Salvias for Hummingbirds
Although one of the smallest birds in our ecosystem, hummingbirds are one of the most important for its survival.
The small colorful birds are a very huge part of the food cycle that keeps the ecosystem running.
If you love gardening, then you already know what I’m talking about.
If not, then permit me to change your mind.
About 75% of the world’s plants and flowers are pollinated with the help of insects, bats, and birds like the humming bird.
Therefore, designing a garden that attracts hummingbirds will not only ensure that your plants are pollinated. But, that they will ultimately reproduce.
You also provide food (nectar) for the birds which also elongates their lifespan and existence as a whole.
This means that in order to design an effective garden, you need to know exactly what type of flowers will attract hummingbirds.
Hacking this is the first step to contributing your quota to ecological balance.
So you see, your little backyard garden is kind of saving our ecosystem.
Your Garden and Hummingbirds What You Should Know
Now that you know why you need to design your garden to attract hummingbirds, here’s a few tips on how you can go about that.
Cultivate a mix of various plant types.
Hummingbirds are more attracted to gardens that offer plant variety i.e. a mix of herbs, shrubs and small trees.
Therefore, when designing your garden, make sure to take all of this into consideration.
Do your research.
It is not enough to make the decision to design a garden, you need all the information you can get to make it happen.
Before you start working on your garden, read up on hummingbirds and the ones native to your area.
Find out their migrating seasons and what plants bloom in that period.
If you have all this information, the next few steps will be a walk in the park for you.
Select native plants for your garden.
Make a list of plants/flowers native to your area pick the options that are well known to attract hummingbirds.
In your bid to design a garden that will draw hummingbirds, you do not want to cultivate plants that are not native to your area.
As their chance of survival will be little to none.
Work with what you have.
Do not for the sheer purpose of attracting hummingbirds cultivate plants that are not suited for your garden or community.
For example, Tartarian honeysuckles are known to be colorful and attractive to birds.
However they tend to grow wide and creep into neighboring lands.
They also tend to crowd your garden thus taking up space that could otherwise be used for native shrubs.
If do not have enough farmland to accommodate all these excesses, then you have absolutely no business cultivating those sorts of plants.
Choose plants with different blooming periods.
Because we need to provide food for the hummingbirds that we attract. It is necessary that we have flowers in bloom all through the hummingbird season.
Choosing plants that have different blooming periods will ensure that this is the case.
Choose bright colorful flowers.
Generally, hummingbirds are known to not have a sense of smell. This means that its other senses will have to make up for it.
For this reason, hummingbirds are attracted to flowers with bright colors (particularly variants of red and yellow).
Therefore, designing a garden to attract hummingbirds will involve selecting plants with bright flowers.
Choose tubular flowers.
These types of flowers are known to possess an abundance of nectar which is just what the hummingbirds need to survive.
Make sure your garden is well spaced.
While we want to plant as many flowers to attract more hummingbirds, remember that they also need enough space to hover and move from plant to plant.
Provide water. If you want the birds to keep coming back.
You may want to provide a water bath so that they can have a source of drinking and bathing water.
Best Flowers for Hummingbirds
It’s not enough to design the perfect garden, the right plants have to be cultivated so that all your hard work is not in vain.
Now while picking out flowers for your garden, make sure that they are:
Easy to find. Cultivating a garden should not be a herculean task.
You should not need to have your seeds specially delivered form across the Pacific.
Focus on plant species that you can easily get from the local gardening store as that saves you a lot of time and resources.
Easy to grow. While some of us have been gardening for several years, and know practically all the tricks in the book. Others are just on their first or second rodeo.
It is therefore necessary that after you’ve done your research, like we discussed earlier.
You pick out plants that are relatively easy to grow and do not require any special skills.
Full of nectar. There is no need trying to attract hummingbirds to your garden if you have no plans to feed them.
Plants whose flowers contain a lot of nectar are exactly what your hummingbirds to support their highly energetic lifestyle.
Native to your area. Native flowers are popular with other pollinators like spiders and insects, this means that even if your hummingbird’s plan does not work, your plants will not be at risk of dying.
Also, native plants have a greater chance of survival so you don’t have to worry about your plant wilting under slightly more/less than optimal weather conditions.
Having all this in mind, you can now go ahead to make the perfect selection of plants for your hummingbird garden.
There are five major plant groups that are widely known for attracting hummingbirds: Annuals, Perennials, Shrubs and flowering trees, and Vines.
These are plants that completes their entire life cycle (sowing, germinating, blooming, seed production and death) within a year.
Some annuals that are known to attract hummingbirds to your garden include: Flowering Tobacco, Fuschia, Jacobinia, Salvia Splendens etc.
Other ornamental perennials are grown as annuals as their blooming period occurs within the same year of sowing.
Plants like these which also attract hummingbirds include: Impatiens, Petunia, Wax begonia etc.
Perennial plants are known to live more than two years.
Some perennial flowers that attract hummingbirds include Bee balm, Columbine, Cardinal Flower, Salvia Azurea, Giant Hyssop etc.
