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Hummingbird Sage
Salvia spathacea
About Hummingbird Sage (Salvia spathacea) Nurseries Show All Photos Hummingbird sage is a herbaceous plant species with woody bases and a somewhat sprawling habit with upright flowering stems. Its a member of the large Salvia or sage genus in Lamiaceae, or the mint family. This fruity scented Salvia blooms in March to May with typically dark rose-lilac colored flowers. It is native to southern and central California found growing from sea level to 2,000 feet and is cultivated in gardens for its attractive flowering spikes and pleasant scent. It grows in the California coast ranges from the Sacramento Valley south to coastal Orange county in the the south. A common species that grows on shady slopes in oak woodland, chaparral, and coastal sage scrub. It is commonly found in oak woodlands not far from the Pacific Ocean. It is an evergreen perennial with herbaceous flowering stems from a woody base, growing from 0.3 to 1.5 meters (1-3 feet) tall and spreading by rhizomes. When not flowering, plants grow less than.5 meter (4 to 12 inches) tall forming clumps of sprawling foliage. Unlike most sages, the flowering stems are produced singularly from each plant and only rarely branch. It spreads by rhizomes and can form colonies up to 1.3 meters in diameter. Like many species in the mint family it has very pronounced square stems, and the entire plant is covered with wavy glandular hairs. Its bright green leaves are 8-20 centimeter long, and highly aromatic when crushed or touched. They are oblong to almost arrowhead-shaped at the base, and can be puckered with wrinkles, and have rounded teeth at the leaf edges. Like the rest of the plant, they are covered with hairs which make the plant soft to the touch. The hairs tend to be denser on the bottom surface of the leaves. The dark red flowers are produced in clustered whorled inflorescence 15-30 centimeters long and 6 centimeters in diameter on spike-like stems with each node on the top half of the stem having flowers.

Plant Hummingbird Sage in dry shaded or partly shaded areas. It seems to do best in full shade, under oak trees and other dense foliage. Hummingbird Sage is very drought tolerant, and after the first year, can usually make it through the summer without any supplementary water, though it tends to go semi-deciduous without occasional irrigation. If you want it to be green year round, it'll tolerate summer water once or twice a month. There are several cultivars including 'Powerline Pink', 'Sunrise', and 'Topanga'.
Plant Description
Plant Type
Perennial herb

Max. Height
1 - 3 ft (0.3 - 0.9 m)

Max. Width
3 ft (0.9 m)



Growth Rate


Leaves are oblong to almost arrowhead-shaped at the base, and can be puckered with wrinkles, with rounded teeth at the leaf edges.

Flower Color
Pink, Red

Flowering Season
Spring, Summer, Winter

Native Status

Natural Setting
Site Type
Dry shady areas, primarily near the coast. It occurs in a variety of habitats. Nearest the coast it may be found in coastal strand or chaparral. Inland and slightly higher in elevation it occurs in oak woodland and other woodland types.

Full Shade, Part Shade

Elevation ?
2' - 3927'

Annual Precip. ?
7.6" - 35.1"

Summer Precip. ?
0.14" - 0.60"

Coldest Month ?
40.2° F - 55.0° F

Hottest Month ?
63.0° F - 78.5° F

Humidity ?
0.47 vpd - 26.03 vpd

Soil Description
Tolerates a variety of soils

Soil PH
5.0 - 7.0


Cold Tolerance(° F)
Tolerates cold to 0° F

Sunset Zones ?
5, 7, 8, 9, 14*, 15*, 16*, 17*, 18, 19*, 20*, 21*, 22*, 23*, 24*

Companion Plants
It is often found under trees or large shrubs such as Coast Live Oak (Quercus agrifolia), Bay Laurel (Umbellularia californica) or Madrone (Arbutus menziesii). Companion understory plants include California Peony (Paeonia californica), Yerba Buena (Clinopodium douglasii), Ocean Spray (Holodiscus discolor), Snowberry (Symphoricarpos mollis, Miners Lettuce (Claytonia perfiolata), and Canyon Sunflower (Venegasia carpesioides).

Wildlife Attracted
Hummingbirds, bees and butterflies

Landscaping Information
Ease of Care
Very Easy

Water Requirement ?
Very Low
Extremely Low
Very Low
Moderate - High

Moderately Popular

Max. Summer Water ?
No Summer Water
Keep moist

Deep Organic

Can be deadheaded and lightly pruned in summer if a neater appearance is desired.

Propagation ?
Spreads by rhizomes.  For propagating by seed: No treatment; sow outdoors in early fall. Germination may be poor if diurnal fluctuation insufficient; see also alternative treatments for S. mellifera.

Common uses
Groundcovers, Deer Resistant, Hummingbird Gardens, Bird Gardens, Butterfly Gardens, Bee Gardens

Nursery Availability
Commonly Available

Other Names
Common Names
Crimson Sage

Sources include: Wikipedia. All text shown in the "About" section of these pages is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. Plant observation data provided by the participants of the California Consortia of Herbaria, Sunset information provided by Jepson Flora Project. Propogation from seed information provided by the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden from "Seed Propagation of Native California Plants" by Dara E. Emery. Sources of plant photos include CalPhotos, Wikimedia Commons, and independent plant photographers who have agreed to share their images with Calscape. Other general sources of information include Calflora, CNPS Manual of Vegetation Online, Jepson Flora Project, Las Pilitas, Theodore Payne, Tree of Life, The Xerces Society, and information provided by CNPS volunteer editors, with special thanks to Don Rideout. Climate data used in creation of plant range maps is from PRISM Climate Group, Oregon State University, using 30 year (1981-2010) annual "normals" at an 800 meter spatial resolution.

Links:   Jepson eFlora Taxon Page  CalPhotos  Wikipedia  Calflora

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