Enjoy Mexican sage this fall

September 14, 2013

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Many plants known as salvias are great selections for drought- tolerant gardens.

In this large plant family, many of the small shrubs and herbaceous perennials sport colorful, sometimes fragrant blossoms and aromatic foliage. Most flowering salvias are also beneficial for wildlife, attracting bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. Flower colors range from white to pink, blue and purple.

In Texas, Salvia leucantha is known as Mexican bush sage. It has an upright, shrubby habit and grows vigorously in spring to 3-5 feet tall and wide by fall. In areas with moderate winter weather, Mexican bush sage is an evergreen perennial. Leaves are lance-shaped to linear, gray-green on top with pale gray to white hairy undersides.

What makes this salvia so spectacular?

It is a true late season performer. The plant’s numerous stems grow about a foot long, but bear long whorls of mostly purple/white velvety flowers arranged in whorls. The plant’s bloom period is long, sometimes beginning in spring or early summer, but reliably blooming late summer through autumn.

Mexican bush sage is easy to establish. Plant it in full sun for best bloom and in any well-drained soil. It has low to moderate water needs once established, so partner it with other drought-tolerant species. Because it is tender in North Central Texas, select a planting site that offers protection from harsh northern winds. Avoid low-lying or shady areas, which freeze easily. It is difficult to ensure the plant’s survival from year-to-year in areas with winter temperatures that regularly dip below freezing.

Trim this plant close to the ground before new spring growth begins. This practice removes withered foliage and invigorates the generation of new flowering stems. During the growing season, trim Mexican bush sage by half in mid-summer if it overgrows its space. To extend the bloom cycle, remove spent blossoms as they fade. Trimming the blooms reduces weight, thereby helping the stems to remain upright.

Mexican bush sage should not be overwatered or grown in an area that retains too much moisture. If rain is not sufficient, give it supplemental water weekly.

Resource: New Book of Salvias, Sunset Western Garden Book

For answers to your horticulture questions, please call the Texas AgriLife Extension, Hood County at 817-579-3280 and ask to speak to a Master Gardener or visit the website at hoodcountymastergardeners.org.

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Category: Horticulture Archived