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.
(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.
(Cambridge Blue Gentian Sage) Cambridge Blue is one of the most famous varieties of Salvia patens, which was discovered in Central Mexico in 1838. Its powder blue flowers are delightful and cooling in the landscape.
(Dorset Lavender Gentian Sage) Large, deep lavender flowers shaped like parrot beaks make Salvia patens 'Chilcombe' distinctive in the Gentian Sage group, which is dominated by true blues.
(Dot's Delight Bicolor Gentian Sage) This sage turns heads, because its large, white and blue bicolored flowers make it a unique variety of Gentian Sage. Developed in the UK, Dot's Delight is less vigorous and less sun tolerant than other varieties of the species.
(Giant Gentian Sage) "Wow!" is what most people say when they see this large Gentian Sage from Central Mexico. Growing to 4 feet tall, it has long, graceful spikes of 3-inch deep, royal blue flowers that are highly visible and easily accessible to hummingbirds.
(Oxford Blue Gentian Sage) Only Salvia patens 'Blue Angel' comes close to the hard-to-believe, rich gentian blue of this sage from Mexico. Oxford Blue also grows taller and spreads wider than Blue Angel.
(El Butano Downy Sage) El Butano is a horticulturally rich area of Cumbres de Monterrey National Park in the mountains of Nuevo Leon, Mexico. El Butano Downy Sage was discovered in this area where it grows at elevations of 4,500 to 8,000 feet.
(Rosebud Pink Hybrid Sage) Protective, magenta pink, leaf-like bracts surround the buds of Salvia pulchella x involucrata like a hug, bursting open and eventually falling away as the fuzzy flowers blossom.
(Autumn Purple Sage) Small but numerous, the flowers of this sage are a variable shade of light purple that is unlike any other we grow. Native to Southern Mexico and Guatemala, this shrub regularly grows up to 5 feet tall (or taller) and 4 feet wide.
(Lavender Lace Autumn Purple Sage) Large, rich lavender-purple flowers cover this shrubby Sage from late fall into the spring. It has great vigor, grows fast and is a favorite of the hummingbirds. A "must have" for warm climate Salvia gardens.
(Orange Mountain Sage) This is the reddest of the Salvia regla species and the most floriferous. Side by side with the other varieties, this one is a bit taller and has darker flowers.
(Jame Orange Mountain Sage) North Carolina plantsman Richard Dufresne collected this fine variety of Salvia regla near the village of Jame, in central Mexico where the western and eastern Sierra Madre mountains meet.
(Orange Mountain Sage) Coahuila, Mexico, is home to many fine Salvias, including the smallest variety of Salvia regla that we grow. This one averages about 3 feet tall and wide.
(Great Orange Mountain Sage) Densely branched with small, dark green leaves, this variety of Salvia regla also features creamy orange flowers with white markings.
(Cedar Sage) Scarlet flowers abound on this small, mounding, woodland sage that is native to Texas, Arizona and Northern Mexico. Grow it as a small scale groundcover or mix it with other shade-loving sages in a perennial border or along a path.
(Rosy Bract Sage) Sub-shrub salvias have both woody and soft, herbaceous growth. Rosy Bract Sage is a tidy, small leafed sub-shrub smothered with large clusters of 1/2-inch, violet-blue flowers and rosy red bracts. Its bracts deepen in color as the season proceeds.
(Scordy Sage) Little is known about this shrubby Ecuadorian native. We're not even sure it is from Ecuador! However, this is another sage that sells itself instantly when seen in bloom. The large clusters of rich, deep violet flowers bloom summer to fall, attracting honeybees and hummingbirds.
(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.
(Sinaloan Blue Sage) It's difficult to say which trait is more attractive about this sage -- the airy spikes of deep, true blue flowers or the fascinating spear-shaped foliage that varies from deep green to purple, forming a tidy mat.
(Smith College Mystery Sage) This mysterious species came to us via Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. We refer to it as "Mystery Sage" as the origins of this fine plant are unclear.
(Thryce Flowered Sage) A wonderfly floriferous shrubby species from the mountains of Jalisco, Mexico. The individual flowers are small, but so numerous as to be uncountable. The textured foliage makes this a stand out in the garden.