(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.
Similar to other Mexican Bush Sages, Midnight is pleasantly fuzzy. The hairiness helps protect this full sun, heat-tolerant sage against drought. Use this compact plant in shrubby borders and large containers. It is also a fine addition to a cut-flower garden, blooming from summer into fall.
Deer avoid this sage, but honeybees, hummingbirds and butterflies are drawn to it.
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.
(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 resistance and dark, rich purple flowers to its list of merits.
This heat-tolerant, full-sun sage makes a fine ground cover for areas large or small. it also looks lovely in perennial borders and containers. Expect plenty of honeybee, hummingbird and butterfly visits.
We suggest cutting Santa Barbara Mexican Bush Sage to the ground in the spring, so the fast growing white furry shoots will start blooming by mid-summer. It will continue blooming until frost, unless you live in a mild climate such as along the Northern California coast where it blooms 12 months a year.
(White Mischief Mexican Bush Sage) Profuse white blossoms and true white velvety bracts make the flowers of this South African hybrid a lovely choice for a wedding. In our experience, many of the plants sold as White Mischief are not the real thing. This tough, compact, long blooming sage is.
Although its flowers are white, we've noticed that hummingbirds love this Salvia leucantha, which blooms summer into fall. Butterflies are also partial to it, but luckily deer keep their distance.
Plant this heat-loving herbaceous perennial in full sun and well-drained soil. It is elegant in shrubby borders, large containers and cut-flower gardens.
(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.
It is our experience that many of the plants sold under the name 'Danielle's Dream' are not the true variety. Also, to further the confusion, this variety of Mexican Bush Sage goes by many names. But this is the real thing.
Plant this drought-resistant, heat-tolerant sage in full sun. Use it in a shrubby border, a cut-flower garden or as a magnificently large container plant. Butterflies, honeybees and hummingbirds will show their appreciation by visiting regularly.
(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.
'Purple Dwarf' is generally about half the size of Salvia leucantha 'Greenwood', but can grow much larger in ideal conditions. If we had the power to do so, we would not call this variety a dwarf. Grow it in a shrubby border, as a magnificent large container plant or as part of a cutting garden.
Similar to all members of it species, Purple Dwarf is heat tolerant, drought resistant and a favorite of butterflies, honeybees and hummingbirds. Deer avoid it.
(Pine Mountain Sage) Small but numerous, violet and deep purple flowers surrounded by pink bracts are sprinkled throughout this well-branched,shrubby sage like confections. This is one of the showiest Salvias we grow.
Pine Mountain Sage blooms from summer into fall and is a treat for honeybees and hummingbirds. It's native to Chiapas, Mexico, where it grows on the edge of pine forests in rocky soil. In the U.S., it is hardy to USDA Zones 8 with protection into 11 and blooms from summer into fall.
As with most Salvias, this one requires well-drained soil and likes it rich. Although drought tolerant, it appreciates average watering based on local conditions. Full sun is another necessity for maximum development. Average growth is 3 to 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide. Yet when conditions are perfect, it can grow into a 6-foot mound.
Small, triangle-shaped, gray-green leaves make this shrub attractive even when not in flower. Spring pruning of its woody branches keeps it compact and floriferous.
Grow Pine Mountain Sage as a large scale groundcover, border, screen or container plant. It excels in dry gardens, and is worth growing as a summer annual in zones outside its temperature range. No need to worry about deer; they avoid it.
(Anthony Parker Bush Sage) Floriferous spikes of dark blue to purple flowers bloom midsummer to fall on this tidy, mid-height subshrub that grows as wide as it is tall.
Anthony Parker Bush Sage is a chance hybrid that garden designer Frances Parker discovered in her South Carolina garden in 1994 and named for her grandson. It appears to be a cross between Mexican Sage (Salvia leucantha 'Midnight') and Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans) and is perennial in areas with moderate winters.
Although not aromatic, the gray-green, heart-shaped leaves are similar to those of Pineapple Sage, including their attractive veining. Anthony Parker Bush Sage's flowers -- lovely in cut-flower arrangements -- reflect those of Mexican Sage, but are darker and more slender.
Hummingbirds love this full-sun sage, which makes it a valuable addition to wildlife habitat. We love it too and give it our "best of class" designation as the best blue-blossomed, fall-flowering sage for your garden.
Our photograph of this variety is not particularly good. Here is a link to a better one on Pinterest.
(Phyllis' Fancy Sage) The parentage of this lavender-flowered hybrid sage is unknown. However, it may be a cross between Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha) and Chiapas Sage (S. chiapensis).
Phyllis' Fancy comes from the Arboretum at the University of California, Santa Cruz. It is similar to other S. leucantha hybrids we grow at Flowers by the Sea, but is the largest plant in this group.
