Most perennial and woody Salvias thrive when planted in autumn. The season's warm soil speeds root growth unlike the cool soil of early spring. Furthermore, sages put lots of energy into foliage instead of root development in spring. Fall planting allows plants to develop strong root systems that prepare them for the demands of rapid foliar growth and flowering.
You can increase chances of strong root growth by amending soil with lots of organic matter, such as well-rotted compost. This loosens soil so that plant roots gain oxygen, spread more easily and get the moisture they need without being persistently damp. Salvias need good drainage.
Cold-tolerant sages -- such as ones that withstand temperatures in USDA Cold Hardiness Zone 6 or lower -- are particularly good choices for fall planting in areas with chilly winters. They are particularly tolerant of cooling nights as well as occasional light frosts that may occur before the first hard frost of the changing seasons.
With its decreasing temperatures, autumn is also a time of year when it is more comfortable to work in the garden. For more tips about autumn sage gardening, please read our blog article Fall Planting is Superior for Salvias.
How to prune this plant
Deciduous or semi-evergreen, soft stem Salvias
These are species whose stems never develop a woody character and that either die to the ground or loose leaves and become unsightly at the end of a growing season. This group includes both hardy and tender types. Many of the tender forms are grown as annuals in cold winter areas.
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.
Growing Season Pruning
During the spring and summer, you can completely cut to the ground any stems that have finished blooming and are becoming unsightly.
In mild climate areas, growth can be so rapid that the entire plant becomes messy and spent mid-way through the season. In this case, it can be cut back close to the ground – given a short “haircut”. The result usually is fresh, vigorous new growth and another round of flowering.
Dormant Season PruningAt the end of the growing season or after the first frost the spent stems can be completely removed, cut to the ground. Often these are a tangled mess, and one can get great satisfaction by cutting them all off. This also facilitates good garden sanitation, and will help to control pests over the winter.
Attracting Hummingbird Tips
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.
- Go tubular. Hummingbirds need tubular flowers that are easy for long, thin beaks to access.
- Provide lots of color. Think of yourself as a cafeteria manager who needs to provide many tempting choices in order to attract business. Red, pink, orange and purple sages are particularly powerful hummingbird magnets.
- Keep your garden blooming. Plant a variety of Salvias based not only on color but also a broad span of bloom times. Many flower from spring into fall. Others are prolific fountains of nectar for shorter seasons. Numerous winter-blooming species are available for areas that are home to hummingbirds year round.
- Grow sages native to the Western Hemisphere. Although hummingbirds will take advantage of many kinds of tubular flowering plants, these tiny birds are native to the Western Hemisphere and prefer flowering plants native to their half of the world.
- Select Salvia companion plants. Hummingbirds appreciate a variety of favorite tubular-flowered plants.
- Plant hummingbird gardens near cover. Trees and bushes surrounding feeding areas provide protection from predators and chilly, rainy weather.
- Don't use pesticides. Insects provide protein for hummingbirds, so don't kill these food sources.
- Provide water. Hummingbirds frolic in misters and shallow birdbaths.
- Supplement plantings with feeder tubes. Change the sugar water every few days and don't add food coloring. Keep the feeders clean, but don't scrub them with soaps or detergents. Here is more feeder care information.
- Read more. Our Everything Salvias Blog offers a number of articles about hummingbirds.
Dealing with Deer?
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.
- Mask smells that deer like with aromatic sages. Deer and other members of the Cervidae family, such as elk, mostly leave Salvias alone. One theory is that they don't like the fragrance or taste of sage chemicals. Strategically planting sages near vegetable gardens or fruit trees -- elixir to deer -- may prevent consumption.
- Grow hedges including Salvias. Prickly hedges, including hairy-leafed Salvias and exceptionally thorny roses, can discourage deer from entering your yard. They don't like the mouth-feel of those textures. Tall hedges also hide strawberry beds and other yummy plantings from view.
- Don't overplant one species. Grow a variety of Salvias in case local deer take an unexpected liking to one species of sage.
- Fence deer out. Install electric fences or 8-foot wood or metal fences around particularly vulnerable areas. Make sure electric fencing is turned on during the peak feeding seasons of early spring and late fall.
- Use motion-detection tools. Install outdoor lighting that is activated by movement.
- Let the dogs out. Deer are especially wary of large dogs.
