Whether you call it a shrub or a tree, Salvia arborscens rises up to an impressive 12 feet tall and 5 feet wide. Commonly known as Sage Tree, this Salvia grows well in full sun, but prefers partial shade.
It is the size of this plant more than its floral display that is its main attraction. Cream to yellow and tiny, each flower has long, graceful anthers that extend far beyond its corolla. The foliage is bright green to forest green with lance-shaped leaves.
Sage Tree works well as a screen or background planting In rich, well-drained soil. It also looks handsome in shrubby borders and is a good solution for moist areas of the yard. You can even grow it in a large container, but expect it to rise to a shorter height than it would in the ground. Deer mostly avoid Salvias, so this is one tree they likely won’t nibble on.
Swedish botanist Erik Ekman collected Salvia arborscens during the 1920s in the Caribbean. Commonly known as Sage Tree, it was one of more than 2,000 species that he introduced to science during his 14 years of research in Cuba, Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
The Dominican Republic’s Partners for Rural Health organization notes that the leaves are used as a folk remedy for diarrhea. However, it warns that they may be dangerously narcotic. So don’t cook with this sage.
These are species that grow as woody shrubs and keep their foliage year round.
Pruning is both an art and a science. It takes practice, experience and learning from your mistakes to become a proficient pruner. The pruning information about this plant should be considered as a guideline for getting started. Your particular climate, soils, watering and fertility schedules, sun exposure, space requirements and weather are all factors that influence how and when you choose to prune. We’re providing a starting place for you, and over time you will learn the particularities of this plant in your garden. Don’t be afraid to get started – Salvias, in general, are quick to rebound if inappropriately pruned.
Deadheading – the removal of spent flowers, is a practice that will always benefit the plant’s health and appearance. This can be done at any time. Pruning involves removal of entire stems of spent growth. Becoming "spent" means that flowering stems stop blooming and begin going to seed.
(Temascaltepec Sage) In full bloom, which is all year in mild climates, this mid-sized, shrubby Salvia has far more flowers than foliage. Each 1/2-inch-long, bright pink bloom has two dark pink/purple spots and a pair of white stripes. The small, slightly furry leaves add to its soft, pleasing look.
Temascaltepec Sage is new to the United States and comes from the Valle de Bravo Lake region of Central Mexico. It is a tender perennial affected by frost, but so fast growing that it is ideal as an outdoor summer bedding plant. Hummingbirds, bees and butterflies love this sage, which grows well in full sun to partial shade.
This Salvia is a favorite in cut-flower gardens and a superior container plant in a greenhouse or sunroom. We rate it "best of class" for being our top performer among large summer bedding Salvias.
(Chiapas Sage) This partial-shade Salvia produces magenta flowers year round for us on the Mendocino Coast. It's compact, free flowering and not bothered by pests whether large or small. It is native to Mexico's coastal mountains at an elevation of 7,000 to 9,500 feet.
Chiapas Sage forms a neat mound of glossy, ribbed leaf-foliage with large flower spikes throughout. We grow it in mixed borders, containers and combination planters where it really stands out. Winter mulching it is essential in Zone 8 and below where you can treat this drought-resistant plant as a perennial.
(Giant Bolivian Sage) Hailing from Peru and Bolivia, this tender specimen is found at altitudes of 9,000 feet in the wild. This multi-stemmed, woody-based, climbing Salvia needs support. Hummingbirds love its 5-inch-long, crimson flowers, which are the longest grown by any Salvia and flower from late summer through autumn.
In frost-free zones and with support, such as a trellis or not-too-hot wall, Giant Bolivian Sage can reach nearly 20 feet in height. In most gardens, it will grow 6 to 8 feet in a season. It prefers filtered sun or a combination of morning sun and afternoon shade. Fast-draining, loamy soil is another requirement.
This rare selection always sells out quickly and wins our commendation as our best climbing, flowering sage.
Red was a sacred color in Ancient Incan culture. The red blossoms of various flowers were prized, including Giant Bolivian Sage, Salvia oppositiflora and Salvia tubiflora. They were used as part of religious ceremonies intended to appease various gods, including mountain dieties who the Incans believed were the cause of volcanic eruptions.
This is the confirmed species. We guarantee its identity.
(Shaggy Chiapas Sage) This is a sweetheart! Glowing magenta flowers lure the eye as well as hummingbirds to this heat-tolerant sage. It begins blooming in late summer where weather is warm and in fall where it is cooler.
This compact shrub from Chiapas, Mexico, has heavily textured leaves and is attractive even when not in bloom.
Reports from colder areas suggest that this Zone 9-to-11 plant may be suitable for Zone 8. Even if you grow it as an annual, you will be very impressed by the large clusters of 1-inch, furry, bright flowers.
