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Description

The Hummingbird sage is a small ground hugging perennial typically growing 12-18 in. tall and can form small groups and spread many feet across. Large textured leaves grow 4-6 in. long; vigorous spikes with colorful deep magenta-red flowers occur in early spring.

Hummingbird sage is native to foothill regions from Orange County to the Bay Area. It frequently grows as an understory plant to native oaks and on grassy slopes in the southern oak woodland plant community. It develops strong rhizomes below ground that enables it to survive summer drought. Leaves and stems die back under drought stress. This species is a unique flowering and foliage accent plant that can be used along natural borders, under trees and in native plant gardens.

Water Needs

Hummingbird sage grows best in sunny to semi-shaded locations on well drained soils and with moderate amounts of water during spring and low amounts of supplemental water during summer. The chart shown below provides a recommended baseline guide to the monthly irrigation schedule and volume of supplemental water needed to maintain healthy growth throughout the average year. It should be noted there are several months indicated by an asterisk (*) when winter rains can provide sufficient moisture and irrigation is not needed. The high and low range of moisture indicates it can grow with varying amounts of water; it is desirable to have leaf litter and the top layer of soil beneath the stems to dry out between irrigation applications.

Irrigation Schedule and Graph

Low Water Use Plants

Irrigation Schedule 1

  Jan* Feb* Mar* Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov* Dec*
Runs per Month 0x to 2x 0x to 2x 0x to 2x 1x 1x 1x 1x 1x 1x 1x 0x to 2x 0x to 2x
Inches per Run 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1"
 
Inches per Month 0" to 2" 0" to 2" 0" to 2" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 0" to 2" 0" to 2"

Range of supplemental summer water: 7"
Range of supplemental winter water: 0"-10"

 
0"-2"
0"-2"
0"-2"
1"
1"
1"
1"
1"
1"
1"
0"-2"
0"-2"
  Jan* Feb* Mar* Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov* Dec*
For more information on how to use this Irrigation Schedule and Graph, click here.

Plant Properties

Plant Type: Perennial, Native
Foliage Character: Evergreen, Drought deciduous
Habit: Clumping
Growth Rate: Moderate
Height: 12 in. - 18 in.
Width: 12 in. - 18 in.
Water Needs: Low 1
Foliage Color: Medium green
Flower Color: Magenta
Flower Season: Spring
Soil Adaptations: Well-draining soil, Deep soil
Exposure Adaptations: Morning sun, Moderate shade, Drought, Partial sun
Function: Wildlife value, Raised planters, Hummingbird plant, Flowering accent plant, Borders, Attracts butterflies, Small spaces

Maintenance

After spring / early summer flowering, can be headed back by removing as much of the new-ish growth as desired (1). Doing so immediately after the first bloom encourages subsequent blooms, but sacrifices the development of seeds for wildlife to eat (S). Remove dead seed heads in the Fall (October), but save deeper pruning for Spring maintenance (1). Consider leaving some of the pruned dry seed heads in the garden for food, nesting material, and habitat for birds and other critters you want around (S). Spent flower stalks can also be removed any time during the season (7). Regularly pinch back young plants to encourage dense growth (7). During the first season in the ground (or if still in the pot), consider also pinching out emerging flower stalks / buds. This will create a bushier plant and keep the plant focusing energy on growth instead of on a single huge flower cluster in the first year. Sometimes young plants seem to put all their resources into flowering the first year, then die quickly once the summer heats up. Pinching out buds can help avoid this (S). Older plants that look like they need refreshing can be cut back hard into older wood in November. Expect new growth to emerge within a few weeks (1). Can be carefully divided to propagate in the Fall (2). Plants will grow in significant shade, but are often impacted by unsightly powdery mildew if growing in these conditions. It is hard to fight, so either plan to accept its presence seasonally, or plant in more sun. If growing in shade, avoiding overhead watering (using drip irrigation instead) can help discourage powdery mildew, which thrives in moist conditions. If you find that you have planted your Hummingbird Sage plants in too much shade and they are suffering from too much powdery mildew, they are usually relatively easily to transplant to sunnier conditions. This is best done in fall or very early spring (S).

References

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