- Surround and cover. Wrap tough plastic around the trunks of trees that have tasty bark and cover foliage with bird netting when trees and bushes are fruiting.
- Change yard ornaments periodically. Objects such as scarecrows, statuary and cordons of monofilament string with strips of shiny foil attached cause deer to shy away.
- Make safe choices. Research repellants you plan to use to make sure they aren't poisonous.
- Be flexible and ready to share a bit. There is no such thing as a completely deer-resistant garden.
You can rely on a quality experience with Flowers by the Sea Nursery, because we:
- Ship only large, healthy plants
- Carefully package your purchase
- Contract with UPS for rapid, safe delivery direct to your door and
- Don't raise plant prices to artificially subsidize low shipping fees.
Looking for a larger quantity?
We are continually propagating most Salvia varieties, to be able to ship to you plants "in their prime", ideal for planting out. Generally we maintain a relatively small number of any given plant in inventory. We can often grow larger quantities to meet specific needs. If you are looking for more than what we have in our current inventory, please contact us.
This is the non-scientific name used for a plant. A plant may have several common names, depending on the gardener's location. To further confuse the matter, a common name may be shared by several completely different plants. At Flowers by the Sea, we rely on the scientific name to identify our plants and avoid confusion.
|Midnight Mexican Bush Sage|
The U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones indicate the temperature zones where a plant is likely to thrive. It is determined by the average annual winter minimum temperature. Actual winter temperatures may be higher or lower than the average.
|8 - 11|
The anticipated mature size of the plant: Height, Width & Flower Height.
This is the average amount of sunlight that a plant needs to thrive. Generally, full sun exposure is 6 or more hours of direct sun daily while partial shade is less than 4 hours of sun or dappled shade all day. Plants may tolerate more sunlight in cooler climates and need afternoon shade in extremely hot climates.
This is the kind of soil that a plant needs to thrive. Most plants require a well-drained soil that allows the water to soak into the soil without becoming soggy. Sandy and clay soils can be improved by digging in compost to improve drainage.
Plants have specific water requirements. Water loving means the plant needs regular watering to keep the soil moist. Average generally indicates applying 1 inch of water per week, or watering when the soil is dry to a depth of 3 to 4 inches. One inch of water is equal to 5 gallons per square yard of soil surface.
This is the size of the pot your plant will arrive in. All will be well rooted & branched and ready to grow when planted. Our 3 1/2 inch pots have a volume of 1.0 pints or 473 ml.
|3 1/2 inch deep pot|
"Yes" indicates that this plant can be successfully grown as a container plant.
Hummingbirds have been observed regularly feeding from this plant's flowers.
(Midnight Mexican Bush Sage) The typical Mexican Bush Sage has purple
flowers surrounded by furry white bracts. This clone from the San Francisco
Peninsula has deep purple flowers, calyxes and stems. It is a good groundcover
due to a mounding habit, smaller size and generous amounts of flowers.
Similar to other Mexican Bush Sages, Midnight is pleasantly fuzzy. The hairiness helps protect this full sun, heat-tolerant sage against drought. Use this compact plant in shrubby borders and large containers. It is also a fine addition to a cut-flower garden, blooming from summer into fall.
Deer avoid this sage, but honeybees, hummingbirds and butterflies are drawn to it.
Here are some guidelines for success with this plant in your garden.
Click on an individual icon for more detailed information.
This plant needs or tolerates more than six hours of intense sunlight daily. Many Salvias only thrive in wide-open locations where they receive long hours of full sun. However, full-sun species sometimes tolerate a bit of partial shade. Or a Salvia that loves partial shade may be amenable to spending part of its time in full sun.
In general, this sun/shade adaptability shows up in Salvias that do best in cooler climates when grown in full sun and thrive in hot climates when partial shade is available. So full-sun Salvias sometimes are also categorized as partial-shade plants and vice versa.
This plant can handle extreme heat.
Full-sun Salvias that don’t like any shade are among the most heat tolerant. Heat-loving Salvias also are often drought tolerant. Moisture-conserving features, such as fuzzy leaves, help them stay perky at high temperatures.
Heat-tolerant Salvias are fine choices for western and southern exposures.
Plant hardiness Zones defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture tell you the minimum temperatures a plant can withstand in your garden. The USDA divides the nation into winter climate areas from coldest (Zone 1) to warmest (Zone 11).
