Release date: August 2, 2012 Tough and Beautiful, Meet the Salvias By Ellen Reisinger Aransas/San Patricio County Master Gardener

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RELEASE DATE: August 2, 2012

Tough and Beautiful, Meet the Salvias

By Ellen Reisinger

Aransas/San Patricio County Master Gardener

I have always been partial to salvias. Salvias are the largest genus of plants in the mint family and are one of several genera commonly referred to as sage. All sages are salvias. Over time the term sage has become more commonly associated with culinary use and the term salvia with ornamental plants. For centuries sages have been used for sacred rituals, folk remedies, healing and culinary uses. Their origin appears to be from Central and Southwestern Asia and sages comprise some 700-900 species of shrubs, herbaceous perennials and annuals. The stems of the salvia are typically angled and many have hairs growing on leaves, stems and flowers that reduce water loss and give off oils that produce aroma. When rubbed, the oil bearing cells are ruptured and they release the oil which makes them unattractive to grazing animals (such as deer) and some insects.

Perennial salvias serve as mainstays in a garden and will grow 18-36 inches high depending on the variety. Salvias produce spikes of small densely packed flowers atop aromatic foliage. They require low maintenance, low water usage once established, tolerate our dry soil, attract hummingbirds, butterflies and bees and also are good for cut flowers. In this article I am going to discuss four perennial ornamental salvias that will perform well in the Coastal Bend.

Mealy Blue Sage:

One of the best performers in this area is Salvia farinacea or Mealy Blue Sage. Another common name is Mealycup Sage. It is native to the coast and is an evergreen perennial. It produces violet blue spikes that will bloom early spring until the hot summer and then will spring back to life in the fall. Salvia farinacea will benefit from pruning halfway back after blooming to produce thicker more compact foliage. ‘ Henry Duelberg’ salvia is a selection of Salvia farinacea. It is a Texas SuperStar™ plant (a plant that was tested and selected for performance by Texas A&M AgriLife). ‘Henry Duelberg’ was originally found in a cemetery and is drought tolerant and can be grown in full sun or part shade in any soil type. It is larger than Mealy Blue Sage and tends to bloom more prolifically. ‘Henry Duelberg’ salvia has purplish/blue blossoms. ‘Augusta Duelberg’ salvia is the white blooming form.

Scarlet Sage:

Salvia coccinea (also called Scarlet Sage) is another native salvia that performs well in our area. This herbaceous perennial grows to a height of 1-3 feet and prefers part sun or shady areas. Blooms are red in color and are a magnet for hummingbirds and butterflies. Salvia coccinea readily reseeds.

‘Indigo Spires’:

If you like dark violet-blue color in the garden then ‘Indigo Spires’ is the salvia for you. This hybrid salvia is a cross between Salvia longispicata and Salvia farinacea and grows to a height of 3-5 feet when blooming. The flowering spikes can be up to one foot in length and are very showy. Blooming period is from spring to fall and removing the spent flower spikes will encourage more flowering. You can plant ‘Indigo Spires’ in full sun or part shade. ‘Mystic Spires’ Blue Salvia is a compact form of ‘Indigo Spires’ worth mentioning. It grows between 18-30 inches tall, tolerates full sun and produces masses of true blue flowers. ‘Mystic Spires’ is also a Texas SuperStar™ plant.

Mexican Bush Sage:

The fourth and last salvia I would like to mention is Salvia leucantha (Mexican Bush Sage) and it is a Texas SuperStar™ plant. This is a tough perennial which grows to a height of 3 feet. Blooming time is summer through winter. It will tolerate full or partial sun, is native to Mexico and produces showy purple spikes. Mexican Bush Sage looks great in a flower arrangement.

I hope you are inspired to plant one of these beautiful salvias in your garden. You can’t beat a plant that is tough and beautiful!

Texas AgriLife Extension Service - Aransas County Office is located at 892 Airport Road in Rockport. AgriLife Extension education programs serve people of all ages, regardless of socioeconomic level, race, color, sex, religion, handicap or national origin.

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