Friday, March 18, 2016

My favorite sage

Salvia, commonly called sage, is the largest genus of plants in the very large mint family, Lamiaceae. Within the genus, there are nearly a thousand species. They include a wide variety of growth forms such as shrubs, herbaceous perennials, and annuals. Some even have hallucinogenic properties.

There are salvias that are native to practically every region of the world. One that is native to the rocky soils in Central, West, and South Texas, as well as Mexico, is Salvia greggii, often called autumn sage or cherry sage. I grow many different kinds of salvia in my garden, but I have to admit a particular fondness for Salvia greggii.

These salvias are characterized by small, dull pale green, glandular, aromatic leaves. They are essentially small evergreen shrubs that have a loose, open growth. They normally have red flowers, although, through the work of horticulturists, you can now find them in many different colors, including orange, yellow, fuchsia, salmon, purple, red-violet, burgundy, as well as some with white variegation in the leaves.


This is the typical form of autumn sage with its cherry-colored flowers. 

A close-up of the flowers. Although the plant is known as "autumn sage," in our climate, the plants bloom sporadically throughout the year, but it usually reaches its peak of bloom at this time of year.

Another variety has flowers that start as red and turn white as they age. This particular variety is called 'Hot Lips.'

A close-up of the flowers shows how the plant got its name. Don't they look like red-lipsticked lips?
Salvia greggii can be pruned back hard in late winter and again by about a half in August in order to maintain a tidy shape or it can be allowed to grow and spread or sprawl as it does in Nature. I generally opt for the latter and just do occasional light pruning to keep it from entirely outgrowing its space.

The plants will grow in sun or partial sun. It even stands up to our broiling hot summer sun and it is drought tolerant, requiring little or no supplementary water and virtually no care - the perfect plant for lazy gardeners. And that's why it is my favorite sage. 

9 comments:

  1. That's a beautiful shrub with nice flowers.

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    1. The leaves have a nice scent as well. Well, at least, I like the scent. Some people find it less salubrious.

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  2. I've never had much luck with salvias/sages. I planted some of this a few weeks ago so we'll see how it manages.

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    1. It may need to be watered until it is established, but then if you can manage to ignore it, it will probably thrive.

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  3. Beautiful, thank you for this treat

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  4. I like those Hot Lips. I have read that this is a plant peacocks don't eat so I am going to add a couple varieties this year. Of course, being able to withstand the hot summer sun is a big plus here also.

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    1. I don't know about peacocks, but it is deer-resistant which is a plus in this area.

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