Salvias are a hotspot for migrating hummingbirds – Orange County Register

Salvias are a hotspot for migrating hummingbirds – Orange County Register

Female hummingbird feeding from sagebrush in Silverado Canyon.

Many migratory hummingbirds begin their fall journey south to their wintering grounds. With their wings flapping up to 80 times per second, some species, like the red-bellied hummingbird, travel thousands of miles from Alaska to southern Mexico.

Because these little birds need to eat twice their weight in insects and nectar each day, they rely on a series of rest stops to refuel along the way.

Nectar feeders can provide a valuable energy drink to these drones over long distances, but only if properly maintained.

Feeders should be cleaned and renewed every few days depending on the temperature. When this is not the case, the bacteria and fungi that develop can be fatal to birds.

There’s a simpler way to help: plant blooming salvia in the fall.

Many species of salvia plants bloom in the fall and persist for much of the season, says Patrick Fessler, a bird and nursery professional from Green Thumb in Lake Forest.

Salvia, commonly known as Salvia, is the largest genus of plants in the mint family, with about 700-900 species of shrubs, perennials and annuals.

“They are my favorite plants because they attract hummingbirds and butterflies,” Fessler says.

Salvias can have bright, eye-catching flower spikes in pink, crimson, and purple, or subtle tones of yellow and white. Some varieties have two-color flowers such as Hot Lips in red and white. Tubular flowers can vary in shape. The dark purple bloom on Amistad salvia allows the hummingbird to reach its head deep inside.

“There are many types of salvia to choose from,” says Fessler. “There are low-growing and tall plants. You should be able to find a suitable plant in your garden.

Native sage plants are good sources of nectar. They are drought tolerant and take full sun. Many species have fragrant foliage.

Salvia plants prefer sunny locations with well-drained soil. Water soaks well, but avoid spraying the foliage, Fessler says.

“Most salvias are perennials,” he says. “Some like the coral nymph and the hummingbird sage are planting like crazy.”

Leaving seed heads on salvia plants, along with black-eyed Susans, coneflowers and ornamental grasses at the end of the flowering cycle, will provide food for seed-eating birds this winter.

Jennifer J. Mayer is a freelance writer from Mission Viejo. Write to her at jjthe or visit her blog at

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