Mexico is a land of almost unimaginable plant diversity, including the highest concentration of native sages (Salvia spp.) in the world. It is home to nearly a third of the approximately 900 Salvia species worldwide.
The rich biodiversity of Mexico is due, in part, to its many types of climates from the deserts of Northern Mexico and Baja to the mountainous cloud forests at its southern boundary with Guatemala.
Salvia is a member of the mint family (Lamiaceae). Although Lamiaceae is only the eighth largest plant family in Mexico, Salvia is one of the country's largest genuses. It is a genus with species fit for many climates, which is exactly what Mexico has. Consequently, Mexican sages grow beautifully in many parts of America. Some are even cold hardy to USDA Zone 5.
One factor that causes Mexico's climate to vary so much despite its closeness to the equator is the country's up-and-down geography; it is a land of many mountains and numerous changes in elevation. Some peaks -- such as the volcano Pico de Orizaba near the port of Veracruz in southeastern Mexico -- are topped with snow and glaciers year round even when their lower slopes are hot in summer.
Mexican native species range from drought-tolerant sages that grow best if given little water and lots of sunlight to ones that can take heat, but prefer partial shade and plentiful moisture. They tend to be long-blooming plants with a rainbow of flower colors.
Many Mexican sages are fragrant. On warm summer days, they lend a heady perfume to the landscape when planted near home entryways or as borders along walkways. They include low-growing groundcovers as well as plants so tall, wide and floriferous that a group planting forms a dramatic privacy screen.
Some of these plants are the source of age-old folk remedies and the focus of current medical research; their potential health benefits are modern day treasure. And here is one more thing that is golden about Mexican native sages: these lovely additions to home gardens require little fuss.
(Byron's Mexican Sage) One of our favorite Mexican Sages, this large variety is reputed to be a hybrid between Salvia mexicana and S. hispanica -- a species of Chia Sage.
(Black Stem Mountain Sage) Intense cardinal red flowers, stiff black stems and large, ribbed, green leaves make this Salvia microphylla stand out. Its color and upright growth make it dramatic amid a group of soft, rounded Salvias.
(Heatwave Red Mountain Sage) Compact and small, this Mountain Sage is another fine groundcover for Southern California, the Southwest and Texas. Similar to Salvia microphylla 'Heatwave Glimmer', it not only survives but thrives in extreme heat.
(Brilliance Pink Mountain Sage) Long blooming Salvia microphylla 'Heatwave Brilliance' produces prolific quantities of deep reddish-pink, or cerise, blossoms along with dense, mid-green foliage.
(Glimmering White Mountain Sage) Heatwave Glimmer isn't a mirage. It is a Salvia microphylla that tolerates extremely hot climates as well as cooler regions. It doesn't just survive; it thrives in the heat of Southern California, the Southwest and Texas.
(Scorching Pink Mountain Sage) Compact and small, this Mountain Sage is another fine groundcover for Southern California, the Southwest and Texas. Similar to Salvia microphylla 'Heatwave Glimmer', it not only survives but thrives in extreme heat.
(Hot Lips Sage) What a winner for fascinating flowers! Hot Lips Sage has solid red, solid white and two-tone combinations all on the same plant and often at the same time.The variations are random. You might say that this shrubby sage is mixed-up, but its confused coloring makes it highly desirable.
(Trinity Mountain Sage) Heat and drought tolerant, this Salvia microphylla is native to Northeastern Mexico where summers are dry and temperatures can rise to more than 100 degrees F. It can survive winter temperatures down to 0 degrees.
(Azure Hybrid Sage) Despite its name, the flowers of this tiny hybrid aren't really blue. They are a light purple. Due to its size, long bloom time, heat tolerance and drought resistance, Salvia x 'Mesa Azure' is a fine groundcover for areas where summers are hot and dry.
(Big Orange Mountain Sage) When temperatures are cooler in spring and fall, the persimmon-orange flowers of this large Mountain Sage darken. Gray-green foliage, bright green calyxes and reddish-green stems add to the plant's fascinating look, which mixes well with yellows and blues.
(People's Park Mountain Sage) Sometimes nature can be rebellious. This is one the Mountain Sages known as the Turbulent Sixties Series developed from an outlaw cultivar of the Southwestern native Salvia microphylla. Monterey Bay Nursery (MBN) named their accidental hybrid ‘Berzerkeley.’
(Red Velvet Mountain Sage) This is one of the most intense red-flowering variety of Mountain Sage we grow. Medium-sized flowers are profuse on this large, vigorous plant -- particularly in spring and fall. Dark stems and calyxes intensify the plant's drama along with glossy green foliage.
(Royal Bumble Mountain Sage) Almost black, the stems and calyxes of this UK hybrid form a pleasing contrast with its medium-size scarlet flowers and glossy green leaves. Bloom time is spring to fall. This Mountain Sage suckers freely and forms a dense clump.
(St. Charles Day Mountain Sage) Especially in spring and fall, masses of red-violet flowers bloom amid the silvery green foliage of Salvia microphylla 'San Carlos Festival'. Put this one into the "must have" column.
(Telegraph Avenue Dwarf Mountain Sage) Here’s another member of the Turbulent Sixties Series of Southwestern Mountain Sages (Salvia microphylla), which developed from one of nature’s rebels – an accidental hybrid that Monterey Bay Nursery (MBN) named ‘Berzerkeley’ after finding it taking a stand in the nursery’s gravel paving.
(Royal Purple Autumn Sage) Salvia muelleri is related both to Autumn Sage (S. greggii) and Mountain Sage (S. microphylla), which are closely related species.
(Elk Blue Little Sage) if it were up to us, we would never have named this plant Little Sage. Although it is dainty, it is also one of the most fascinating species we grow. We particularly love its pebbly, oval leaves that are a shiny purple/green on top and a furry white below.
(Blue Angel Gentian Sage) Since the 1838 discovery of this herbaceous species from Central Mexico, Salvia patens has been a mainstay of the perennial garden. Blue Angel is one of the smallest of the full-sized varieties.