Salvias and lantanas are great heat lovers in San Antonio gardens

Salvias and lantanas are great heat lovers in San Antonio gardens

A hummingbird feeding on salvia.

Daniel Riplinger/DansPhotoArt/Getty Images/500p Prime

Sage and lantana are important plants for summer and fall landscapes in South Texas. Most are drought-tolerant and deer-resistant. They are also important sources of nectar for butterflies, hummingbirds and other pollinators.

The most common sage plants we use in our landscapes are Salvia farencia, Salvia leucantha, Salvia gregi, Salvia coccinia, and Salvia splendens.

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Review your community’s drought restrictions so you can adhere to them as well as protect your plants. Most restrictions are structured to achieve the desired reduction in water use without harming the landscape in the long term, but they do require some planning.

Install a recirculation pump in your birdbath to increase the number of species you are looking for as a water source. They are inexpensive and easy to use. There are even solar-powered recycling pumps.

If you purchase 2-inch seedlings for your fall tomato garden, transplant them first into 1-gallon containers to increase the root system and plant size. Place the container in morning sun and afternoon shade.

Shrubs and trees can still be planted, especially if they are heat and drought tolerant. Gold Star esperanza, poinciana, firebush, vitex, crepe myrtles, thyrallis, duranta, lantana and salvia are among the plants that do well if planted now.


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Salvia is easy to propagate and/or select for superior flowering and growth characteristics. A favorite native plant is Salvia farencia (sage). Salvia farinacea’s offspring include the 5-foot-tall ‘Indigo Spires’, the aggressive 30-inch-tall ‘Henry Duelberg’, and the disciplined 18-inch ‘Victoria’. There are white Salvia farencia varieties as well as blue.

Salvia farencia appears in most deer-resistant landscape plans, and almost all butterfly and hummingbird garden plans and full-sun xeriscape plans. The plant and its hybrids freeze back each winter to reappear in May. The flowering period is from May until Thanksgiving. Salvia farencia propagates by seed and returns every year as a perennial.

Salvia gregori has woody stems and is evergreen, so many gardeners consider it a shrub and not a perennial like other salvias. Hummingbirds make great use of Salvia greggii as a nectar source.

It is available in red, white, pink, lavender or salmon flowers. Common names include autumn sage and cherry sage. It blooms more in fall and spring and less in mid-summer.

It does not freeze again in winter and may bloom even in the distant season. The flowers are small but cover the stems for an attractive appearance. Salvia gregori in some settings can become leggy. The recommended practice is to prune it back to the ground every few years.


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Salvia leucantha is also called the sage of the Mexican jungle. It produces small, decorative purple spikes (actual flowers) on a stem atop a 3- to 4-foot-tall plant with silvery-blue foliage. Salvia leucantha is relatively upright, but has a somewhat spreading shape. The hardy, pest-free plant is a reliable plant in late summer and fall and is a favorite of butterflies and hummingbirds.

Salvia cocina is unusual to the plants we are most familiar with in that it has a high tolerance for shade. The plant, which is naturalized in many neighborhoods, has a red flower. There is also a version with pink and white flowers called tropical sage.

Red sage is included in wildflower mixtures as a plant that blooms during the summer and fall. It grows up to 30 inches tall, and like all sagebrush plants, it is a favorite of hummingbirds as a source of nectar.

If you’re from the north, the gorgeous Salvia may be the salvia you’re most familiar with. It is widely used for its showy red, salmon, pink and purple blooms on 12-inch plants in the summer flower garden.

We use it relatively less here in San Antonio for early summer blooms in morning sun and afternoon shade. This is the salvia that deer may eat in some neighborhoods, and it is susceptible to breaking underfoot unlike other, sturdier salvias.


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There are three main lantanas and several hybrids to consider. Most hybrid selections have been developed by crossing between L. camara and L. camara. montevidensis. Like salvias, lantanas are drought-tolerant, pollinator-friendly and usually deer-resistant.

Trailing lantana (L. montevidensis) is a desirable plant that produces lavender or white flowers on plants up to 2 feet tall and up to 6 feet tall. It blooms best in spring and fall, and like Salvia gregii, often blooms in mild winters. Unlike most lantanas, it also has some shade tolerance.

Lantana horida is a lantana native to Texas that produces orange and yellow flowers on coarse plants that grow at least 3 feet tall and 3 feet wide.

Lantana camara is an exotic lantana that has been naturalized throughout the southern United States. It has large clusters of red, orange and yellow flowers on plants that reach 6 feet tall and 6 feet wide. In addition to being a common part of the region’s landscape, it is the main component of many lantana hybrids available on the market.

The most common hybrid lantana planted in area landscapes is New Gold. It is a trailing plant that grows 3 feet tall and 8 feet wide. New Gold produces showy flowers in the hottest part of summer without any seeds for producing invasive plants.


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One common problem is its susceptibility to damage by lace bugs. Application of a preventative systemic insecticide such as acetate has some potential to prevent flowering arrest caused by lacewing bugs. New gold freezes back into the ground each winter.

Choose from other lantana hybrids for their growth characteristics, flower color, and the fact that they do not produce seeds for invasive propagation.

Calvin Finch is a retired Texas A&M gardener.

    (tags for translation)L.  Montevidensis

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