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Mexican Natives

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Mexican Natives

Mexico is a land of almost unimaginable plant diversity, including the highest concentration of native sages (Salvia spp.) in the world. It is home to nearly a third of the approximately 900 Salvia species worldwide.

The rich biodiversity of Mexico is due, in part, to its many types of climates from the deserts of Northern Mexico and Baja to the mountainous cloud forests at its southern boundary with Guatemala.

Salvia is a member of the mint family (Lamiaceae). Although Lamiaceae is only the eighth largest plant family in Mexico, Salvia is one of the country's largest genuses. It is a genus with species fit for many climates, which is exactly what Mexico has. Consequently, Mexican sages grow beautifully in many parts of America. Some are even cold hardy to USDA Zone 5.

One factor that causes Mexico's climate to vary so much despite its closeness to the equator is the country's up-and-down geography; it is a land of many mountains and numerous changes in elevation. Some peaks -- such as the volcano Pico de Orizaba near the port of Veracruz in southeastern Mexico -- are topped with snow and glaciers year round even when their lower slopes are hot in summer.

Mexican native species range from drought-tolerant sages that grow best if given little water and lots of sunlight to ones that can take heat, but prefer partial shade and plentiful moisture. They tend to be long-blooming plants with a rainbow of flower colors.

Many Mexican sages are fragrant. On warm summer days, they lend a heady perfume to the landscape when planted near home entryways or as borders along walkways. They include low-growing groundcovers as well as plants so tall, wide and floriferous that a group planting forms a dramatic privacy screen.

Some of these plants are the source of age-old folk remedies and the focus of current medical research; their potential health benefits are modern day treasure. And here is one more thing that is golden about Mexican native sages: these lovely additions to home gardens require little fuss.

Plants


  • Salvia fallax

    (Silly Mexican Sage) Also known as Salvia roscida, this close relative of Blue Sky Mexican Sage (Salvia caudata 'El Cielo Blue') has thousands of deep violet-blue flowers with prominent white bee lines.

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  • Salvia fulgens

    (Cardinal Sage) Aptly named for its cardinal red, 2-inch-long flowers that glisten in the autumn sun, this full-sun sage blooms from fall into winter. Hummingbirds love it, but deer resist its charms. Growing up to 5 feet tall, it makes a fine herbaceous border plant or shrubby screen.

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  • Salvia gesneriiflora 'Mole Poblano'

    (Mexican Chocolate Scarlet Sage) Although this is a sister of Salvia gesneriiflora ‘Tequila’, it is shorter, more floriferous and has a longer bloom time. Similar to Tequila, the Mole Poblano variety has bright red flowers and dark purple calyxes.
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  • Salvia gesneriiflora 'Mountain Form'

    (Mexican Mountain Scarlet Sage) Dark red calyxes cup the large red flowers of this lovely Mexican native which blooms from early winter through spring. Although this clone of Salvia gesneriiflora is dwarf form, it grows 6 feet tall and wide similar to our other dwarf, Salvia gesneriiflora 'Green Calyx Form', which we've nicknamed "Tiny." We'll call this one "Tiny Too."
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  • Salvia gesneriiflora 'Tequila'

    (Big Mexican Scarlet Sage) This heavily blooming Salvia from Mexico has heart-shaped leaves and spectacular flower spikes up to 18 inches long from winter through spring. The blooms are bright red-orange with rich purple-black calyxes.

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  • Salvia gesneriiflora x madrensis

    (Cabrillo Giant Yellow Sage) Large apricot-yellow flowers are an attraction of this cross between two Mexican species -- Salvia madrensis (Forsythia Sage) and the volcanic sage Salvia gesneriiflora (Mexican Scarlet Sage).

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  • Salvia glechomifolia

    (Ground Ivy Sage) Native to Central Mexico's highlands, this creeping perennial grows at a altitudes of more than 10,000 feet and can handle some chill. Its common name comes from its scalloped yellow-green leaves, which resemble Ground Ivy or Glechoma.

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  • Salvia gravida

    (Gravid Sage) This tender perennial from Michoacán, Mexico, has large, rich magenta flowers that hang from the arching branches in clusters up to 12 inches long. Growing up to 5 feet tall, this sage offers an unforgettable display when in bloom.

