Hummingbird Sage (Salvia spathacea): A Flower Kisser’s Favorite

Updated: May 26


Hummingbird Sage (Salvia spathacea) is a favorite of hummingbirds or “flower kissers” as the Portuguese refer to them. This California native, which is also popular with bees and butterflies are at their showiest in spring. And now is a great time to enjoy this fragrant perennial.

S. spathacea, also known as Pitcher Sage, is a member of the mint family, Lamiaceae. A fruity-scented sage with rose-lilac colored flowers, it blooms from March to May and is a favorite with gardeners. It can be found in the California Coast Ranges from the Sacramento Valley south to coastal Orange County. It commonly grows 1-3 feet tall in oak woodlands not far from the Pacific Ocean.

S. spathacea was first introduced into cultivation in the early twentieth century by Thomas Payne, a British horticulturalist who was committed to preserving California's native flora. Payne's 1941 seed catalog describes Hummingbird Sage as “a robust growing plant with large handsome leaves and spikes of red flowers.” Today, it is still a favorite landscape plant. It spreads slowly by rhizomes and forms a colony of gently mounded foliage.

CULINARY AND MEDICINAL PROPERTIES

The leaves of Hummingbird Sage can be used to make tea, either hot or cold. The plant is lao reported to have decongestant, antimicrobial properties, and may be good for sore throats. Here’s an easy recipe to make tea:

Hummingbird Sage Tea

-1 leaf of hummingbird sage, about 3-4 inches.

Tear/cut the leaf and place the pieces in a cup or heat-proof container. Pour very hot (just below boiling) water over the leaves, strain (if needed) and your hot tea is ready!

HOW DOES YOUR HUMMINGBIRD GARDEN GROW?

Hummingbird Sage is perfect for rock gardens, borders, or anywhere you want to attract hummingbirds and other pollinators.

As most lovers of Hummingbird Sage know, this hearty perennial doesn't require much maintenance, but you can prune back to new growth in late winter or early spring. Year-round pinching or light pruning helps to keep it looking neat and tidy.

You can attract even more hummingbirds by planting other species such as coral bells (Heuchera spp), fuchsia flowering gooseberry (ribes speciosum), Western Columbine (Aquilegia Formosa), snowberry (Symphoricarpos mollis), Sticky Yellow Monkey Flower (Mimulus aurantiacus), or other sages like Black Sage (Salvia mellifera) to name a few.

References

1. https://www.hummingbirdsformom.com/hummingbirds/other-names-for-hummingbirds/

2. https://calscape.org/Salvia-spathacea-(Hummingbird-Sage)

3. https://www.fbts.com/a-gardeners-guide-to-hummingbird-sage.htmll A Gardener’s Guide to Hummingbird Sage. March 4, 2019

4. https://ifnaturecouldtalk.com/medicinal-and-edible-california-natives

5. https://www.laspilitas.com/garden/hummingbird.html

6. http://mother-natures-backyard.blogspot.com/2012/06/making-tea-from-california-native-mint.html

7. https://www.cnps.org/gardening/hummingbird-gardening-5098


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Sutro Stewards is a project of the San Francisco Parks Alliance, a 501(c)3 California nonprofit public benefit corporation.