(Dark Flowered Bolivian Sage) Here is a water-loving beauty with dusky blue flowers -- a native of the moist Yungas piedmont forests of Northwestern Argentina and Bolivia. Salvia atrocyanea is well adapted to both full sun and partial shade.
Although a tall sage, the branches of this perennial are so heavy with blossoms and large bracts that they droop gracefully. The dramatic bracts, which protect the S. guaranitica-type blossoms, are mid-green tinged with bluish purple. The mid-to-dark green leaves are oval shaped with long, fine tips and serrated edges.
The Wisconsin-based website Hummingbird Gardening in the Upper Midwest notes that although S. atrocyanea isn't cold-hardy, the website owners have overwintered it successfully in a cool sunroom. We love to hear about these kinds of experiments.
Whereas cyanea refers to the blue of this sage's flowers and bracts, atro means "dark." The common name -- Dark Flowered Bolivian Sage -- combines the plant's coloring with part of its native distribution.
Deer resist the charms of Dark Flowered Bolivian Sage, but hummingbirds can't.
These are species whose stems never develop a woody character and that either die to the ground or loose leaves and become unsightly at the end of a growing season. This group includes both hardy and tender types. Many of the tender forms are grown as annuals in cold winter areas.
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.
During the spring and summer, you can completely cut to the ground any stems that have finished blooming and are becoming unsightly.
In mild climate areas, growth can be so rapid that the entire plant becomes messy and spent mid-way through the season. In this case, it can be cut back close to the ground – given a short “haircut”. The result usually is fresh, vigorous new growth and another round of flowering.
(Chiapas Golden Fuchsia) Cool, moist and partially shady -- those are the conditions that this tall, rare shrub loves. Once native to the mountain cloud forests of Mexico's southernmost state, Chiapas, Golden Fuchsia in 1986 became extinct in the wild and now is primarily grown by botanical gardens.
Flowers by the Sea is one of the few commercial sources for this plant.
The glowing, yellow-to-orange trumpet flowers sometimes grow more than 2 inches long. They dangle in clusters from long, wiry, burgundy peduncles -- the stemlets that attach the flower clusters to the shrub's branches. The clusters look a bit like modern, chandelier-style lights. As the shape of the flowers indicates, this is a hummingbird favorite.
In the April-June 2000 issue of Pacific Horticulture, Huntington Gardens Curator Kathy Musial says that botanist Dr. Dennis Breedlove in 1972 discovered what would be identified more than a decade later as member of the shrub and tree genus Deppea. Breedlove found his mystery plant in a canyon on the south slope of Cerro Mozotal, a mountain in southern Chiapas.
Musial notes that Breedlove never found the plant elsewhere in the wild. Luckily, he and Brad Bartholomew were able to collect seed in 1981, because the stand of Golden Fuchsia disappeared within five years when the land was cleared for farming.
Although the foggy summers of San Francisco's climate appeal to Golden Fuchsia, a partially shady environment helps it to thrive at Southern California's Huntington, which aided the original distribution of the plant. Our plants are from a variety at San Francisco's Strybing Arboretum.
Golden Fuchsia isn't a member of the Fuchsia genus, which is a member of the evening primrose family (Onagraceae). Deppea species are members of the coffee family (Rubiaceae). Give it rich, well-drained soil and plenty of water.
This is a challenging plant to cultivate, but it is beautiful and in danger of totally disappearing. Helping it to survive is rewarding.
(Byron's Mexican Sage) One of our favorite Mexican Sages, this large variety is reputed to be a hybrid between Salvia mexicana and S. hispanica -- a species of Chia Sage.
Byron's Mexican Sage grows up to 6 feet tall and 3 feet wide. Its large, fall-blooming flowers are deep violet with bi-color calyxes that are bright green with dark purple streaks. Hummingbirds and honeybees love the blossoms.
Unlike its parent species, this plant is fragrant. It's also the strongest growing and longest blooming type of S. mexicana that we grow.
We have found this variety to be exceptionally drought resistant, but it does best with regular watering. It also appreciates rich, well-drained soil. Grow this perennial as an accent, screen or part of a tall border. We've voted it our very best Salvia mexicana.
(Betsy's Choice Sage) Life and botany have their beautiful mysteries. Betsy's Choice Sage is one of them. We aren't certain of the parentage or history of this tall, attractive, fast-growing sage. However, we are certain that we love its tubular, royal purple flowers. Hummingbirds do as well.
Some say that it is a cross between a Salvia guaranitica and a Salvia fulgens. Some hint at a S. gesnerifolia connection by comparing it to S. x 'Jeans Purple Passion'. Others draw comparisons between Betsy's Choice and S. Amistad which may possibly be related to S. guaranitica.
On first impression, it does look like S. guaranitica. However, the leaves of Betsy's Choice are much larger and brighter; its nodes, or rooting points, are much farther apart. As to Amistad -- another South American species -- Betsy's Choice is far larger and much faster growing.