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  • Salvia greggii 'Cherry Chief'

    (Cherry Chief Autumn Sage) With hundreds of varieties of Autumn Sage on the market, there is much confusion as to which ones to plant.  This red-flowered cultivar, developed by Richard Dufresne of North Carolina, is a top choice.
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  • Salvia greggii 'Elk Pomegranate'

    (Elk Pomegranate Autumn Sage) We're proud to say that this is an FBTS cultivar. It is one of the finest dark flowered, compact Autumn Sage varieties we have seen. Its extraordinarily large, raspberry blossoms bloom from spring into fall.

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  • Salvia greggii 'Lowrey's Peach'

    (Lowrey's Peach Autumn Sage) No other Salvia has a color like this: a warm, rosy orange with a pastel peach skirt and bright yellow throat. Wow! This is our best pastel orange Autumn Sage not only due to its blossoms but also it's compact branching habit and glossy foliage.
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  • Salvia greggii 'Orange Yucca Do'

    (Big Orange Autumn Sage) Standout color is the big draw for this large growing Autumn Sage. Collected in the mountains of Northern Mexico, it grows well in a wide range of climates, including the hot dry Southwest and the cool moist Pacific Northwest. A difficult color to capture in a photo, it is well described as a warm orange with a scarlet overlay.

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  • Salvia greggii 'Playa Rosa'

    (Pink Beach Autumn Sage) When it blooms from spring into fall, this heat- and chill-tolerant sage is covered with large, two-tone pink flowers that attract butterflies, honeybees and hummingbirds. This compact, drought-tolerant beauty also features small, shiny, bright green leaves.

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  • Salvia greggii 'Radio Red'

    (Radio Red Autumn Sage) Dark calyxes support true red blossoms in Salvia greggii 'Radio Red', a 2015 introduction from the Darwin Perennials division of Ball Seed. Its tiny, smooth, elliptical leaves form a light, airy backdrop for the dramatic flowers.

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  • Salvia greggii 'Salmon'

    (Salmon Autumn Sage) Creamy salmon-colored flowers with white throats make this elegant Autumn Sage perfect for a pastel garden or as a cooling color in a mixed sage border. Bloom time is spring into fall for this petite Salvia greggii native to the American Southwest and Mexico.
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  • Salvia greggii 'Stormy Pink'

    (Stormy Pink Autumn Sage) The dramatic name of this floriferous Autumn Sage is due to the calyxes cupping its smoky apricot-pink blossoms. Some gardeners report gray calyxes and others say dark plum. But for whatever reason, the Stormy Pink that we grow on our Northern California coastal farm has green calyxes with dark stripes.

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  • Salvia greggii 'Texas Wedding'

    (Texas Wedding White Autumn Sage) This is our best white-flowered Autumn Sage. It is compact, hardy and blooms abundantly. We love it as a contrast to the generally bright colors of its group. Texas Wedding seems to always be blooming, with massive displays in spring and fall.

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  • Salvia greggii x karwinskii 'Brent's'

    (Brent's Fall Hybrid Sage) Although hybrids involving Salvia gregii (Autumn Sage) are common, but this one is exceptionally tall, attractive and long blooming. Its other parent is the tall, tubular-flowered Roseleaf Sage.
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  • Salvia holwayi

    (Winter Mexican Sage) Call it the Snow Queen! From fall through spring, this graceful, colorful sage blooms through 20 degree F weather despite snow and ice. It has lovely, small, dark green leaves and profuse clusters of tubular, cinnabar-red flowers that puff out in the center.

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  • Salvia involucrata 'Bethellii'

    (Roseleaf Sage)  A late but glorious bloomer, Roseleaf Sage starts producing hot pink blossoms in winter and continues into spring -- growing more spectacular every day -- unless cut down to the ground by hard frost.

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  • Salvia involucrata 'Hadspen'

    (Hadspen Roseleaf Sage)  If you plant this sage in a mild-climate area where hummingbirds overwinter, you'll likely find hummers zinging back and forth among its magenta pink blossoms from fall through spring.

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  • Salvia involucrata var puberula 'Hidalgo'

    (Hidalgo Roseleaf Sage) The earliest flowering, hardiest and strongest growing cultivar of its species, Hidalgo Roseleaf Sage starts blooming in June on the Northern California coast. It continues, and becomes more spectacular every day, until cut down by hard frost. In our mild climate, it never stops blooming some years.

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  • Salvia iodantha

    (Scandent Mexican Sage) Here's another winter-blooming hummingbird magnet for gardens in mild climates. This one is scandent, which means it is a climber and needs support. Its abundant, purple-to-magenta flowers are velvety and 6 inches long.