The foot long flower spikes are cupped by bicolor, green and purple calyxes. This is a late bloomer, but keeps on giving until harsh frost sets in, which hummingbirds appreciate. A full-sun perennial, Phyllis' Fancy is a good choice for large borders or as an accent plant.
(Waverly Sage) A pale pink to lavender blush adds delicate color to the white flowers of Waverly Sage, which are supported by plum-colored calyxes. Its mid-green leaves are lance shaped and veined.
This is a tender, woody shrub that may remain evergreen or an herbaceous perennial that dies to ground, depending on the winter temperatures where you live.
First called "Mark's Mystery White," this long-blooming, sun-loving plant that can tolerate some shade. It appears to be related to Mexican Bush Sage (S. leucantha), but it's likely we'll never know all the details of its heritage.
Waverly Sage has a fountain-like form with long stems that rise up from the base and then arch downward. Height varies depending, once again, on local growing conditions. On our farm, it tends to reach about four feet high and six feet wide. However, it does well in a large container.
Deer avoid this shrub, which is popular with butterflies, honeybees and hummingbirds. Heat tolerant and drought resistant, it is a great choice for dry landscapes.
(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.
The bracts are also dramatic -- a fuzzy white overlaid with pink, orange, violet and cream. The large flower clusters bloom from mid-summer until the onset of cold weather. Large wrinkled foliage and white wooly stems are other distinctive features of this large, shrubby sage. All that wooliness helps this native of Mexico and Costa Rica to conserve moisture during drought and extreme heat.
At 5 feet tall and wide, this fragrant butterfly magnet makes a good screen, background planting or addition to a shrubby border. It can even be grown in a large patio container.
(Marine Blue Sage) The name and origin of this fine cultivar has long been in dispute. It may be a clone or hybrid of the Mexican plant Salvia chamaedryoidesvar.isochroma. It is one of the prettiest, strongest sages we grow.
Our Marine Blue Sage blooms almost nonstop, producing long spikes of small dark blue flowers marked with bee lines that help lead pollinators into the blossoms. The leaves are small, wrinkled and wooly with silver-white tops and greenish undersides. In a sunny spot, the plant forms a tidy mat of ground cover 18 inches tall and 36 inches wide.
Grow Marine Blue Sage in hot, somewhat dry locations where you can see it up close. It's guaranteed to attract the eye. We predict that the popularity of this drought-resistant sage will increase as it becomes more widely known.
(Snowflake Sage) Wiry, trailing stems of small white leaves make this plant look like fresh snowfall. Numerous, small, sky blue flowers with prominent bee lines further add to the cooling look. This dry-garden plant is native to the mountains of the Chihuahuan desert of North Central Mexico.
Just 6 inches tall and spreading to 36 inches, this is a perfect ground cover. However, we like it best spilling over the edge of a mixed planter or in a hanging basket. It can take a bit of shade in hot areas, but is at its best in full sun. Plant it in rich, well drained soil.
We suspect that this species may be hardy in the warmest parts of Zone 6 when planted in very well-drained soil and winter mulched. We highly recommend it.
(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.
(Mint Lion's Ear or Wild Dagga) Mint Lion's Ear is a drought-tolerant. It is a clump-forming perennial in areas with mild climates and an annual in regions with cold winter temperatures. As a Salvia companion, it works well as a middle-of-border planting that looks magnificent when massed.
"Leon" is Greek for "lion," whereas "otis" translates as "ear." The appellation "menthifolia" refers to the minty scent of the foliage, which grows all the way to the base of this non-woody species. Actually, we think the tawny orange blossoms of this mint family (Lamiaceae) member look more like a lion's mane.
The tubular flowers grow in tiered whorls along velvety stems much shorter than its relative, Leonotis leonura. Crush the plant's lance-shaped leaves and you release their fragrance.
Mint Lion's Ear is native to South Africa where it is mainly called Wild Dagga -- similar to Lion's Ear shrub -- and is used medicinally to sooth coughs, dysentery, fevers and headaches.
Pollinators, including butterflies, love the plentiful nectar of Mint Lion's Ear.
It is ironic that one of the least social types of birds inspires so much sociability in human beings. We refer to hummingbirds, which are the object of festivals and the communal effort of bird banding research nationwide. This is the third and final article in a series about renowned hummingbird expert Nancy L. Newfield, who grows many Salvias in her hummingbird gardens. We recount a visit to Louisiana to observe Newfield and her team banding hummingbirds in winter. You'll also find a rainbow of top hummingbird Salvias listed here.(Photo credit: John Owens)
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.
Fragrance as well as color attracts butterflies. However, they don't have noses. Instead, butterflies smell and taste with their antennas and feet. Here are some ways to attract them:
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.