This is an adaptable plant, which grows in full sun or partial shade and does well in containers and shrubby borders. We highly recommend it as one of the strongest hummingbird magnets we grow.
(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.
"Gravid" means "with child," and a plant loaded with it's full inflorescence does bring a pregnant woman to mind. Grow this dazzling sage against a wall or trellis. Give it full sun or partial shade as well as rich, well-drained soil and ample water.
Consider Gravid Sage for border, background and container plantings.
(Prawn Sage) Although the common name for this flaming red, Andean sage is based on its flower's resemblance to a shrimp head, its scientific name goes back to the days of late 18th century Spanish exploration of the Americas.
"Haenkei" honors German botanist Thaddäus Haenke, who was part of the Malaspina expedition to Bolivia, Peru and many other sites along the west coasts of Latin America and North America beginning in 1790. We won't go into detail here, but Tadeo -- as he was called by the Spanish explorers -- was a tough, resilient kind of person. How fitting that a tough survivor of a plant should be named after him.
Salvia haenkei grows quickly and can become more than 8 feet tall and wide. Yet it is a fine container plant, especially if cut back regularly to keep growth under control and tidy. It is one of the best hummingbird plants in its native habitat where it is also used as a culinary herb.
This fragrant, water-loving sage blooms from summer into fall. It is a dramatic addition to a lightly shaded garden in which it can sprawl a bit in a shrub border or cut-flower bed. If you live in an area colder than Zones 9 to 11, try it as a somewhat exotic bedding plant.
(Giant Colombian Red Mountain Sage) In 1898, physician and medical plant researcher Henry Hurd Rusby (1855-1940) found this towering sage with large, deep red flowers in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains of Colombia.
Salvia libanensis is endemic to the Colombian Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains, so it is a mystery to us why its scientific name refers to Lebanon. San Francisco's Strybing Arboretum recently introduced this rare, high-altitude sage to the horticultural community. Dr. Frank Almeda, Curator and Senior Botanist at the California Academy of Sciences collected seed of this plant in 2012. It blooms profusely in the main gate entry garden of the San Francisco Botanical Garden.
The fuzziness of Salvia libanensis -- from its reddish green stems to its large, oval-shaped leaves -- is another attraction of this floriferous, shrubby perennial.
(Giant Colombian Pink Mountain Sage) In 1898, physician and medical plant researcher Henry Hurd Rusby (1855-1940) found the red-flowered variety of this towering species in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains of Colombia. This one has large, reddish-pink flowers.
Salvia libanensis is endemic to the Colombian Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains, so it is a mystery to us why its scientific name refers to Lebanon. San Francisco's Strybing Arboretum recently introduced this rare, high-altitude sage to the horticultural community. Both the red and pink forms bloom profusely.
The fuzziness of Salvia libanensis 'Pink Form', including its stems and large, oval-shaped leaves, is another attraction of this floriferous, shrubby perennial.
(Purple Leaf Tall Big Leaf Sage) Bright green on top, the long leaves of this distinctive sage are a dark, furry purple on the undersides. Like the more typical green form of Salvia Macrophylla, this variety has cobalt blue flowers that seem to float in airy clusters on 12-inch-tall branching spikes.
This fast-growing, herbaceous perennial from Peru is adaptable to full sun and full shade. However, a combination of morning sun and afternoon shade may be more to its liking. Heat tolerant and water-loving, it is an ideal choice for a humid climate such as Florida's. Try it in a container indoors or on a patio. It's also a good choice for borders and background plantings.
Salvia Macrophylla 'Purple Leaf' grows in a tidy, upright fashion, producing 2-inch-long flowers without pause from summer through early fall. Hummingbirds love it, but deer resist its charms.
(Straight Spike Sage) Covered with whorls of crimson flowers, this long-blooming, perennial sage has erect form. It matures into a tall, wide plant that is ideal for massing as a screen or at back of border.
Salvia orthostachys has medium-long, mid-green leaves that are triangular to heart shaped and fuzzy on both sides. Hairiness helps sages to retain moisture so they can tolerate drought.
This is a heat-tolerant South American species that was first introduced to horticulture in the 1930s. It's only native to the mountains of Colombia, where it grows at elevations up to 8,500 feet and excels in rocky soils on roadsides and slopes.
Salvia orthostachys does well in USDA Zones with warmer winter temperatures if planted in full sun and rich, well-drained soil. Butterflies, honeybees and hummingbirds love it.
(Fuzzy Bolivian Sage) Large, bright and fuzzy, the cherry-licorice red flowers of this sage top what at first glance appears to be smooth, glassy green foliage. Up close, the large, lance-shaped leaves are velvety with clear-to-white hairs.
This tropical perennial is slow to start growing in spring, but takes off as the days get longer and warmer. Then it blooms from summer to fall, attracting hummingbirds. It grows well in USDA Zones 7 to 9, but needs winter mulching in the cooler part of that range. Well-drained, loose soil and mulch help the plant's underground runners survive to grow new stems in the spring.
