(John Whittlesey Sage) Hardy, vigorous and long blooming, John Whittlesey Sage is a hybrid of D'Arcy's Sage (Salvia darcyi) -- a native of Mexico -- and Mountain Sage (S. microphylla), which is native to the American Southwest and Mexico.
The long flowering season of this sage makes John Whittlesey Sage a garden favorite; it begins bursting with salmon-red blooms early in the growing season. You can grow it as a bedding plant in areas with winters cooler than those of USDA Zone 7. In warmer zones, this tidy sage is an herbaceous perennial.
In coastal areas, John Whittlesey Sage is a great stand-in for the plethora of little-leaf species -- Mountain Sage, Autumn Sage (S. greggii )and Jame Sage (S. x jamensis) -- that often struggle with humidity.
Hummingbirds love the bright red flowers of this full-sun, heat-tolerant plant that makes a tall but effective groundcover. However, it is generally used in mixed borders.
Horticulturist Mike Thiede of Chico, California, developed this sage and named it for John Whittlesey of Canyon Creek Nursery in Oroville, California.
These are species that produce woody stems, but die back to the ground in the winter in all but the warmest climates. In warm winter areas these can become woody shrubs, but they generally benefit from the following pruning methods.
Pruning is both an art and a science. It takes practice, experience and learning from your mistakes to become a proficient pruner. The pruning information about this plant should be considered as a guideline for getting started. Your particular climate, soils, watering and fertility schedules, sun exposure, space requirements and weather are all factors that influence how and when you choose to prune. We’re providing a starting place for you, and over time you will learn the particularities of this plant in your garden. Don’t be afraid to get started – Salvias, in general, are quick to rebound if inappropriately pruned.
Deadheading – the removal of spent flowers, is a practice that will always benefit the plant’s health and appearance. This can be done at any time. Pruning involves removal of entire stems of spent growth. Becoming "spent" means that flowering stems stop blooming and begin going to seed.
(Diablo Eyelash Sage) Small, eyelash-like hairs on the edge of its leaves give this Mexican native part of its name. It earns "Diablo," which means "devil" in Spanish, from the two yellow stamens that stand up out of each flower like horns.
This compact, gently mounding Salvia spreads gradually by underground stolons. Its rich red flowers are darker in full sun and paler in partial shade. It blooms from early summer to late fall and is a delightful addition to a mixed border.
(Eyelash Sage) Small, eyelash-like hairs on the edge of its leaves give this Mexican native part of its name. A compact, gently mounding Salvia, it spreads gradually by underground stolons.
'Old Form' was collected in the wild and is a vigorous variety. All clones of this species vary in color depending on the light in which they grow as well as variations in ambient temperature and time of year. It is, at times, a rich reddish-orange as the photo indicates. However, instead of trying to describe all its color variations and compare them to the flowers of the other Eyelash Sages we offer --'Painted Lady' and Diablo' -- we suggest that you try all three!
(Painted Lady Eyelash Sage) Small, eyelash-like hairs on the edge of its leaves give this Mexican native part of its name. A compact, gently mounding Salvia, it spreads gradually by underground stolons.
Similar to Diablo Eyelash Sage, the richly colored flowers of this variety are darker in full sun and paler in partial shade. It's red-orange flowers are brighter than those of "Diablo' and often cover the plant in large clusters from early summer to late fall. Enjoy it in a mixed border.
(Cardinal Sage) Aptly named for its cardinal red, 2-inch-long flowers that glisten in the autumn sun, this full-sun sage blooms from fall into winter. Hummingbirds love it, but deer resist its charms. Growing up to 5 feet tall, it makes a fine screen.
Cardinal Sage is another Salvia of uncertain nomenclature. Some sources identify it as Salvia fulgens, while others say it is Salvia cardinalis or S. fulgens var. cardinalis.
