(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.
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.
(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.
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.
(Black & Blue Anise-Scented Sage) Hummingbirds go crazy for this variety of Salvia guaranitica. The black calyxes contrast handsomely with the rich, royal blue flowers.
Grow this variety as an aromatic border plant in full sun and well drained soil. It appreciates regular moisture and fertile soil, but can survive moderate stress from shortages of either. The thick dahlia-like tuberous roots, which survive well into Zone 7, are reliable and long lived.
In case you are unfamiliar with anise, it smells like licorice.
We highly recommend the much improved Salvia BODACIOUS 'Rhythm and Blues' as an alternative to this older variety.
(Ocampo Mexican Sage) Growing from 7 to 10 feet tall each year, this is the largest of our Mexican Sages. Yet due to its erect form, this sage only spreads 36 inches. It has large, deep violet flowers with almost black calyxes that rise up on tall spikes and dark green, heavily veined foliage.
Collected near the mountain valley town of Ocampo, this Salvia mexicana is native to Mexico's eastern Sierra Madre range in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas on the Gulf of Mexico.
In its homeland, Ocampo Mexican Sage grows on the edges of oak and pine forests. So it does well under tall, deciduous trees and at the margins of moist woodlands in USDA Zones 8 to 11 where it blooms in fall.
Give this hummingbird favorite well-drained, rich soil and regular watering. It works well as a screen or background planting or in tall borders and cut flower gardens. Container planting is fine, but limits height.
(Venezuelan Red Sage) Purple stems and calyxes so dark that they almost look black contrast dramatically with the deep red-orange flowers of this South American beauty. This tall, spectacular sage has been in cultivation for decades but is still rare in gardens. We'd like to see that change.
The heavily textured leaves are large, growing about 4 inches long and 3 inches wide. They are hairy, which gives the foliage a silvery appearance. The flower spikes grow up to 2 feet tall.
This is a robust shrub that requires full sun to partial shade, average watering and rich, well-drained soil. Plant it in a prominent place so you can enjoy its long bloom throughout fall as well as the hummingbirds who use it regularly. At our farm its flowering synchronizes with the Dahlias. Garden uses include shrub borders, cut-flower gardens, background plantings and patio containers.
Rubescens refers to the reddish color of the flowers. This native of Venezuela was first described by Reinhard Gustav Paul Kunth in 1817.
Although we list this species for USDA Cold Hardiness Zones 9 to 11, we believe it may be hardy to Zone 8 winters if treated as an herbaceous perennial and well mulched.
(Arrowleaf Sage) Brilliant royal blue flowers and unusual foliage attract the eye to Arrowleaf Sage. This large herbaceous perennial is found at elevations up to 10,000 feet in the Cordillera de los Andes of Chile, Ecuador and Peru.
Sagittata refers to the arrowhead shaped leaves, which are deeply textured, lime-green and woolly on the undersides. The flowers rise up 1 to 2 feet on dark, leafy spikes from summer into fall.
This sage is adaptable about settings ranging from full sun to partial shade, but needs at least a few hours of strong sunlight daily to bloom well. It also likes well-drained soil that’s high in organic matter, regular watering and a light feeding once or twice a month during rapid growth.
Arrowleaf Sage's habit of spreading via suckers makes it a good groundcover. However, it needs some partial-shade time to do this. It also works well in perennial borders and containers as well as along pathways.
For the best shape and most profuse bloom, cut this sage down to its lowest few active growth nodes in March.
(Purple Majesty Sage) This exceedingly long blooming hybrid is a cross between Salvia guaranitica spp (Anise-Scented Sage) and Salvia gesneriiflora (Mexican Scarlet Sage).
Purple Majesty has fragrant, lush, mint-green foliage and a profusion of deep purple flowers that bloom from early summer until frost. We also love its lush, mint green foliage.
Its height (up to 5 feet), upright habit and long, tubular flower clusters (8 to 12 inches) make it an obvious choice for back of border. However, planted in mass, it also makes a good screen in moist soil areas.
Give Purple Majesty full sun to partial shade. It should be pruned nearly to the ground in late winter to maintain a tidy, shapely appearance and to encourage vigorous new growth in spring.
We highly recommend the much improved Salvia guaranitica 'Purple Haze' as an alternative to this older variety.
(Argentina Skies Anise-Scented Sage) PLEASE NOTE: A superior variety, 'Elk Argentina Skies' is now available.
The licorice-like fragrance of its foliage and the big whorls of large, sky blue flowers make this a stand-out sage. Tall and wide, it forms a tidy, long blooming background, screen or border.
Unlike many Salvia guaranitica clones, Argentina Skies clumps but does not grow by runners. This water-loving sage does well in full sun or partial shade and appreciates fertile soil. Butterflies and hummingbirds love it, but deer do not.
Charles O. Cresson, who teaches at Pennsylvania's Longwood Gardens and is the author of three books in the Burpee American Garden Series, originated Argentina Skies Anise-Scented Sage. He first described the plant and published its scientific name in the September 1990 issue of 'The Garden', a publication of the Royal Horticultural Society.
Cresson says he grew his popular sage from seed he received in the 1980s from a light blue flowered S. guaranitica found in the wild near Buenos Aires.
Overall, Salvia guaranitica species are colorful, long blooming, dependable and adaptable to a wide range of regions. Argentina Skies is one of the most cold-hardy varieties.
(Sapphire Blue Anise-Scented Sage) The large, sapphire blue flowers of this Anise-Scented Sage glow in the full-sun or partial-shade garden from summer into fall. Similar to Salvia guaranitica 'Blue Ensign', this is a shorter variety of the water-loving species.
Hummingbirds, honeybees and butterflies all enjoy Sapphire Blue. Group it front of border with the taller Blue Ensign in the middle and Argentine Skies Anise-Scented Sage at the back for an intensely blue display.
Sapphire Blue also looks handsome paired with its cousin, Salvia rhinosina, another sage from the plains of Argentina.
(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.
(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.
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.