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  • Salvia ionocalyx

    (Violet Calyx Sage) Here's another abundantly blooming sage from the cloud forest slopes of Chiapas, Mexico. Violet beelines mark the lower lip of the crimson blossoms, which are so numerous that it can be difficult to see the foliage at times.

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  • Salvia karwinskii

    (Karwinski's Sage) From moist mountain areas in Mexico and Central America, this rugged, winter-blooming shrub is found in oak or pine forests at altitudes of 4,000 to 8,000 feet. This may account for this winter bloomer producing a few bright red flowers during short periods of freezing weather with temperatures as low as 20 degrees F.

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  • Salvia karwinskii 'Red Form'

    (Karwinski's Sage) From moist mountain areas in Mexico and Central America, this rugged, winter-blooming shrub is found in oak or pine forests at altitudes of 4,000 to 8,000 feet. This may account for this winter bloomer's ability to produce some bright, brick-red flowers even during short periods of freezing weather with temperatures as low as 20 degrees F.

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  • Salvia karwinskii 'Ted's 18 footer'

    (Giant Karwinski's Sage) San Francisco arborist and gardener extraordinaire Ted Kipping developed this tower of creamy pinkalicious power that hummingbirds love. It's lush with bright green leaves that are large, pebbly and hairy on the underside.

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  • Salvia keerli

    (Big Grape Sage) This lavender-flowered native of Northern Mexico resembles Salvia melissodora (Grape Scented Sage), but is bigger and also has larger leaves and flowers. It's a great companion plant for its little brother, which shares the same cultural needs and affinity for Zones 8 to 10. Both bloom from summer into fall.

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  • Salvia lasiantha

    (Wooly Multicolor Sage) In Greek, "lasiantha" means "wooly flower." The flowers of Salvia lasiantha are surrounded by wooly bracts, but are even more notable for transforming from apricot-orange in the morning to reddish-purple later in the day.

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  • Salvia lavanduloides

    (Lavender Leaf Sage) It's easy to confuse this sage from Southern Mexico with a Lavender bush. The lavender--blue flower spikes make it look like a Lavandula species as does the foliage, which is similar in size, shape and color.

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  • Salvia leucantha 'Danielle's Dream'

    (Pink Mexican Bush Sage) Although native to Mexico and Central America, this elegant variety of Salvia leucantha was hybridized in South Africa. It is compact, long blooming and profusely covered by soft pink flowers surrounded by velvety white bracts.

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  • Salvia leucantha 'Eder'

    (Eder Variegated Mexican Bush Sage) A sport of the purple-flowered variety 'Midnight', this subtly variegated variety is remarkably tough. In the landscape it has a silvery, almost ghostly look. Best up close, where you can appreciate the beautiful foliage.
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  • Salvia leucantha 'Greenwood'

    (Mexican Bush Sage or Velvet Sage) This variety of Mexican Bush Sage has purple and white flowers that bloom from summer into fall. Fuzzy leaves, stems and calyxes are characteristic of its species, so this native of Mexico and Central America is also called Velvet Sage.

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  • Salvia leucantha 'Midnight'

    (Midnight Mexican Bush Sage) The typical Mexican Bush Sage has purple flowers surrounded by furry white bracts. This clone from the San Francisco Peninsula has deep purple flowers, calyxes and stems. It is a good groundcover due to a mounding habit, smaller size and generous amounts of flowers.

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  • Salvia leucantha 'Purple Dwarf'

    (Mexican Bush Sage or Velvet Sage) Large purple and white flowers bloom abundantly on this compact dwarf plant. If you love the rich colors and velvety foliage of Mexican Bush Sage but have limited space or need a container variety, this one is is for you.

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  • Salvia leucantha 'Santa Barbara'

    (Santa Barbara Mexican Bush Sage) This compact Mexican Bush Sage was found in the Santa Barbara garden of Kathiann Brown. It is, without a doubt, the finest short Mexican Bush Sage -- hardy, tough and long blooming. Add drought tolerance and dark, rich purple flowers to its list of merits.

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Reviews


Having recently received Cayman, I haven't yet seen it in bloom but am delighted to give a home to a plant that was on the brink of extinction. Since it may be short-lived, I'll keep it in a pot and try leaf cuttings in the winter. I like this com...
Ms. Robin Hoselton
Jun 3, 2017