Salvias Down South: Tough Texans that Look Hot
A little bit of a hot color warms the garden landscape; a lot sizzles. Salvias that are red, orange, salmon and intensely pink make eyes snap to attention when planted en masse or as highlights complementing cool colors, such as blues and purples.
Texas is home to a number of tough, drought-resistant species that can make a garden look hot, especially to hummingbirds.
Flower Arranging in the Garden
Similar to arrangements of fresh cut Salvia flowers, the garden is a color palate that can be organized in a number of ways. You might make a large, bright, monochromatic statement with a plant such as Furman’s Red Sage or the hot pink of Lemmon’s Sage.
An arrangement of primary colors, such as an intense stand of Cedar Sage -- a crimson hinting at burgundy -- next to a true blue species, would create an attraction of opposites. Or pair the Cedar Sage with a purple species to form a dramatic interplay of hot and cool looks.
Tough Texas oranges can both heat up and simmer down the color arrangement in a flowerbed. Just combine an intense red-orange sage, such as Huntington Gardens Royal Orange, with other sunny perennials, and then add the soothing salmon-pink pastel flowers of the 7UP Plant. Although it isn’t a Salvia, 7UP Plant is sort of a first cousin.
Shades of Fiery Sunset
So many shades of southwestern sunsets; so many planting decisions! Here are the details to help you make up your mind about what to choose and where to plant it. Except for 7UP Plant, which can handle damper soils, all require well-drained soil. Here are our choices arranged from reds and oranges to pinks.
Furman’s Red Sage (S. greggii ‘Furman’s Red'). In mild-winter climates, Furman’s Red Sage is a woody evergreen recommended for USDA plant hardiness zones 6 to 10. Sometimes it will die back to the ground, but Furman’s Red usually reblooms from new wood in the spring. Its deep red flowers are on display from early summer through fall. Mounded in form, it grows up to 36 inches tall and 18 inches wide. Plant it where it receives full sun or morning sun and afternoon shade.
Cedar Sage (S. roemeriana). Zones 7 to 9 are reliable for this partial-shade, herbivorous perennial. It needs acidic soil, because it is native to the Cedar, Juniper and Oak forests of Texas as well as Arizona and Northern Mexico. Cedar Sage is petite, growing from 12 to 20 inches tall and 12 inches wide, and blooms from early Spring through August. To make it stand out, plant a grouping. Then it may readily spread by self-seeding if mulched with the type of leaf litter that occurs naturally in its homelands.
Huntington Gardens Orange Mountain Sage (S. regla ‘Huntington Gardens Form’). From late Summer to Autumn frost, all our S. regla species produce red-orange trumpet blossoms. They are deciduous woody perennials that do well in full sun in Zones 7-10 and bloom from Mid-Summer through Autumn. In some far southern locations, flowering may continue into winter. This species likes regular moisture, but can handle low-water conditions. Huntington Gardens Orange Mountain Sage is the reddest of the lot and grows up to 60 inches tall and wide.
Royal Orange Mountain Sage (S. regla ’Royal’). Royal Mountain Sage is the shortest of the three S. reglas that Flowers by the Sea and grows, reaching a maximum height of 48 inches and spreading 36 inches. Its color is more orange than the Huntington Gardens variety, but a touch redder than S. regla ‘Jame’.
Jame Orange Mountain Sage (S. regla ‘Jame’). Similar to the Huntington Gardens variety, Jame Orange Mountain Sage reaches a maximum of about 60 inches tall and wide.
Lowrey’s Peach Autumn Sage (S. greggii ‘Lowrey’s Peach’). Autumn Sage varieties are mounded, woody perennials and the most widely grown types of Salvia. They are known for flowering from early summer through fall and preferring dry ground and open spaces. So give Lowrey’s Peach and Cold Hardy Pink Sage roomy spacing when planted in monochromatic groupings or with other perennials. Lowrey’s Peach, which is about 36 inches tall and wide, is a rosy salmon orange. It likes full sun but is adaptable to partial shade and does well in Zones 7 to 9.
7UP Plant (Stachys albomentosa). Remember the earlier comment about simmering down the garden heat with the pastel blooms of this plant? Whether you describe them as salmon-pink or apricot-coral, 7UP Plant flowers have a creamy look that is reminiscent of a frozen treat. Even if it does only grow up to 20 inches tall and 18 inches wide, it can cool down the other Texas hot stuff here. It also has lovely, rumpled-looking, oval-shaped leaves. Plant it in Zones 7 to 9.
Cold Hardy Pink Sage (S. greggii ‘Cold Hardy Pink’). So, we’ve already told you some of this lovely shrub’s traits as a member of the S. greggii group. What we need to add is that it has hot pink blossoms, dramatic burgundy calyxes and does well in Zones 6 to 10. However, if you want a pink that is just a touch lighter, Lemmon’s Sage may be the choice.
Wild Rose Lemmon’s Sage (S. lemmonii 'Wild Rose'). Also known as S. microphylla var. wislizenii, Lemmon’s Sage is closely related to the Mountain Sage (S. microphylla) group of woody perennials. At a maximum of 48 inches tall and 36 inches wide, it isn’t the biggest shrub, but it is tough enough to handle a wide range of temperatures from Zones 6 to 10.
Okay, we admit that Lemmon’s Sage isn’t native to Texas, but it is one of the Southwest’s old-time sages. So, excuse us, but we invited it along for this garden party. We think you might be tempted to do so as well. Need more ideas for sages to invite into your Texas landscape? We'd love to hear from you.