Watching a hummingbird work its way around a Mexican sage in
full bloom is one of the finest pleasures of summer here in California. Hummers are methodical about their feasting,
visiting each flower along the stalk in strict order. The deep blue-purple flowers attract them, and the nearly
year-round bloom keeps them coming back for more.
A neighbor planted three Mexican
sages in a group and dozens of hummingbirds darted in and out all day. I recommend planting them together like this
if you’ve got room. They can grow two
to three feet tall and just as wide. It
is best to prune them harshly at Christmas or whenever you see the first of the
new growth emerging. There’s no special
trick to it; just cut all of last year’s growth down to the ground. If you live very close to the coast, the
plant could still be in bloom at pruning time and you may not be able to bring
yourself to cut down a wintertime or early spring food source for the hummingbirds. The plant will fare just as well if you
prune selectively, leaving the most choice blossoms on the plant while cutting
the older growth to the ground.
For a bright, colorful contrast,
try California fuchsia, another drought-tolerant shrub that attracts
hummingbirds with its red, trumpet-shaped flowers. The foliage is a light green-gray that pairs well with Mexican
sage even when the plants are not in bloom. California fuchsia can get a bit leggy, so save it for hillsides and
informal gardens. Like Mexican sage, it
blooms well into late summer and fall, and will continue to flower in winter in
the mildest climates.