However, it is sometimes possible to grow a Zone 6 Salvia as a perennial in Zone 5 if you provide preferential care, such as winter mulching and a location sheltered from harsh winds. In contrast, a Zone 9 Salvia may act like a perennial in Zone 10 if given a bit of shade or extra water.
To create a harmonious landscape plan, it is important to consider the heights of individual plants.
Height also affects function. Short Salvias often make excellent ground covers that conserve soil moisture and discourage weeds while also brightening your yard. Medium-height Salvias, such as ones 36 inches tall, often are ideal border plants. A tall Salvia planted singly can highlight a landscape; multiple plantings can form an attractive screen.
By considering the width of a plant, you can determine how many to place in a row or what other plants to grow with it.
For example, a narrow, moderate-height Salvia may look good interplanted with bushier species, kind of like Mutt and Jeff.
In contrast, wide-spreading Salvias are economical for hiding lengths of wall and fence or for creating hedge-like divisions in a yard.
Plant this herbaceous species in the USDA Zones where it grows as a perennial, returning year after year.
After dying back to the ground at frost, herbaceous perennials emerge in the Spring with soft, new growth. A Salvia that is perennial in one region, may be an annual in another depending on local conditions, such as winter temperatures.
If you live in USDA Zone 5, for example, Salvias in our catalog cited as growing well in Zone 5 or lower will be perennial. Those cited as doing well in Zones 6 or higher may do well in Zone 5, but generally will act like annuals coming back from seed instead of the parent plant’s roots.
This plant needs regular watering based on what is appropriate to your local conditions.
In some extremely hot, arid climates, this may mean daily watering in Summer. Although many drought-resistant Salvias survive on little to no watering due to local rainfall and deep roots meeting their moisture needs, others need regular doses. The size and frequency of the dose depends on your climate.
In the right locale, this plant survives and thrives despite minimal summer water.
Drought resistance is an important characteristic of xeriscapic – dry landscape – plants, a category that includes a multitude of Salvias. Many low-water Salvias are native to parts of the world with little rainfall all year or regions where summers are dry and winters are wet.
Nevertheless, there are also drought-resistant Salvias for places such as Florida where winters are dry and summers are wet.
This plant reaches peak bloom in Fall or flowers for much of the season.
It may begin flowering much earlier in the year. Bloom time for some Salvias lasts from Spring till first frost. Others begin flowering in Summer and continue into Fall. There are also Salvias that don’t bloom until late Fall and continue into Winter if grown in mild-Winter areas.
There is a great deal of overlap in blooming seasons for Salvias.
Honeybees love this plant’s nectar. As a honeybee burrows down into a Salvia’s nectar-rich flowers to reach dinner, it accidentally gathers pollen and drops it on the stigma of that blossom or of ones on other nearby Salvias. Fertilization results in seed production.
By growing honeybee favorites, you attract these helpful pollinators to all your flowering plants and increase productivity
This plant attracts butterflies whether for nectar or as a host for their caterpillars. Some butterflies feed on a limited range of flowering plants and only lay eggs on one kind of host plant. Salvia nectar lures adult butterflies. Placing host plants, such as Milkweeds (Asclepias spp.), next to nectar plants builds butterfly habitat. In exchange, the butterflies improve fertility in your garden through pollination.
Unless local forage is in short supply, most deer likely will avoid this plant.
It appears that deer dislike Salvias, in general, due to their volatile oils that make the plants so fragrant and savory in cooking. However, the only completely deer-proof plants are the ones grown beyond reach.
Based on our experience and reports from customers, hummingbirds (Trochilidae spp.) love this plant.
Hummingbirds exist only in the Americas where their 300-plus species are particularly fond of the nectar in brightly colored Salvias from the Western Hemisphere. However, if favorites aren’t available, they dine on the nectar of most Salvias.
Hummingbirds repay thoughtful plantings by helping to pollinate your garden
Learn more about how we analyze plant colors
We based our analysis of this plant’s floral and foliar color on the internationally standardized color system published by the U.K.’s Royal Horticultural Society. Called the RHS Large Colour Charts, this publication is a boxed set of color swatches arranged in fans and containing all the colors that RHS has identified in horticulture. RHS gives each color a common name and code number.
Each swatch has a small hole punched into it. We place the swatch over a flower petal and compare the blossom’s color to that of the card. When using RHS colors to compare plants that you want to combine in a flowerbed, in bouquets or in some other manner, RHS says to view them indoors in north light. If you are matching our digital swatches to flowers already in your garden, pluck two or three fully open blossoms of each plant that requires analysis.
