Instead of simply waiting and hoping for rain, many gardeners and wildlife lovers in states with recurrent drought choose to increase the number of native plants in their yards. This is especially true of Texas, where statewide drought began in 2010 and hasn't yet abated.
Native plants are ones indigenous to your region; they have existed locally since before Columbus stepped on American shores. Native plants and wildlife, including pollinators, coevolved over time to meet each other's needs. Near-native plants from neighboring areas often also appeal to local wildlife.
To help gardeners from Texas and the Southwest who want to create wildlife habitat, Flowers by the Sea (FBTS) ends this article with a list of 25 Salvias and companion plants appropriate for your gardens. All are attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds; most are agreeable to honeybees -- what we call The Big Three pollinators.
The plants listed here are native to Texas, except for:
Before you start drafting a garden plan, here is more information about native and near-native plants for combating drought and supporting pollinators.
Meeting Each Others' Needs
Scientists theorize that the long thin beaks of hummingbirds -- a Western Hemisphere phenomenon -- developed to access nectar in the deep tubular flowers of North, Central and South America. Consequently, an abundance of tubular flowers coevolved to meet the dietary needs of the birds.
Some flowers evolved in ways that allow them to attract butterflies, honeybees and hummingbirds. A good case in point is Autumn Sage ( S. greggii), which is a favorite native species for many Texans.
First, Autumn Sage comes in an array of bright colors, which are necessary to attract The Big Three. Second, the double-lipped, tubular flowers are just deep enough for hummingbird beaks and butterfly tongues but shallow enough for bee burrowing.
Third, the flowers have broad lower petals that allow butterflies and honeybees to perch, which is essential since they can't hover. Fourth, Autumn Sage withstands fluctuations in moisture ranging from drought to heavy downpours (provided soil drainage is good), which are characteristic of Texas.
Identifying Texas Native Plants
One of the best resources for identifying native plants within Texas and beyond is the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, which is part of the University of Texas at Austin. Another excellent source for Texas gardeners is the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD).
The Wildflower Center's interactive map of the U.S. divides Texas into six geographical regions. Click on a region, and a page opens containing a long queue of native plants for that area.
An interactive map at TPWD provides short lists Texas native plants by region. TPWD divides Texas into ten areas. The agency guides the wildlife gardening efforts of Texans by awarding two kinds of certificates for creating native habitat:
25 Salvias & Companions for Texas Gardens
Each section of the following FBTS list indicates the areas of Texas or types of terrain (based on the 6 regions of the Wildflower Center's map) where the plants are found in the wild. The regions are East, North Central, High Plains, West, Central and South Texas.
Flaming Reds & Oranges
S. coccinea: East, Central, South
S. regla: North Central, Central, West
Forest Fire Tropical Sage (Salvia coccinea 'Forest Fire') Zones 9 to 11
Give this sage rich, well-drained soil and average watering based on local conditions.
Lady in Red Tropical Sage (Salvia coccinea 'Lady in Red') Zones 9 to 11
This sage enjoys ample moisture, but does fine with average watering. Give it rich, well-drained soil.
Jame Orange Mountain Sage (Salvia regla 'Jame') Zones 7 to 10
North Carolina plant explorer Richard Dufresne found this large-leafed sage near Mexico's village of Jame.
Orange Mountain Sage (Salvia regla 'Royal') Zones 7 to 10
This is our smallest variety of Salvia regla.
S. pitcherii grandiflora: Throughout Texas
S. texana: From North Central Texas southward thoughout the state
S. farinacea: All of Texas
Big Pitcher Sage (Salvia pitcheri grandiflora) Zones 4 to 9
This a tall, sprawling sage with large flowers.
Texas Blue Sage (Salvia texana) Zones 6 to 9
Colorful and short, this sage is a good groundcover. It appreciates a bit of partial shade in super hot climates.
S. farinacea: All of Texas
For a story about the discovery of these varieties side-by-side in a Texas country graveyard, please see Salvias in the Cemetery: Meet the Duelbergs.
White Mealy Cup Sage (Salvia farinacea 'Augusta Duelberg') Zones 7 to 10
Texas horticulturist Greg Grant found the Duelberg sages in a bone-dry cemetery near Austin, Texas.
