(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, triangular, dark green leaves and profuse clusters of tubular, cinnabar-red flowers that puff out in the center.
in our coastal, Northern California garden, it often blooms from October through April and sometimes shoots up a few flower spikes in summer. Winter Mexican Sage is native to a wide territory from Chaipas, Mexico, to Guatemala where it grows at 3,000 to 9,000 feet in mixed pine and oak forests. It particularly appreciates locations with morning sun and afternoon shade. Use it as a mid-height groundcover, border plant or woodland garden highlight.
In colder climates treat this sage as a subshrub that dies back to the ground similar to an herbaceous perennial. Here on the edge of Zone 8 and 9, it is a shrub that can become large unless pruned. However, it's well worth the time spent trimming.
(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.
Speaking of color, the flowers of Karwinski's Sage vary from rose red and scarlet to brick red. Hummingbirds love them all. Our clone is a clear, hot, orange red.
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.
(Red Michoacán Sage) No other Salvia has flowers that are such a deep blood red. The 3-to-4 inch long tubular blossoms of this shade-loving shrub are displayed in clusters at the ends of the stems, which have light green, textured leaves that are almost round.
This sage is a beauty in containers and shrubby borders or as a groundcover. Although it can tolerate full sun, Red Michoacán prefers partial shade. So, if necessary, compromise by choosing a location with morning sun and afternoon shade. Sun or shade, hummingbirds will find their way to its nectar. Deer most likely will munch elsewhere.
Confusion surrounds the scientific name of this plant. At various times, It has been improperly identified as Salvia tubiflora and as Salvia tubifera, which both are orange-flowered, Peruvian species. However, the foliage and growth habit of Salvia longistyla is much different. This is the true, fall-blooming species.
(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.