Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Plant of the Week: Hummingbird Sage

Salvia spathacea is the plant for those shady gardeners with sun denial.  While Hummingbird Sage indeed goes home to the Sage family for the holidays, it uncommonly thrives in part sun/shade conditions while its brothers and sisters shake their heads and bask in the hottest of conditions.
While many of our native Salvia's foliage have a musky scent, Salvia spathacea exudes a sweet, pineapple frangrance to delight the senses.  As the name suggests, when it's magenta flowers appear on twisting, curving flower stalks the Hummingbirds' chirp is never far off and buzzy fly-bys become frequent occurrences. 
What I enjoy about this plant is that I can show it to people who think California natives are gray and scraggly.  It would look equally at home under oak trees as it would in a white picket fenced cottage garden!

Soil:  well-drained but medium clay
Sun:  part sun to part shade.  I find morning sun and afternoon shade works best.
Plant:  Any time of year, really.  They grow fast from 4" pots. 
Buy it:  Annie's is out of stock for mail order, but they may have some at the nursery.  Yerba Buena has a few.  Oddly enough, California Flora Nursery carries the 'Las Pilitas' variety while Las Pilitas Nursery carries a few different varieties, along with its signature one.
Good for:  a shot of color when you're in a shady disposition (mix it with Douglas Iris!), cottage gardens, habitat gardens,  culinary or sensory gardens, under water intolerant trees, or trailing out of a brightly colored container.


  1. I agree, a great plant! My only problem has been that they get some fungus, but one can cut off those stems and leaves.

    And, as another blogger said, the hummers stay so long to drink, you know there's some good stuff here!

  2. There must be some good stuff to drink, sounds like the smell is delicious.

  3. I've had some powdery mildew spots on some of mine, too. They're so worth it though!
    And Susie- they do smell amazing- much like your pineapple sage that's blooming in your garden.