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.
(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.
Floriferous and heat tolerant, Cuphea schumannii is also 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.
(David Verity Cigar Plant) Cuphea flowers are hummingbird magnets, especially the orange-red blooms of the David Verity hybrid. The blossoms have been likened to cigars due to their tubular shape and hot coloring that ends with a slightly flared and fringed yellow opening instead of petals.
(Kristen's Delightful Cigar Plant) Hummingbirds and butterflies love Cupheas. Kristen's Delightful Cigar Plant is a spectacularly colorful hybrid that is also a magnet for gardeners who love the pastels and abundance of its bicolor flowers.
(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.
(Paula Flynn Sage) Floral spikes with whorls of bluish-purple flowers rise up amid the slightly relaxed, upright foliage of the mystery plant Salvia ‘Paula Flynn’. It features pebbly, deep green leaves with white, fuzzy undersides.
(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) The large, deep bluish-purple flowers of Salvia BODACIOUS ‘Rhythm and Blues’ are shaped like parrot beaks and supported by black calyxes. It's foliage smells sweet with a hint of licorice. It's superior to the old standby Salvia guaranitica 'Black and Blue'.
(Smokey Jazz Anise-Scented Sage) The dusky black calyxes of Salvia BODACIOUS® ‘Smokey Jazz’ support large flowers shaped like parrot beaks the unique color of boysenberries — a hue between red and purple.
(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.