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Plant Spotlight! Hummingbird Sage

Our area is home to multiple species of plants in the genus Salvia, the sages. But perhaps none is as adaptable and wide-ranging in its uses for gardening and restoration as Hummingbird sage (Salvia spathacea). Known as “diosita” or “salvia de chuparosa " in Spanish, and “pakh” in the local Ventureño Chumash language, this plant is unique amongst the sages for being the only one that is perennial but doesn't grow into a shrub. Instead, it grows like a soft, herby, spreading plant that creeps along through underground stems called “rhizomes”, similar to ferns, irises or ginger. In nature, its preferred habitats are interior oak and riparian woodlands that are either slightly moist year-round, or shaded in the summer, such as under oak trees. Here in the summer dry shade, its bright fuchsia to crimson colored tube-shaped flowers are perfect attractants for its namesake pollinator of hummingbirds.

Its adaptability makes it great for gardens in many situations. In low-lying or moist spots it can be grown in full sun, or planted in full shade and kept dry during the summer. It is mostly evergreen, and at worst is self-pruning by dropping its old leaves in fall before rains arrive causing a new flush of green growth. Due to their smaller nature, they do amazingly well in pots and containers so long as they are not allowed to dry out completely. Currently, we have this plant growing at the yepunash and ‘onchoshi (previously named) MNR where they are growing well, and hopefully more will be planted throughout Oxnard. Certainly, the hummingbirds will be thankful.

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