Plant tropical sage for butterflies

by Pat Cooke, UF/IFAS Hernando County Master Gardener

Photography by Carl E. Lewis

If you want to bring butterflies and hummingbirds to your garden, there are a number of plants you can add to your landscape. But one that requires the least attention is Tropical Sage, Salvia coccina. It is in the same family as the annual salvias that are so popular for their intense color. But annual salvia only lasts for one season. Tropical sage is a Florida native perennial. Once established, it requires little care, is drought tolerant, and is a magnet for a variety of nectar loving wildlife.

As a bonus, tropical sage reseeds readily. Plant a few of these in the back of the flower border. They can grow to four feet, and the showy flower stems are borne high above the foliage. No pruning shears are required to trim these easy-care, long-lived butterfly plants. Simply snap off any woody stems. Your tropical sage will put out new growth below that spot.

To get started with Tropical Sage, check with local native plant or Master Gardener nurseries. After that, if you want to collect the seed, you can. I let the spent blossoms dry out on the plant and just drop their seeds to the garden. Many of them will germinate, and you will have “volunteers” to move to a new location or share with your friends and neighbors. Butterflies share flowers, but most hummingbirds are territorial. A dominant one will chase off any rivals for the nectar in your garden. Having the plants available over a wider area in your neighborhood will allow more of these amazing creatures to coexist.

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