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.
(Big Pitcher Sage) As its scientific name indicates, this sage has very large flowers. They are almost two-tone, changing from deep violet to a light blue or white at their base where they are cupped by dusky purple calyxes.
(Autumn Purple Sage) Small but numerous, the flowers of this sage are a variable shade of light purple that is unlike any other we grow. Native to Southern Mexico and Guatemala, this shrub regularly grows up to 5 feet tall (or taller) and 4 feet wide.
(Lavender Lace Autumn Purple Sage) Large, rich lavender-purple flowers cover this shrubby Sage from late fall into the spring. It has great vigor, grows fast and is a favorite of the hummingbirds. A "must have" for warm climate Salvia gardens.
(Orange Mountain Sage) This is the reddest of the Salvia regla species and the most floriferous. Side by side with the other varieties, this one is a bit taller and has darker flowers.
(Jame Orange Mountain Sage) North Carolina plantsman Richard Dufresne collected this fine variety of Salvia regla near the village of Jame, in central Mexico where the western and eastern Sierra Madre mountains meet.
(Orange Mountain Sage) Coahuila, Mexico, is home to many fine Salvias, including the smallest variety of Salvia regla that we grow. This one averages about 3 feet tall and wide.
(Great Orange Mountain Sage) Densely branched with small, dark green leaves, this variety of Salvia regla also features creamy orange flowers with white markings.
(Bolivian Lace Leaf Sage) A large decidious woody shrub, this is a distinctive and somewhat unique Salvia species. The large clusters of deep blue flowers appear in the spring and again in the fall. A native from a tropical savanna climate in Bolivia, this species grows best in climates with year-round warmth.
(Hybrid River Sage) This beautiful new plant is a FBTS hybrid between to rare South American species. In growth and flower it is intermediate between the parents, and fast growing because of it's hybrid vigor.
(Arrowleaf Sage) Brilliant royal blue flowers and unusual foliage attract the eye to Arrowleaf Sage. This large herbaceous perennial is found at elevations up to 10,500 feet in the Cordillera de los Andes of Chile, Ecuador and Peru.
(Pine Mountain Sage) Small but numerous, violet and deep purple flowers surrounded by pink bracts are sprinkled throughout this well-branched,shrubby sage like confections. This is one of the showiest Salvias we grow.
(Smith College Mystery Sage) This mysterious species came to us via Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. We refer to it as "Mystery Sage" as the origins of this fine plant are unclear.
(Hummingbird Sage or Pitcher Sage) No sage we grow is more attractive to hummingbirds than this one. Spectacular in all ways, it is one of our favorite Salvias with its fragrant, evergreen foliage and jewel-like flowers and bracts.
(Yellow Hummingbird Sage or Yellow Pitcher Sage) The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden introduced this rare yellow variety of fragrant Hummingbird Sage. Similar to other varieties of this species, Avis Keedy is alluring to butterflies, honeybees and hummingbirds.
(Sao Borja Scarlet Sage) Three-inch-long, smokey purple blossoms that bloom from spring to fall are a major clue that this heat-tolerant perennial is not your grandmother's Scarlet Sage.
(Elk White Scarlet Sage) The first tall white Salvia splendens variety, this new introduction from Flowers by the Sea is vigorous and free flowering all season long.
(Faye Chapel Scarlet Sage) A vivid red, the drooping blossoms of this sturdy, long flowering Salvia are large and numerous. Use it singly as a dramatic garden accent or container plant; mass it for a stunning effect. This is an heirloom plant from the Atlantic Coast, where it has been grown as a hummingbird plant for decades.
(Tubular Chilean Sage) Foggy days and moderate temperatures are the norm for this low-altitude, coastal mountain sage from northern Chile and Peru. It is grown as much for its handsome foliage as for the deep cranberry of its tiny, tubular flowers.
(Pink & White Wagner's Sage) Instead of pink, leaf-life bracts, this variety of Wagner's Sage has white bracts surrounding the hot pink flowers. It blooms from November to March on our coastal Northern California farm where it feeds Anna's hummingbirds all winter long.
(Windwalker® Royal Red Salvia) Salvia darcyi x S. microphylla 'PWIN03S' is one of the top 2015 plants for USDA Cold Hardiness Zone 5 selected by Colorado's Plant Select®, a nonprofit organization that focuses on promoting plants for low-water gardens.