Its common name, Rock Sage, is due to its home in the rocky limestone walls of canyons in Arizona, New Mexico and West Texas.
Botanist Merritt Lyndon Fernald (1873-1950) gave the plant its scientific name in 1913.Pinguis means "fat" and in Latin and folia refers to its foliage. Consequently, this medium-height plant sometimes is called Greaseleaf Sage due to the almost oily feel of its viscous, aromatic leaves, which are deep green and round with scalloped edges.
In its warmest USDA plant hardiness zones, Salvia pinguifolia is a shrub that may remain leafy throughout winter. However, in colder parts of its range, it's a subshrub, which means it combines soft herbaceous and woody growth and loses its foliage in winter.
Rock Sage is challenging to grow outside of its semi-arid home environment. Success depends on planting it in soil amended with fine gravel to provide excellent drainage. Also, you need to be vigilant about avoiding overwatering, because this is one of our blue-tag xeric plants.
Honeybees and butterflies love this plant, but deer resist its charms.
(Silver Horehound) Wooly white hairs on the underside of gray-green foliage help conserve moisture and give this drought resistant groundcover a silvery appearance.
(Dandelion Leaf Sage) Brush or bruise the basal foliage of this Moroccan Salvia and it exudes a citrusy fragrance. Petite and heat tolerant, this is a sturdy, adaptable groundcover.
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Here are some guidelines for success with this plant in your garden.
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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.
This plant grows well in partial shade, such as the kind on the edge of woodlands or under deciduous trees with breaks in the foliage through which dappled sunlight penetrates. Many Salvias thrive in partial shade, including ones that spend part of their day in full sunlight. Some species need partial shade to overcome severe heat and dry soil.
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.
Shrubs are characterized not only by bushy foliage but also by woody stems.
Shrubby Salvias may be evergreen or deciduous. Some Winter-blooming, deciduous species lose their foliage during hot weather. Some Salvias, classified as subshrubs, have a combination of woody and tender, herbaceous growth.
Salvia shrubs range from tall, upright species to ground covers of short to moderate height. Their spread may match or exceed their height
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 during Spring or flowers for much of the season.
However, it may begin flowering sooner. Some Spring-blooming Salvias begin flowering in Winter; others start in Spring, keep producing color through summer and may continue on into autumn and first frost. Still others flower only in Spring.
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.