummingbird favorite is our very best Anise Scented Sage.
(Pacific Blue Sage) Whorls of deep lavender-blue flowers contrast brightly against the dark maroon stems of this likely hybrid of Salvia brandegeei and Salvia munzii.
(Temascaltepec Sage) In full bloom, which is all year in mild climates, this mid-sized Salvia has far more flowers than foliage. Each 1/2-inch-long, bright pink bloom has two dark pink/purple spots and a pair of white stripes. The small, slightly furry leaves add to its soft, pleasing look.
(Cinnabar Sage) Think of this plant as Pineapple Sage on steroids. It grows 5 feet tall and can be twice as wide and bursts with large, intensely red, furry flowers all winter. Our overwintering hummingbirds adore it. This cinnabar-red sage is hard to forget once you see it in full bloom.
(Cleveland Sage or California Blue Sage) A California native plant garden is not complete without a Cleveland Sage. This particular cultivar has deeper blue flowers with a purple overlay as well as deep purple calyxes. Due to its height and drought resistance, it is ideal for back of border in a dry garden or for use as a screen.
(Brenthurst Tropical Sage)Tropical Sage is popular as an annual throughout America and as a perennial in warm zones. It is particularly beloved in the Deep South where it withstands heat, wind, heavy rains and excessive humidity to bloom prolifically season after season. Brenthurst is a coral-flowered cultivar with dramatic, dark bracts and bright green, heart-shaped leaves.
(Coral Nymph Tropical Sage) What a cutie! This award-winning cultivar of Tropical Sage is short and compact yet has a multitude of pastel salmon flowers larger than those of its bigger cousins. It is perfect for annual flower beds or patio containers.