This beautiful photo was taken by Melissa Hahn in her Wading River garden this year.
Many of your know from visits to the sanctuary, or from my website lihummer.org or this blog that I'm a big fan of "tender" salvias (salvias that are usually sold on Long Island as "annuals"). Many are excellent nectar sources for hummingbirds, they are mostly very deer-resistant, and many are very pretty and easy to grow.
The 2 "big guns", sure-fire hummer magnets both loaded with nectar, are rosebay salvia S. involucrata, and anise Salvia S. There are also medium guns, such as S van Houttei, and some good hybrids (e.g. "Waverly", "Wendy's Wish", "Silke's Dream", "Purple Majesty). I will write more about these soon, but today I want to talk a bit about some of the smaller guns, such as S. chiapensis, S. greggii, ,S. miniata, S. elegans, S. leucantha, S buchananii, S. darcyi, S. blepharophylla, S. discolor, S. uliginosa, and S. coccinea. Well, I've tried them all, and they all get used, but for now let's just focus on the first 2 and last 2 in this formidable list (which is yet a tiny fraction of the 900 species of Salvia).
S. chiapensis has small purple flowers and tends to flop but is quite hummer-attractive. It is not hardy at all and so I get new plants every year. These are usually blooming already but then it goes quiet. It then reblooms in august for the main hummer activity.
There are various cultivars of autumn sage, S. greggii. The one I like best is "Cherry Queen" (apparently a hybrid with S. blepharophylla), because it's bright red, and can be hardy on Long Island. I have one plant that has survived many years and is now almost a bush; it flowers already in may and keeps going till frost. But this year I had half a dozen plants survive from last year - good drainage is more essential than shelter from cold wind. I've already posted videos of hummers at "Cherry Queen".
S. coccinea (Texas sage) comes in 3 colors, red, pink and white. It is tender but self seeds often. Hummers do not like it as much as the others on my list, but it's very pretty - see the photo above, by Melissa Hahn.
S. uliginosa (Bog Sage) has tall delicate-looking (but tough) spires of beautiful sky-blue flowers. It will survive a mild winter. While it's also much less visited than the big guns, or even Cherry Queen, some hummers seem to like it, as shown in the following recent video. Only at the very end does this hummer switch to Cherry Queen.