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Blazing Red Sages for Sun and Partial Shade

Jun 16, 2013

Blazing Red Sages for Sun and Partial Shade

Warm colors tend to take center stage in a landscape as well as brightening the shade. They seem to step forward and say, 'Look at me.' So, if you want to make shady front-yard landscaping pop out, it's easy to accomplish with with reds, pinks and oranges.

Yet warm colors generally aren't associated with shady sage (Salvia) gardens, because there are far more shade-tolerant sages in the blue to purple range. So we decided to poke around our catalog and pull together some hot choices that thrive in partial shade. Settings with partial shade are ones offering less than six hours a day of direct sunlight.

To make your life and landscaping even easier, you may also want to limit your choice of plants to one color. Massing plants by a single flower color is a simple yet compelling way to create drama in the garden. We're suggesting that you go big and bold with red.

Here are two tall Salvias for background planting and two groups of shorter ones to combine with them or to grow on their own for dramatic, monochromatic borders, foundation plantings or groundcover. All are attractive to honeybees, hummingbirds and butterflies.

Brilliant Red Backups
The foliage of these two tall Salvias couldn't be more different. Bolivian Sage has thin, bright green leaves, while Violet Calyx Sage has leaves that are dark green on the topside with a purple sheen and purple veins. On the bottom, its leaves are purple with white veins.

Both form an attractive background planting for other, shorter red Salvias. The flowers of Bolivian Sage are particularly dramatic due to the long red anthers extending out of each blossom's corolla. It is this characteristic that gives Bolivian Sage its scientific synonym Salvia exserta, meaning extending outward.

Both plants grow best in rich, well-drained soil. Violet Calyx is a water lover, but can get by on regular watering, which is all that Bolivian Sage requires. The definition of 'regular' varies dependent on local humidity. What may be too little water in one area may be too much in another.

Bolivian Sage (Salvia praeclara; aka S. exserta) Zones 9 to 11.

  • Deep red flowers, long red anthers, green calyxes
  • Blooms spring to fall
  • 96 inches tall, 48 inches wide

Violet Calyx Sage (Salvia ionocalyx) Zones 9 to 11.

  • Crimson red with lavender beelines and gold-green calyxes
  • Blooms autumn to winter
  • 48 to 60 inches tall, 60 inches wide

Handsome Eyelash Sages
The foliage of all Salvia blepharophylla have long, graceful eyelash-like hairs on the margins of their mid-green leaves. The greatest difference between the three species listed here is the variations in their reds. While these reds are similar enough to create a single color statement, they are different enough to add a bit of mystery to the display. All do best in rich, well-drained soil and with regular watering.

Eyelash Sage (Salvia blepharophylla 'Old Form') Zones 7 to 9.

  • Bright red with reddish-green calyxes
  • Blooms summer to fall
  • 24 to 36 inches tall, 24 inches wide

Painted Lady Eyelash Sage (Salvia blepharophylla 'Painted Lady') Zones 7 to 9.

  • Orange-red with reddish-green calyxes
  • Blooms summer to fall
  • 24 to 36 inches tall, 24 inches wide

Diablo Eyelash Sage (Salvia blepharophylla 'Diablo') Zones 7 to 9.

  • Deep red flowers with yellow anthers, dark calyxes
  • Blooms summer to fall
  • 24 to 36 inches tall, 24 inches wide

Terrific Tropical Sage
Although also commonly known as Scarlet Sage, Tropical Sage comes in a variety of colors. However, we're focusing on two of our favorite scarlet varieties here. Both would look terrific paired with Bolivian Sage as a backdrop. Whereas both have heart-shaped leaves, Forest Fire's foliage is Kelly green and Summer Jewel Red's leaves are dark green. These are easy plants to grow, but remember to give them regular water and rich, well-drained soil.

Forest Fire Tropical Sage (Salvia coccinea 'Forest Fire') Zones 9 to 11.

  • Bright red flowers with black calyxes
  • Blooms spring to fall
  • 24 to 36 inches tall, 24 inches wide

Summer Jewel Red Tropical Sage (Salvia coccinea 'Summer Jewel Red') Zones 9 to 11.

  • Bright red
  • Blooms summer to fall
  • 24 to 36 inches tall, 24 inches wide

Brainstorms in the Garden
If you need more information about any of these blazing reds or any other plants we sell, please write or give us a call. We're blazing with bright ideas to help you brainstorm about Salvias and companion plants to help you bring beauty and tiny wildlife to your garden.


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Ask Mr Sage is one of the most popular categories in our Everything Salvias blog. Here are a few of the latest posts:
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