Mexican Sage for Cool-Season Butterflies and Hummingbirds

As cooler weather approaches, butterflies and hummingbirds are making their way south for the winter. Help them along the way

As cooler weather approaches, butterflies and hummingbirds are making their way south for the winter. Help them along the way or provide great nectar once they reach their southern destinations by adding Mexican Sage to your butterfly garden this fall.

Mexican Sage (Salvia leucantha) is native to Mexico and South America, and does well in gardens in warmer areas. Though it’s not frost-hardy, it can be covered to protect it from occasional cold nights in zones 9 – 11, and will bloom from late fall to early summer. In zone 8, grow it for the great fall blooms that last until the first cold snap kills it to the ground; it will return the following year.

The silvery foliage of this plant is just as attractive as the fuzzy purple and white blooms, but it’s these blooms that draw butterflies and hummingbirds. In my Florida garden, only a few hummingbirds visit each year, but this is one of only three plants I’ve ever seen them feed on. Like other salvias, the blooms grow on a long stalk; trim back the stalk after flowering to encourage new flushes of blooms throughout the season.

Most people who grow Mexican Sage note that it requires dry winters; too much water during cooler weather may cause rot. When it does well, though, it simply thrives; keep it pruned to stay within the boundaries of your garden. It does not self-seed readily, so it will not spread where you don’t want it. Give it full to part sun and enough space to grow to about 3 feet tall once it starts blooming, and watch the butterflies and hummingbirds arrive!

Jill Staake
Jill lives in Tampa, Florida, and writes about gardening, butterflies, outdoor projects and birding. When she's not gardening, you'll find her reading, traveling and happily digging her toes into the sand on the beach.