Another question is whether Betsy's Choice is the same plant as Salvia 'Betsy's Purple', which garden designer Bob Hyland of Portland wrote about for the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in 2003.
Information about the connections between Salvia species can be tantalizingly elusive. Our answer to all this botanical guesswork is that we don't have any answers.
What we do know is that this shoulder-high, long-blooming, water-loving perennial is heat tolerant and grows well in full sun or partial shade. And here's a footnote discovered at the Sweetbay garden website: Betsy's Choice looks terrific with a backdrop of Pink Muhly Grass ( Muhlenbergia 'Pink Flamingos').
(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.
(Jean's Purple Sage) If you are looking for a deep purple perennial for accenting an entryway or back of border in flower beds, Jean's Purple Passion may be the right choice.
This spectacular hybrid crosses Anise Leaf Sage (Salvia guaranitica) and Big Mexican Scarlet Sage (S. gesnerifolia). Jean's Purple Passion most closely resembles Anise Leaf Sage, but has much larger flowers.
Often starting its flowering cycle in June, this sage blooms until hard frosts send it into winter dormancy. It is so long blooming that we often send visitors home with bouquets of its fragrant flowers. Butterflies and hummingbirds are equally appreciative of its charms.
Jean's Purple Passion prefers full sun, rich, well-drained soil, ample water and moderate winter temperatures. Cabrillo College in Aptos, California, developed it and named the hybrid for Jean Coria, a gardening enthusiast who propagated many Salvia species at San Francisco's Strybing Arboretum.
We highly recommend the much improved Salvia guaranitica 'Purple Haze' as an alternative to this older variety.
(Texas Firecracker) Hummingbirds and butterflies will thank you with frequent visits if you add this long-blooming plant to your wildlife garden. Its bright orange trumpet-type flowers with long, narrow petals are wells of delicious nectar.
Texas Firecracker is a subshrub, which means that it combines soft, herbaceous perennial foliage with some woodiness. It has slender, lance-shaped, dark green leaves. Trim it back in late winter for better form and fuller spring growth.
Although related to the Bears Breeches genus (Acanthus), Texas Firecracker lacks the thorny sepals of those plants. Anisacanthus is Greek for "without thorns." Wrightii means that this native Texas species is named for American botanist Charles Wright (1811-1885) who, beginning in 1837, spent 15 years collecting extensively in Texas.
This is a mid-height, heat-tolerant species that loves full sun. Texas Firecracker resists drought, but thrives with average watering based on local conditions. It does well in containers as well as mixed borders.
For pyrotechnical color in the garden, mix it with the clear, pumpkin-orange flowers of Golden Flame Texas Firecracker (Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii) and the crimson blossoms of Red Texas Firecracker ( Anisacanthus wrightii 'Select Red').
Don't worry about deer; this plant isn't to their taste.
(Little Mexican Sage) This low-growing sage is a shrub in its warmest zones and a perennial in the cooler ones. It's just right for small spaces or tiny gardens. Short and compact, its flowers are similar to but smaller than those of S. mexicana 'Limelight'.
Little Mexican Sage has the broadest temperature tolerance of all the Salvia mexicana we grow, ranging from USDA Zones 7 to 11.
Compared to our other varieties, some of which can rise up to 10 feet tall, Little Mexican Sage is also petite at a maximum of 30 inches tall and 24 inches wide. Even it 's gray-green leaves are smaller than those of the other varieties. They contrast handsomely with the sage's royal blue flowers, which bloom in fall.
The size of this full-sun plant makes it a fine container choice for colder climates. We also love Little Mexican Sage in perennial borders and along walkways. It needs well-drained ground, but is otherwise unpicky about its soil. We highly recommend this easy-to-grow plant.
(Guanajuato Giant Gentian Sage) At 3 inches long, the flowers of this Gentian Sage are the largest of any we grow. Guanjuato Giant is also unique for its tall, upright growth and heavily textured foliage.
Spikes of deep, true blue flowers that rise up to 48 inches tall make this perennial sage a standout in the garden from summer into fall. This Gentian Sage is reliably perennial in USDA Zones 8 to 11. Its spectacular flowers also make it a fine choice as a summer bedding plant in areas with colder winters.
Guanjuato Giant likes regular watering and rich, well-drained soil. It does fine in full sun or partial shade and can handle moist corners of the yard. Use it as a path edging, border, groundcover or container plant.
German botanist Karl Hartweg discovered the Salvia patens species in 1838. British horticulturist Graham Stuart Thomas later called it "the best plant in cultivation."
Although, true blue is not a part of the color spectrum that hummingbirds favor, they are attracted to Gentian Sages especially when mixed with red-flowered sages.
August is a time when many sages grow rapidly and feed a frenzy of pollinators in need of rich nectar and pollen. It's hot, so you have to be careful not to let plants or yourself wilt.
Here are some tips for tasks from watering to planning when tending your garden this month.
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.