Hummingbirds are loved by so many of us, and the sages listed below are sure to bring them, as well as butterflies and other pollinators, to check out your gardens.
Pineapple sage (Salvia elegans) is finally blooming, as it does each fall, and the bright red blooms remind us why we love this plant. The nectar of these blooms will reward any hummingbirds that visit.
But, unlike the other salvias listed, this plant isn’t just for the nectaring friends. First, the foliage has lived up to its name all summer in our kitchens. With its smell and taste of pineapple, it makes a nice addition to tea, hot or iced, and some foods. The blooms can be added to salads, and they make a lovely bouquet.
Native to Mexico, this sage sometimes, but rarely, survives our winters. It is usually grown as an annual, but it can be perennial for us only if it’s protected from the cold. Pineapple sage blends well with Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) and Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) to make a nice tea. Whether or not it will make one wise and drive away melancholy is another story, but it will have a soothing aroma.
Another salvia that dazzles us, hummingbirds and butterflies with showy, spikes of purple blooms from late summer until frost is Mexican Sage (Salvia leucantha). A native of Mexico, it has survived a mild winter for me, but very rarely. This salvia dries well, and is a beautiful addition to wreaths and arrangements.
A continuously blooming plant, Salvia greggii begins blooming early spring and will continue to do so until frost. Deadheading helps keep it blooming. This perennial sage is a native to Texas, sometimes called Autumn or Texas sage, and usually survives our winters.
When purchasing a greggii sage, there are several colors, but be aware that the height varies. In the past, I always had plants that grew to about three feet. This year, I purchased a plant not realizing it would only be about 18 inches high! However, it has done nicely as a potted plant.
Prairie or Blue sage (Salvia azurea) is a Southeastern US native perennial that blooms true blue flowers from late summer until frost. The plants will grow in a clump to a height of five feet, but look best if kept “pinched back” until July (like we shorten mums). This makes a shorter, bushier plant with more flowers. It may seed itself nearby but is not invasive.
“Victoria Blue,” “Victoria White” and “Blue Bedder” are perennial cultivars of our Southwest native, Salvia farinacea. These plants are often called mealycup sage. They mix well with other annuals and perennials in ground or pots, and they are great in fresh or dried arrangements.
Salvia coccinea is sometimes referred to as Texas, scarlet, or blood sage. I save the seed each year from this tender perennial, but it will re-seed if allowed. If you have these, learn to identify the seedlings so they don’t get tossed as weeds. It’s a plant I place in the “precious category.” Seeds or plants can be purchased in red, pink, or white.
After looking over these common names, I can truly appreciate making purchases of plants and seeds that have their Latin names attached. Many moons ago, it took me a long time to learn which one was the mealycup.
These sages appreciate lots of sun, and require good drainage. They are easy to grow and pest resistant.
Gardening Partners is a non-profit founded in 2003 to serve Dickson County with gardening education and advice. Readers may submit gardening questions by email: email@example.com, on the website: www.gardening.partners, or by mail: PO Box 471 Dickson TN 37056.