You may find that the plant you receive from FBTS varies somewhat in color from what appears in our color analysis or our photograph due to a number of factors, including:
- Variations in photographic colors based on lighting level at different times of day
- Differences in the resolution of digital screens
- Seasonal changes in plant color due to changes in temperature and plant cycle and
- pH or soil chemistry that varies from one locale to another and causes color shifts.
Finally, RHS notes that you shouldn’t attempt color matching when your eyes are fatigued.
See other plants with similar colors
See other plants with colors in a split complementary relationship
See other plants with colors in a triadic relationship
Posted: Saturday, September 7, 2019
Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha) is a garden star, but not a demanding diva. That is why Texas A&M University selected Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha) as one of its 50 “Texas Superstar” plants, all of which are highly recommended for flourishing in unpredictable weather and drought. The many varieties of Mexican Bush Sage are garden beauties that need little pampering. Native to hot, dry areas of Mexico and Central America, they are accustomed to tough conditions. Flowers by the Sea carries a number of striking varieties.
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Posted: Tuesday, July 2, 2013
Creating a butterfly garden is like creating a teen-friendly home. You need to offer tasty snacks, healthy beverages, and comfortable accommodations that aren't too tidy. Like the teens that fill your basement and backyard, butterflies will keep coming back if you give them what they need. The variety of plants in your yard is the main reason why butterflies do or don’t visit. Salvias are among the popular plants for adult butterflies that love nectar.
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Posted: Thursday, June 27, 2019
Randy Collins was surprised when he got hooked on horticulture following retirement. But after a move to South Carolina, he was even more surprised at how deer destroyed his gardens until he began growing lots of mint family (Lamiaceae) plants like Salvias. It inspired him to write Stop...and Smell the Mints.
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Posted: Thursday, January 29, 2015
America buzzes with bee diversity, including 4,000 native species and many types of nonnative honeybees. Flowers by the Sea details the variety and value of our imperiled bees. This is the second article in a two-part series focused on identifying and understanding bees, becoming aware of threats to their survival and noting ways gardeners can protect these tiny wildlife. It includes tips on how to avoid bee stings.
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Posted: Friday, July 18, 2014
Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay once housed prisoners, many of whom helped beautify "The Rock" by working in prison gardens. Nowadays, volunteer gardeners keep the island flowering with the help of long-blooming, drought-tolerant Salvias
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Posted: Saturday, April 25, 2015
Have we got tools for you! No, we aren't selling Ginzu clippers, rust-free shovels, a miraculous compost-in-minutes machine or anything requiring payments. We're talking about a set of color tools for accurately visualizing and comparing the floral and foliage colors of Salvias. As you wander through the riot of hues in our online catalog at Flowers by the Sea, these tools aid plant selection and landscape planning. Beginning in fall 2014, we began identifying the colors of all FBTS plants based on the internationally standardized color system published by the U.K.'s Royal Horticultural Society. This improves descriptions of plant colors and makes color comparisons of plants easier for garden design.
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Posted: Thursday, July 7, 2016
It is ironic that one of the least social types of birds inspires so much sociability in human beings. We refer to hummingbirds, which are the object of festivals and the communal effort of bird banding research nationwide. This is the third and final article in a series about renowned hummingbird expert Nancy L. Newfield, who grows many Salvias in her hummingbird gardens. We recount a visit to Louisiana to observe Newfield and her team banding hummingbirds in winter. You'll also find a rainbow of top hummingbird Salvias listed here.
(Photo credit: John Owens)
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Posted: Wednesday, June 19, 2019
A wedding gift led to Kathi Johnson Rock and Michael Rock's passion for hummingbirds. These Wisconsin birders offer tips and plant suggestions for hummingbird gardeners at FBTS. Although now known as Madison's "Hummingbird People," the Rocks aren't ornithologists or biologists. They are home gardeners and customers of Flowers by the Sea who discovered the power of nectar-rich Salvias and companion plants to fuel hummingbird migration. This article includes a list favorite hummingbird plants found in the Rocks' gardens.
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(Mexican Bush Sage or Velvet Sage) Large purple and white flowers bloom abundantly on this compact dwarf plant. If you love the rich colors and velvety foliage of Mexican Bush Sage but have limited space or need a container variety, this one is is for you.