Salvia oxyphora is from middle elevations in the Bolivian Andes, where it grows on the edge of moist, warm forests. It loves rich soil, lots of moisture and full sun to partial shade.
We enjoy growing this dramatic, heat-tolerant plant in containers where its showy flowers can be enjoyed close up. Moist woodland gardens are another good setting. One last tip: The branches of Salvia oxyphora tend to be somewhat brittle. Pinching it back encourages good branching and protects it from breaking in strong winds.
(Bolivian Mountain Sage) Neon lilac-pink flowers light up the handsome, furry foliage of this distinctive sage from high in the Andes cloud forests. Its large, textured leaves have dark, velvety purple undersides. Unhappy in dry heat, this is a very showy plant for humid areas.
In our mild coastal climate, Bolivian Mountain Sage does well in full sun; however, partial shade and ample water are keys to success in hotter, drier areas. It also appreciates rich, well-drained soil.
In the ground, this sage grows into a shrub up to 5 feet tall in Zone 9 to 11. Or plant it in a large container as a natural focal point on a partially shady patio. It also works well as a seasonal bedding plant. But remember that this water-loving sage particularly appreciates morning sun and afternoon shade.
In mild climates, it blooms year round, so this is a great choice for gardens where hummingbirds winter over. As with so many Salvias, this one is deer resistant.
(Tall Red Colombian Sage) Salvia rubescens subsp. dolichothrix may tower over your head when in full bloom with its creamy red trumpet blossoms and dark calyxes. Its leaves are large and attractively textured.
Tall Red Colombian Sage is native to the mountains of Columbia and Venezuela. In the U.S., this long blooming shrub grows well as an annual. Give it full sun to partial shade and rich soil that is well drained. Although water-loving, it grows well with average supplemental watering based on local conditions.
This native of Venezuela and Colombia was first described by German botanist Karl Sigismund Paul Kunth (1788-1850) in 1818. Rubescens refers to the reddish color of the flowers.
Plant explorer John R.I. Wood of Oxford University collected the subspecies in Colombia and, in 1989, authored its scientific name with Raymond M. Harley of Kew Royal Botanical Gardens.
We are thankful to University of Buenos Aires agronomy professor and plant explorer Rolando Uria, who collected the seed for our plants in the wild.
(Smith College Mystery Sage) This mysterious species came to us via Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. We refer to it as "Mystery Sage" as the origins of this fine plant are unclear.
This is a subshrub, which means that it combines woody growth with soft, herbaceous foliage. Give it full sun to partial shade, average watering based on local conditions and rich, well-drained soil. Expect it to grow rapidly and bloom profusely. The flower clusters are golf ball sized, and cover the plant late in the season. In warmer Zones it can bloom all year long!
This is an excelent choice for seasonal bedding in colder climates, where it brings an exotic look to the garden. Honeybees love this heat-tolerant, mid-height sage, but deer avoid it.
(Mystery Peruvian Sage) Airy spikes of fuzzy, bright orange-red flowers and grassy green calyxes mark this Peruvian sage as a mystery worth pursuing. Little is certain about its parentage.
The UK's leading Salvia expert, Robin Middleton, notes, at his Robin's Salvias website, that the University of Reading is studying SL411.
SL411 may be related to three kinds of Salvias, including striata, S. squalens or S. tubiflora.
Middleton says that it is the large leaves of SL411 that seem to connect it to S. squalens.
SL411 is a long-blooming, high-altitude sage that grows rapidly and easily in full sun to partial shade with rich but well-drained soil. It is a water-loving tender perennial. Hummingbirds enjoy its nectar.
(Giant Brazilian Sage) Yes, this one is gigantic. The first season we grew this heat-tolerant sage, it reached 8 feet tall by July! Masses of small, red-orange, trumpet-shaped flowers attract hummingbirds and honeybees to long, upward curving flower spikes towering over heart-shaped foliage.
Giant Brazilian Sage is difficult to beat for attracting pollinators. Its flowers are similar to those of Tropical Sage (Salvia coccinea), which is like a dwarf compared to this grand plant. Giant Brazilian Sage flowers from mid-spring until frost and loves rich, well-drained soil. Although average watering is all that is necessary, it can handle excessive moisture.
This statuesque beauty makes a fine screen or background planting, but also does well in containers. It comes from the Iguazu Falls region that forms a border between Brazil and Argentina. In the U.S., it is surprisingly hardy and reliably perennial in mild climates such as Zone 9 and, perhaps, the warmest reaches of Zone 8.
Plant this lush sage where you can stand back and appreciate its mass of blooms. It does best with regular water and some shade in the hottest areas, very much like Tropical Sage. A location with morning sun and afternoon shade is ideal.
