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Fall Planting 8 Best-of-Class Sages that Are Easy to Grow

Fall Planting 8 Best-of-Class Sages that Are Easy to Grow

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Synopsis: "Best of Class" is the title that Flowers by the Sea bestows on plants we honor for being winners in many ways. They are lovely, abundant bloomers and reliable repeat performers that are useful in many landscapes, including low-water gardens designed to have a cottage, woodland or desert look. In the case of the sages (Salvia spp.) described here, all are easy to grow because they thrive with little fuss. Many are heat tolerant and drought resistant.

"Best of Class" is the title that Flowers by the Sea bestows on plants we honor for being winners in many ways. They are lovely, abundant bloomers and reliable repeat performers that are useful in many landscapes, including low-water gardens designed to have a cottage, woodland or desert look.

In the case of the sages (Salvia spp.) described here, all are easy to grow because they thrive with little fuss. This makes them just-right choices for anyone who is planting Salvias for the first time. Their colors include true blues, berry reds, purples and an impossibly luminous white. Many are heat tolerant and drought resistant.

Season for New Beginnings
Although fall is the season for raking colorful piles of autumn leaves and for harvesting the vegetable garden, it is also a time for new beginnings.

Most perennial and shrubby sages thrive if planted in autumn. When the days are cool yet the ground is warm, perennials and shrubs produce less foliage and concentrate on root growth. That gives fall-planted sages an advantage in the spring when cool ground and warm air reverse the process, causing plants to focus their resources on growing new shoots.

Here come eight best-of-class sages for fall planting. We think they are beauties, but deer pass them by, so you don't have to worry about munched foliage. Please note that the references to height concern how tall the plants are at maturity. If a range is given, the second figure refers to height when the plant is in bloom.

Diane's Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii 'Diane') Zones 6 to 9.

  • Two-tone purple flowers bloom spring to fall
  • Silvery foliage and calyxes
  • 18 to 24 inches tall; 24 inches wide
  • Full sun to partial shade
  • Attracts hummingbirds

Heat tolerant and drought resistant, this petite Autumn Sage is pretty and practical in dry gardens and native plant landscapes. Use it as a path edging, at the front of a mixed border or in containers.

Elk Pomegranate Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii ''Elk Pomegranate') Zones 7 to 9.

  • Raspberry-colored flowers bloom spring to fall
  • Kelly green foliage with green and burgundy calyxes
  • 24 inches tall and wide
  • Full sun to partial shade
  • Attracts butterflies, honeybees and hummingbirds

Elk Pomegranate makes a colorful groundcover in a dry or native garden due to its heat and drought tolerance. Yet it also does well with average watering based on local needs. Try it in a cottage garden filled with blues, purples and rosy colors, including pink.

Santa Barbara Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha 'Santa Barbara') Zones 8 to 11.

  • Purple, fuzzy flowers bloom summer into fall
  • Gray-green, fuzzy foliage
  • 24 inches tall; 48 inches wide
  • Full sun
  • Attracts butterflies, honeybees and hummingbirds

Fragrance is one of the gifts this colorful perennial adds to the garden. Heat and drought tolerant, it works well in dry gardens. Use it in borders, container plantings and as edging for a sunny path.

Glimmering White Mountain Sage (Salvia microphylla 'Heatwave Glimmer') Zones 7 to 9.

  • Cream-colored flowers with a blush of pink bloom spring to fall
  • Veined, fragrant, green leaves with dark stems and calyxes
  • 24 inches tall and wide
  • Full sun to partial shade
  • Attracts butterflies, honeybees and hummingbirds

Here's another southwestern beauty known for heat and drought tolerance. Use it for groundcover, edging, border or container planting.

Mount Olympus Sage (Salvia ringens) Zones 6 to 9.

  • Deep violet flowers with pronounced white beelines bloom during summer
  • Dark gray-green basal foliage with fern-like look
  • 12 to 48 inches tall; 24 inches wide
  • Full sun

This cold-hardy sage needs regular watering while becoming established, but can work well in dry gardens. Winter mulch it in Zone 6.

Celestial Blue Sage (Salvia x 'Celestial Blue') Zones 7 to 11.

  • Royal blue flowers bloom in summer
  • Bright green foliage and purple bracts
  • 60 inches tall and wide
  • Full sun
  • Attracts butterflies, honeybees and hummingbirds

Aside from being heat and drought tolerant, this fragrant, colorful sage grows magnificently wide and tall. It makes a fine groundcover, background planting or screen and is perfect for native and dry gardens.

Mulberry Jam Roseleaf Sage (Salvia x 'Mulberry Jam') Zones 7 to 9.

  • Hot pink, fuzzy flowers bloom summer to fall
  • Small, glossy green leaves with purple stems and calyxes
  • 48 to 60 inches tall; 24 inches wide
  • Full sun
  • Attracts hummingbirds

This sage screams "Add me to a bouquet!" It's the contrast of the dark purple stems and calyxes against the hot, mulberry pink blossoms that make it perfect for cut flowers. In the garden, its vertical look and height when in bloom make it a standout accent.

Bog Sage (Salvia uliginosa) Zones 6 to 10.

  • Deep, sky-blue flowers with white beelines bloom summer to fall
  • Foliage can range from light to dark green
  • 40 to 48 inches tall; 40 inches wide
  • Full sun to partial shade
  • Attracts butterflies, honeybees and hummingbirds

Bog Sage is, perhaps, one of the most forgiving plants we grow. It can do well in full sun, but prefers the partial shade of a woodland garden. It's also a water lover, but we've heard from Denver Botanic Gardens in high, dry Colorado, that it does beautifully with little supplemental watering. Due to its large size, it makes a fine background planting or screen.

Next in Our Fall Planting Series
If the winter climate is mild where you live, you may be particularly interested in the next article we plan to post in our fall planting series. It will focus on winter bloomers from Mexico that are ideal for patio planting.

Meanwhile, if you have questions about fall planting, we have plenty of information to share. Please feel free to contact us anytime. We're never far from a telephone -- they even ring in our greenhouses -- and we pride ourselves on being swift to answer email.