Salvia greggii

Autumn sage


Salvia greggii (autumn sage) has been used to produce a series of upright-growing, evergreen, woody hybrids that grow to about 50 x 50 cm.

Look out for:
‘Hot Lips’ – two-tone red and white flowers.
‘Neon Pink’ – bright red to pink flowers.
‘Red Surprise’ – cerise-pink flowers.
‘Sierra Pink’ – pink flowers.

There are so many attractive and useful salvias that they would need a series of books of their own if we were to cover them all. The common characteristics of the few favourites we discuss here are their willingness to grow in almost any climate, their low water consumption, their fascinating inflorescences and their ability to repeat flower. If you have a soft spot for loose, spreading shrubs with an almost windswept appearance that grow to about 1,3 m x 2 m, Salvia leucantha (Mexican bush sage) is tailor-made for you. The pale lateral stems are full of willowy, pointed leaves that are pale green on top and woolly and silver-white underneath. It is a hardy, wind-resistant, semi-deciduous plant, but cold weather and excessive rainfall can strip it of leaves completely, making for great excitement when it starts sprouting from its bare limbs after winter. The long strings of white flowers, held in bright purple or lavender blue velvety calyces, first appear in spring, then the plant grows profusely in summer, blooming intermittently, and reaches a flowering peak in autumn. The many flower clusters make it an excellent choice for a mixed shrubbery.

When do they bloom?

Salvia leucantha blooms in abundance in spring, occasionally in summer and then again with renewed vigour in autumn.

Most suitable climate

There are salvias for every climate and every season. Generally they prefer dry, warm gardens but they can also endure other growing conditions, such as cold weather. Extreme frost is fatal to them, but less severe frost simply damages them and then they recover quickly with the onset of warmer weather. The salvias we discuss here are also suitable for coastal gardens.

What they need

Location: full sun.
Soil: sandy loam with perfect drainage, generously enriched with compost.
Water: the plants can endure long periods of drought. In summer, water deeply if the soil has dried out completely. Salvias can usually tolerate brackish water.
Fertilizing and pruning: salvias are not hungry plants. Adequate soil preparation initially, and mulch of good compost renewed regularly, is usually enough to keep the plants lush and in flower. Some of the smaller types will benefit from a dose of slow-release 3:1:5 fertilizer after the spring flowering phase. Just before winter you have to think about pruning salvias, because by then most of them have grown too big and leggy. Cut them back sharply and renew the organic mulch around the root systems – this will also protect them from the cold.

In a nutshell

* Hardy perennials that bloom prolifically.
* Easy grower.
* Medium to low water consumption

The Gardener