Salvias Down South: 15 Thirsty Salvias for Florida
From far north to far south, from alpine forests to coastal lowlands and from wide-open deserts to overgrown swamplands, there seem to be Salvias for all types of conditions. The huge genus contains up to 900 species, many of which are amenable to the heat and moisture abundant in Florida.
Flowers by the Sea grows a number of Salvias that are already popular in the Southeast as well as others we would like to introduce to gardeners seeking thirsty flowering plants that can also adjust to dry spells. Many are fine choices for Florida hummingbird gardens.
The following suggestions are organized into six categories based on moisture tolerance – average and ample -- and sun requirements. We’ve also noted the USDA plant hardiness zones for all, because temperature tolerance varies.
Although many of these choices thrive with lots of rain, most Salvias prefer soil that drains well so their roots don’t rot or get cut off from oxygen. Adding organic matter and fertilizer to Florida’s primarily sandy – but occasionally clay – soils, is important for growing success.
When making selections, pay close attention to how their USDA plant hardiness zones match up to the temperatures in your part of the state. For example, if you live in North Florida and experience winter freezes, some of our Japanese Salvias may be ideal choices. Central and South Florida may be better choices for growing species that begin flowering in late summer.
Full Sun, Average Water
Hidalgo Roseleaf Sage (Salvia involucrata var. purberula ‘Hidalgo’), Zones 7 to 10. Height: 60 to 72 inches. Spread: 48 inches. Roseleaf sages are herbaceous perennials with hot pink flowers that usually begin blooming in late Summer.
Limelight Mexican Sage (Salvia mexicana ‘Limelight’), Zones 7 to 9. Height: 48 to 60 inches. Spread: 24 inches. Lime-green foliage and deep violet flowers make this woody perennial stand out. Mexican Salvias are also late-season bloomers.
Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans), Zones 9 to 11. Height: 36 to 60 inches. Spread: 24 to 36 inches. Pineapple sage is an herbaceous perennial and a favorite in baked goods. Shorter cultivars, which require some shade, include Honey Melon and Tangerine. All have vibrant red-orange blossoms.
Black & Blue Anise Leaf Sage (Salvia guaranitica ‘Black & Blue’), Zones 7 to 10. Height: 48 inches. Spread: 36 inches. Hummingbirds particularly love this herbaceous perennial, which blooms mid-Summer through Fall. It gains its name from purplish-blue flowers cupped by black calyxes. FBTS also sells a number of shade-tolerant cultivars of Anise Leaf Sage, including Purple Majesty detailed further below.
Full Sun, Ample Water
Greenwood Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha ‘Greenwood’) Zones 8 to 11. Height: 48 to 60 inches. Spread: 48 inches. Some Mexican Bush sages, such as Greenwood, tolerate lots of water in extremely hot climates. In areas where frosts occur, it is a perennial that dies to the ground. In warmer climes, it acts like a woody subshrub. Foliage is lime green with lavender-to-white flowers. Flowering time is from Summer through Fall.
Sun to Partial Shade, Average Water
Bog Sage (Salvia uliginosa), Zones 6 to 10. Height: 40 to 48 inches. Spread: 40 inches. Along with its adaptability to water conditions, this herbaceous perennial is a popular choice for its sky-blue flowers that bloom from Summer through Fall. As its name indicates, Bog Sage tolerates soils that drain poorly. It also grows well during dry spells.
Purple Majesty Anise Scented Sage (Salvia guaranitica ‘Purple Majesty’), Zones 7 to 10. Height: 48 to 60 inches. Spread: 60 inches. Large, mint-colored leaves compliment royal purple flowers that bloom from Summer through Fall. This herbaceous perennial is a good back-of-border choice.
Red Velvet Sage (Salvia confertiflora), Zones 8 to 11. Height: 60 inches. Spread: 36 to 48 inches. Dark green foliage makes a sharp contrast with this herbaceous perennial’s bright red-orange flowers that bloom on equally red spikes throughout Fall.
Sun to Partial Shade, Ample Water
Gravid Sage (Salvia gravida), Zones 8 to 11. Height: 48 to 60 inches. Spread: 36 inches. Twelve-inch-long clusters of reddish-magenta flowers hang from curving branches on this floriferous Salvia from Winter through Spring.
Cayman Island Sage (Salvia caymanensis), Zones 9 to 11. Height and Spread: 18 inches. Due to its short stature and intense, pleasant fragrance, Cayman Island Sage is a good border plant. Its bright green foliage contrasts crisply with pale blue and white flowers that bloom in Spring. If you plant Cayman Island Sage, you will be helping to perpetuate an endangered species.
Shade Only, Average Water
Blue Vine Sage (Salvia cacalifolia), Zones 8 to 11. Height: 36 to 54 inches. Spread: 42 inches. Royal blue flowers blossom on this vining, herbaceous perennial from mid-Summer through late Autumn.
Chiapas Sage (Salvia chiapensis), Zones 7 to 11. Height: 36 to 48 inches. Spread: 36 inches. The abundant magenta spikes and bright green foliage of Chiapas Sage bloom from Summer into Autumn. Chiapas Sage mixes well in border plantings.
Shade Only, Ample Water
Makino Sage (Salvia glabrescens ‘Yellow & Purple’), Zones 7 to 9. Height: 12 to 18 inches. Spread: 18 inches. Bold purple markings dress up the pale yellow of Makino Sage’s flowers, which begin blossoming in Fall and would look graceful as part of a shady border. Although it looks delicate, this is a hardy herbaceous perennial.
Red Michoacán Sage (Salvia longistyla), Zones 8 to 11. Height and spread: 36 inches. The dramatic blood-red flowers clustering at the stem tips of this subshrub are 3 to 4 inches long. Plant Red Michoacán in containers as well as in your shade garden.
Formosan Woodland Sage (Salvia nipponica var. Formosana), Zones 7 to 9. Height: 12 inches. Spread: 24 inches. Here is another pretty herbaceous perennial for a shady border. Buttery yellow is a rare color for Salvia flowers. Beginning in summer, these cheerful flowers add a sunny contrast to arrowhead-shaped foliage that is deep green on top and fuzzy purple below.
Creating a Hummingbird Paradise
Hummingbirds love Florida and Salvias. By planting heat-resistant, water-loving Salvias in your Florida garden, you build a hummingbird paradise. Please feel free to contact us. We'd be happy to help you and to help the hummingbirds in your neighborhood.
Salvia x guaranitica 'Purple Majesty'
Salvia glabrescens 'Elk Yellow & Purple'
Salvia leucantha 'Greenwood'
Salvia elegans 'Elk Sonoran Red'
Salvia guaranitica 'Black & Blue'
Salvia elegans 'Golden Delicious'
Salvia mexicana 'Limelight'
Salvia elegans 'Tangerine'
Salvia involucrata var puberula 'Hidalgo'