Cardinal Sage is native to elevations up to 11,000 feet in Central Mexico. It is a shrub in Zones 8 and 9 or an herbaceous perennial in Zone 7. Plant it in a warm spot with fertile, well-drained soil. Although it loves water, it also does well in dry conditions. We highly recommend this adaptable beauty.
(Furman's Red Autumn Sage) Selected by noted Texas plantsman W.A. Furman in the 1970s, this hardy Texas native is beautiful and tough withstanding heat, drought and freezing winters. Its flowers, which bloom spring through fall, are a rich, saturated red bordering on magenta.
Averaging growth up to 3 feet tall, but never wider than 2 feet, it adds zing to borders in spaces between lower growing plants such as Salvia x jamensis. It harmonizes well with pastel types of S. x jamensis.
Heat tolerant and drought resistant, Furman's Red is a good background planting or tall groundcover in a dry garden. It readily attracts honeybees and butterflies, but not deer. This is one of the best choices for extreme conditions, seeming to thrive on hot, dry days and cold nights. Plant it in full sun or partial shade in any well-drained soil.
(Texas Wedding White Autumn Sage) This is our best white-flowered Autumn Sage. It is compact, hardy and blooms abundantly. We love it as a contrast to the generally bright colors of its group. Texas Wedding seems to always be blooming, with massive displays in spring and fall.
The flowers are small but so profuse that they seem to outnumber the leaves.
This variety of Salvia greggii makes a great, small-scale groundcover when each plant is spaced two feet apart. Although it tolerates some shade -- especially in hot climates -- it needs full sun. Good drainage is another necessity, but it doesn't require much watering.
Texas Wedding is reliably hardy to 10 degrees F, but can tolerate colder temperatures with mulching. Here's some other good news: Deer don't much care for it.
(Hot Lips Sage) What a winner for fascinating flowers! Hot Lips Sage has solid red, solid white and two-tone combinations all on the same plant and often at the same time. The variations are random. You might say that this shrubby sage is mixed-up, but its confused coloring makes it highly desirable.
The flowers, which primarily bloom in spring and fall, flower more during cool weather and when regularly watered and fertilized. We have never determined any reason for its color variations or any conditions that standardize their pattern.
This Mountain Sage has a tightly branched form. Often, it is covered with so many flowers that they seem to outnumber the small, green leaves.
Depending on local climate, Hot Lips works well in either a perennial or shrub border. It's a fine addition to a dry garden. We love and highly recommend this mountain treasure from Oaxaca, Mexico.
(Red Velvet Mountain Sage) This is one of the most intense red-flowering variety of Mountain Sage we grow. Medium-sized flowers are profuse on this large, vigorous plant -- particularly in spring and fall. Dark stems and calyxes intensify the plant's drama along with glossy green foliage.
In a mixed group of Mountain Sage and the closely related species Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii), Red Velvet is always the first plant you notice.
Red Velvet can handle full sun, but particularly flourishes in partial shade. It even blooms in full shade. It needs well-drained soil and regular watering based on local conditions. At 48 inches tall and wide, it is ideal for a shorter screen or background planting, especially in a native garden. In the cooler part of its range, it works well in perennial borders. In warmer zones, group it with shrubby Salvias.
We highly recommend this fast growing, lovely plant. Thank you to Luen Miller of Monterey Bay Nursery for developing this exceptional Salvia microphylla.
(Venezuelan Red Sage) Purple stems and calyxes so dark that they almost look black contrast dramatically with the deep red-orange flowers of this South American beauty. This tall, spectacular sage has been in cultivation for decades but is still rare in gardens. We'd like to see that change.
The heavily textured leaves are large, growing about 4 inches long and 3 inches wide. They are hairy, which gives the foliage a silvery appearance. The flower spikes grow up to 2 feet tall.
This is a robust shrub that requires full sun to partial shade, average watering and rich, well-drained soil. Plant it in a prominent place so you can enjoy its long bloom throughout fall as well as the hummingbirds who use it regularly. At our farm its flowering synchronizes with the Dahlias. Garden uses include shrub borders, cut-flower gardens, background plantings and patio containers.
