(Southern Mexican Sage) With its graceful, shrubby habit, purplish green leaves and intense tomato-red blooms, this herbaceous perennial makes a delightful display in your garden. It begins blooming in October and continues sporadically through the winter and into spring in frost-free areas.
Collected by Strybing Arboretum botanists in the late 1980s, it is native to high elevations (7,500-11,000 ft.) in the Mexican provinces of Oaxaca and Chiapas as well as in Guatemala. This is a true cloud-forest sage that best loves a planting location with morning sun and afternoon shade.
For a medium-size plant with pleasing proportions by bloom time, cut stems back to a few inches above the ground in early spring. You'll be pleased to know that although honeybees and hummingbirds love this sage, deer don't.
These are species that produce woody stems, but die back to the ground in the winter in all but the warmest climates. In warm winter areas these can become woody shrubs, but they generally benefit from the following pruning methods.
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.
(Cinnabar Sage) Think of this plant as Pineapple Sage on steroids. It grows 5 feet tall and can be twice as wide in a good spot and bursts with large, furry, cinnabar red flowers all winter. Our overwintering hummingbirds adore it. This sage is hard to forget once you see it in full bloom.
Coming from the cloud forests of Southern Mexico, this species is a great choice for woodland-style gardens where it can spread out and poke its long stems up here-and-there. In partial shade, it is a rambler that forms an attractive screen. Cinnabar Sage responds well to feeding and watering, but is not delicate. It is well worth growing if you live in a mild climate.
(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.
(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.
Speaking of color, the reds of Karwinski's Sage vary, but hummingbirds love them all. This variety was originally collected by the San Francisco Botanical Garden.
The plant's leaves are pebbly and large -- up to 6 inches long -- with cream-colored hairs on the underside. Size is another dramatic aspect of this plant, which can grow up to 10 feet tall and 4 feet wide. Due to this generous size, it helps to plant Karwinski's Sage in a spot where it is protected against chill and winds. A south-facing wall is ideal. It makes a good screen or background planting, but can also be grown in a large patio container.
To encourage upright, compact growth, periodically remove some of the flowering branches. Or you can prune the plant down to a few active growth nodes once a year at the end of its winter flowering season when it appears there will be no more frost.
This sage is named for German botanist Baron Wilhelm Friedrich Karwinski von Karvin who explored Mexico in the early 19th century.
(Mister Jules Hybrid Sage) Long, dark, velvety stems contrast dramatically with the deep red flowers of this hybrid, spreading sage from the University of California, Santa Cruz, Arboretum.
The parent plants are Mexican Winter Sage (Salvia holwayi) -- a superior, spreading groundcover or sprawling shrub -- and Cardinal Sage (S. fulgens), which is an upright shrub with large, deep red flowers.
Not well known in the nursery trade, this is a fine choice for great winter color and hummingbird habitat in mild climates. It grows well in full sun to partial shade when given average watering based on local conditions.
We consider Mister Jules one of the best sages for covering large areas and providing a bright spot during the dark days of winter. Its flower spikes are also pretty additions to cut-flower bouquets.
(Red Velvet Sage) Reaching up to 18 inches tall, the floral spikes of this exotic looking Salvia are crowded with small, velvety, orange-red blossoms from mid-summer to late autumn. Its large, dark green, pebbly leaves are beautiful in their own right, making this one of our favorite sages.
Red Velvet Sage is native to Central and South America. In mild climates, it can grow up to 5 feet tall and 4 feet wide. So sheltering it from the wind -- by staking or situating it near plants that provide support -- is necessary to prevent breakage of the heavy, red tinged stems.
We have found that deep, weekly watering, an occasional light feeding of multipurpose fertilizer and heavy pruning in late winter or early spring keep this dramatic plant looking its best. One reward for this care is excellent stems for cut flower arrangements.
(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 and stems.
Give this sage full sun and plenty of room, because it grows up to 10 feet tall and almost as wide. It needs protection from strong winds and rains that can cause the heavily laden, woody branches to break.
This variety of Salvia gesneriiflora often is called "Tequila" in reference to its scientific name. In 1970, botanists from Southern California's Huntington Botanical Gardens collected seed from the parent plant on the Volcan de Tequila in the Mexican Province of Jalisco.
One of the showiest Salvias we grow, Tequila also is one of our very best hummingbird plants. It's popular with butterflies and honeybees as well, whereas deer avoid it. Use it as a screen, background planting or border.
(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.
(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!
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.