Shrubs and Flowering Trees
If you really want to design a garden that hummingbirds will keep coming back to, you need to mix things up a little.
Some plants or flowering tree you may want to include in your hummingbird garden layout are: Azalea, Salvia Elegans, Mimosa, Cape Honeysuckle, Cigar plant, Flame Acanthus etc.
These are plants that have a trailing or climbing growth pattern.
They are sometimes commonly referred to as runners.
If designed right, vines will give your garden that extra touch of beauty.
Some vine options for your hummingbird garden are: Cypress vine, Morning glory, Carolina jessamine, Coral Honeysuckle etc.
So now that you have enough information about what to plant in your garden to attract hummingbirds, let talk a little more about Salvias (commonly called Sages) and why you should pay them a lot of attention.
Salvias and Hummingbirds
A Match Made in Heaven
Over 50 percent of Salvia species are native to the Americas which also happens to be the natural habitat of most hummingbirds.
Over hundreds of years, the hummingbirds and Salvias have developed a highly profitable symbiotic relationship:
The hummingbirds pollinate the salvias and they in turn provide food for them.
For this reason, Salvias have evolved to attract hummingbirds.
In addition to its sucrose rich nectar (which birds love), the bright red/pink flowers of most salvia species are pretty much a mating call to the hummingbirds.
Some of the more common Salvias that could be cultivated in your home garden to draw in the birds will be discussed in the next section of this post.
Salvia Elegans: Commonly known as the Pineapple Sage because of its characteristic pineapple scent.
The tubular flower is a perennial shrub that is native to Guatemala and Mexico.
Its bright red colors make it the perfect fit for your hummingbird garden.
In addition to making a beautiful garden, the pineapple sage is also edible.
And is used to extensively in local Mexican medicine to treat various ailments like anxiety and high blood pressure.
The Elegans blooms from autumn up until late spring.
Salvia Guaranitica: This species of the salvia is native to South America.
Its fragrant long and bright purple flowers are known to attract hummingbirds.
They are best cultivated in warm and wet soil. This particular sage plant starts to flower in the middle of summer and continues until winter time.
Salvia Clevelandii (Cleveland Sage): This evergreen shrub with its bright purple and white flowers is native to California.
Because of its fragrance, it is also referred to as the fragrant sage.
The Cleveland sage thrives in well drained soils so be careful to clog your garden soil with too much water especially during the summer time.
Salvia Madrensis: This is another native Mexican Salvia commonly called the Forsythe Sage.
Its bright yellow color is a great way to attract hummingbirds to your gardens.
Unlike the Clevelandii species, this plant loves to grow in warm wet areas.
This means that if you were to cultivate both plants in your garden, they would need to be adequately spaced from each other.
So that they can each get the treatment they require.
The thing with the madrensis though is that they are better suited for mountain regions and they require a lot of shade.
If you’re one of those who happens to live in the mountains, then this would be an awesome addition to your garden.
The Forsythe sage begins to bloom in late autumn and lasts up until winter.
Salvia Spathacea: The native California plant is also commonly referred to as the Pitcher Sage.
Its rose colored flowers have a light fruity fragrance for which it is usually cultivated.
This salvia species can survive long periods of drought and will do well in desert areas.
It grows best under shade so if you’re looking to grow it in your garden, you need to take that into consideration.
Salvia Greggii: Commonly called the Autumn Sage, this plant has flowers which range from red through orange all the way to white (depending on the region in which it is cultivated).
It is native to southern Texas and northern Mexico.
It is drought resistant and would thrive in varying soil types from moist to slightly rocky.
Although it is called the autumn sage, it start to bloom way before autumn (usually at the beginning of summer).
Salvia Microphylla: This sage is a wild plant that is known for its ability to easily hybridize.
It is also called the Blackcurrant Sage or Baby Sage.
It is native to Arizona and Mexico and it intensely bright red flowers are very fragrant and attractive to hummingbirds.
This plant is often described as low maintenance as it can survive in basically any type of soil (although it prefers extremes i.e. really dry or really moist).
Its major blooming periods are autumn and spring even though it blooms spontaneously all year round.
In addition to bringing hummingbirds to your garden, it is totally edible and can be added to tea for flavor or it can be taken on its own.
Salvia Regla: Also known as the Royal Sage, this bright red flower will light up any garden.
It is native to Texas and Mexico.
This flower blooms anytime between late summer and early which is perfect for hummingbirds which will be migrating from the tropics at about the same time (talk about a match made in heaven).
Salvia Leucantha: The Mexican Bush Sage is known for its distinctive purple and white powdery flowers.
It is native to eastern Mexico and does best in warm, wet soils.
If you live in a chilly region, then this plant is probably the one for your garden.
The flowers of the bush sage start to appear around spring and last up until late summer.
At this point in this point, we’ve discussed all you need to know about Salvias for hummingbirds and your garden.
With knowledge of the blooming periods, optimal soil type and weather condition for the different species, you can design the perfect garden so that you have flowers in bloom all year round.
Now go into the world and design and cultivate the garden of your dreams.