Thank you Russ Thompson for the additional pictures.
(Dwarf Bog Sage) Intense sky blue flowers with white beelines are set against mid-green foliage in this dwarf Bog Sage that is about half as tall and wide as its parent species when in bloom.
Salvia uliginosa 'Ballon Azul' has a whimsical appellation combining French and Spanish. German nurseryman Ewald Hügin developed this cultivar, which is as cheerful looking as a blue balloon.
Highly adaptable, Bog Sages are ideal for the beginning Salvia gardener. They aren't fussy plants, and they aren't tasty to deer. You won't have to invent clever barricades to keep them safe from browsers.
Give these undemanding sages well-drained soil of almost any kind. Plant them in full sun to partial shade. As their common and scientific names indicate they love water, but they also do well in dry conditions -- a situation in which their stolons spread more slowly.
Nevertheless, baby your Dwarf Bog Sage a bit with average supplemental watering based on local conditions. After all, in the wild, its parent species is native to the bogs of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay.
Normally, Salvia uliginosa is a back-of-border choice. But due to the size of Ballon Azul, its petite yet graceful flower spikes are made for a starring role in the front row. Stoop down, brush its foliage with your hand and enjoy the fragrance. It's also a good plant for a patio container.
Cold and heat tolerant, this species grows well in regions ranging from the arid Rocky Mountain West to the humid Deep South. Full sun is fine in all but the hottest and most arid environments.
Hurry up and order! We predict this new addition to our catalog will be as popular as balloons.
(Pink & White Wagner's Sage) Instead of pink, leaf-life bracts, this variety of Wagner's Sage has white bracts surrounding the hot pink flowers. It blooms from November to March on our coastal Northern California farm where it feeds Anna's hummingbirds all winter long.
Come snow, ice or temperatures as low as 20 degrees, it keeps on blooming.
This tall Salvia is a sub-shrub, which means that it has both woody and soft herbaceous perennial growth. It comes from the cloud forests of Southern Mexico and Central America where it grows at elevations of up to 6,500 feet.
Averaging about 6 feet tall and wide, Wagner's Sage can easily grow 10 feet tall and wide if conditions are right. You can keep it more compact by pruning in mid to late summer before the large, prolific blossoms emerge on foot-long flower spikes. They rise up amid equally dramatic, bright green leaves that are triangular and soft as felt.
Give it space, rich, well-drained soil and average to ample watering in full sun to partial shade. Plant it at the back of shrub borders and cut-flower gardens. This is an ideal plant for moist woodland gardens in USDA Zones 8 to 11.
The species was named by 19th century plant explorer Helmuth Polakowsky (1847-1917) of Germany, who specialized in Central American flora. Although we aren't certain, it is likely that he named it for his somewhat older contemporary Moritz Wagner (1813-1887), a friend of Charles Darwin and a botanist who is especially well known for his exploraration of Costa Rica.
PLEASE NOTE: Our best picture of this plant in bloom disappeared during a computer snafu. This picture doesn't do justice to the contrast between the flowers and their ethereal white bracts. So here is a link to a picture in the Cabrillo College Salvia collection.
Highly recommended by honeybees!
(Costa Rica Blue Sage) Although this handsome plant is often listed as an Anise Leaf Sage (Salvia guaranitica), we think it is a hybrid based on differences in its growth pattern and flowering season.
Costa Rica Blue Sage is a long-blooming, vigorous plant that can reach up to 6 feet tall. It has large violet-blue flowers with purplish bracts and large, tropical-type leaves. Similar to Anise Leaf Sage, it is a hummingbird magnet.
This is a sun-loving sage, but also grows well in partial shade in warm climates. Give it rich, well-drained soil and regular watering. Plant it in a spot where you want to make a bold statement.
(Big Swing Sage) With its large, cobalt blue flowers displayed on strong, wiry, branched stems, this eye-catching sage wins the FBTS "best of class" designation for being our top Big Leaf Sage (Salvia macrophylla).
Garden writer Betsy Clebsch developed Big Swing, which is a cross between Big Leaf Sage and Arrowleaf Sage (S. sagitata). Its flower spikes rise well above handsome foliage with large, furry, arrowhead-shaped leaves that look almost tropical.
Use this heat-tolerant plant to bring a lush look to a damp corner of your garden or in mixed patio containers. Give it rich, well-drained soil and plenty of water for a long bloom season.
Big Swing comes highly recommended by butterflies, but deer leave it alone.
Hummingbirds love Salvia (sage) nectar and are attracted to it by the bright colors of tubular sage blossoms. In particular, these little whirlybirds can easily spot flowers in the red spectrum, which is prevalent among sages. Here are some hummingbird gardening tips.
If you live in suburbs or rural areas where deer plunder gardens, Salvias (sages) can be part of your plan for discouraging these hungry visitors. Here are some tips.