Our June plant of the month comes from our own backyard. It’s found in the wild from the Sacramento Valley to Orange County and along the Central and Southern California Coast up to about 2,000 feet in elevation. Salvia Spathacea, also known as Hummingbird or Pitcher Sage grows to about 3 feet tall and sends out large, very fragrant, pink flowers that Hummingbirds use as a food source. It’s a great choice for shady places under tree canopies, especially oaks, and is unparticular about soil. Plant Hummingbird Sage in dry shade where it has room to fill in by way of underground runners, or rhizomes. Hummingbird Sage will form colonies up to several feet in diameter and blooms from Winter to late spring and early summer. Mass plantings near patios or along borders afford great opportunities for hummingbird viewing while infusing the air with a spicy, floral fragrance. Encountering these plants in the wild is an intoxicating experience. Our conservation specialist has happened upon Hummingbird sage on forays in the Los Padres National Forest and can attest to being pleasantly surprised to smell the sweet, pungent, pineapple-like fragrance of this plant in the wild.
Since Hummingbird Sage is a California Native, it needs almost no water during the summer and wants to be left alone. It works well as a woodland specimen. Leave it untended, watch the hummingbirds feed, and catch a whiff of wild California.