Rubescens refers to the reddish color of the flowers. This native of Venezuela was first described by Reinhard Gustav Paul Kunth in 1817.
Although we list this species for USDA Cold Hardiness Zones 9 to 11, we believe it may be hardy to Zone 8 winters if treated as an herbaceous perennial and well mulched.
(Vermilion Bluffs® Mexican Sage) The brilliant red flowers of Vermilion Bluffs bloom abundantly from August to October. This variety of the Mexican native Salvia darcyi is cold hardy to Zone 5b at altitudes up to 5,500 feet.
Salvia darcyi comes from Mexico's eastern Sierra Madre Occidental mountain range where it grows at altitudes up to 9,000 feet. Denver Botanic Gardens developed Vermilion Bluffs to withstand the colder winter weather of the Rocky Mountain region. It is a welcome substitute for Salvia microphylla or Salvia x jamensis , which struggle in cold weather.
This sun-loving sage likes loamy soil. Plant it in shrubby borders, dry flower gardens and containers. Its underground runners form a tough mat that blocks weeds.
The wrinkly, soft green foliage forms a graceful mound that glows against the bright flowers, which attract butterflies and hummingbirds. After frost, the foliage dies to the ground like an herbaceous perennial. Then it returns in spring.
We can't help but highly recommend this easy-care plant.
Vermilion Bluffs is a registered trademark of Plant Select.
(Mulberry Jam Roseleaf Sage) Magenta flower buds burst into fuzzy, hot pink blossoms in this hybrid sage from the gardens of Betsy Clebsch, author of The New Book of Salvias.
This full-sun Salvia is thought to be a hybrid of the Mexican native Roseleaf Sage (S. involucrata). The other parent is unknown, but may be Chiapas Sage (S. chiapensis).
Deep purple calyxes soften the brightness of the flower clusters. The glossy, mid- to dark-green leaves are oval-to-heart shaped and small. They turn reddish-purple as the weather cools in autumn.
The flowers of this long-blooming, perennial sage look pretty in bouquets and are attractive to hummingbirds.
(Honey Melon Pineapple Sage) This is a short Pineapple Sage that is long blooming. It is the earliest and longest flowering of all the many varieties of Salvia elegans. We recommend it for indoor herb gardening as well as for outdoor borders and groundcovers.
Honey Melon has bright red flowers that hummingbirds love. It spreads into a dense clump with underground runners. By cutting back older stems to the ground, new fresh growth keeps it in flower for months. On the Northern California coast, it starts blooming no later than May and sometimes continues until February.
Grow this cultivar in partial shade in warmer zones or in full sun in the coolest part of its range. Along with Tangerine Pineapple Sage, Honey Melon is easier to grow in most of the country than the larger growing varieties of the species.
Native to Mexico, Pineapple Sage is found at high elevations in Pine and Oak forests. The species is used as a medicinal herb -- such as in herb tea -- to relieve anxiety and treat hypertension. Just smelling the leaves makes us happier.
It is ironic that one of the least social types of birds inspires so much sociability in human beings. We refer to hummingbirds, which are the object of festivals and the communal effort of bird banding research nationwide. This is the third and final article in a series about renowned hummingbird expert Nancy L. Newfield, who grows many Salvias in her hummingbird gardens. We recount a visit to Louisiana to observe Newfield and her team banding hummingbirds in winter. You'll also find a rainbow of top hummingbird Salvias listed here.(Photo credit: John Owens)
Hummingbirds love Salvia (sage) nectar and are attracted to it by the bright colors of tubular sage blossoms. In particular, these little whirlybirds can easily spot flowers in the red spectrum, which is prevalent among sages. Here are some hummingbird gardening tips.
If you live in suburbs or rural areas where deer plunder gardens, Salvias (sages) can be part of your plan for discouraging these hungry visitors. Here are some tips.