Blue Mealy Cup Sage (Salvia farinacea 'Henry Duelberg') Zones 7 to 10
Texas horticulturist Greg Grant found the Duelberg sages side by side in a bone-dry cemetery near Austin, Texas.
Rainbow of Autumn & Mountain Sage
S. greggii: North Central, West, Central, South
S. microphylla: Not native, but a good fit
S. x jamensis: Not native, but good fit
S. lycioides: Texas hillsides and slopes
Flame Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii 'Flame') Zones 6 to 9
Flame looks pretty as a container, border or groundcover planting.
Lipstick Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii 'Lipstick')
This is a very long-blooming sage.
Salmon Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii 'Salmon') Zones 7 to 9
The creamy blossoms of this sage fit well in a pastel garden.
Teresa's Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii 'Teresa') Zones 7 to 9
In full bloom, this sage is like a large bridal bouquet.
Wild Thing Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii 'Wild Thing') Zones 6 to 10
What can we say? Wild Thing is wildly popular.
Saint Isidro's Sage (Salvia lycioides x greggii 'San Isidro') Zones 6 to 9
This is a dwarf cross of two Texas natives.
18th of March Mountain Sage (Salvia microphylla 'Dieciocho de Marzo') Zones 7 to 9
Although Autumn and Mountain sages are closely related, they have significantly different foliage.
Big Sheet Mountain Sage (Salvia microphylla 'Hoja Grande') Zones 7 to 9
Mountain sages are ideal for dry gardens.
Trinity Mountain Sage (Salvia microphylla 'La Trinidad Pink') Zones 7 to 9
This sage is named for a mountain in northern Mexico's Sierra Madres.
Pat Vlasto Hybrid Jame Sage (Salvia x jamensis 'Pat Vlasto') Zones 6 to 9
British plant explorer Dr. James Compton discovered this hybrid of Autumn and Mountain Sage in the North Mexico village of Jame.
S. arizonica: West
S. lyrata: East
S. roemeriana: North Central, West, Central
Arizona Blue Sage (Salvia arizonica) Zones 6 to 11
This sage is a native of mountain canyons.
Purple Prince Lyreleaf Sage (Salvia lyrata 'Purple Prince') Zones 5 to 11
Native Americans used the leaves of Lyreleaf Sage in folk remedies. Another common name is Cancerweed.
Cedar Sage (Salvia roemeriana) Zones 7 to 9
This widespread woodland groundcover also works well as a container plant.
Select Salvia Companions
Agastache x 'Ava': West
Anisacanthus wrightii: Central, West, South
Malvaviscus drummondii: Central, South
Ava Hybrid Anise Hyssop (Agastache x 'Ava') Zones 5 to 9
Ava is related to the Texas native Hummingbird Mint ( Agastache cana).
Texas Firecracker (Anisacanthus wrightii) Zones 7 to 11
Although similar in appearance to Bears Breeches ( Acanthus), the Anisacanthus genus doesn't have thorny sepals.
Red Texas Firecracker (Anisacanthus wrightii 'Select Red') Zones 7 to 11
Anisacanthus means "without thorns." The name of this species honors 19th century American botanist Charles Wright who collected plants in Texas.
Pam's Pink Turk's Cap (Malvaviscus drummondii 'Pam Puryear') Zones 7 to 11
Malvaviscus drummondii is a synonym for the Texas native M. arboreus var. drummondii. This hybrid is a cross between M. drummondii and M. arboreus.
Hidalgo or 7-UP Plant (Stachys albomentosa) Zones 7 to 9
This close relative of the Salvia genus has a powerful fragrance of bubbly soda pop.
Questions About Native & Drought-Tolerant Plants
Persistent drought doesn't just kill plants by starving their roots. It also slowly extinguishes their population by causing their pollinators either to die or leave the area due to food shortages. Agriculture, parks, open space and home gardens all are harmed by a shortage of pollinators.
If you have questions about wildlife gardening or Salvias and companion plants that are drought tolerant and native to your region, please contact us. We're always glad to help you and The Big Three.