Salvia greggii Navajo Bright Red is photographed in the author’s garden. (Contributed)
There are more than 900 species of salvia, with at least as many shapes, textures, and colors. All sage plants belong to the mint family (Lamiaceae) and have square stems, opposite leaves, and bilaterally symmetrical flowers (mirror images). What the culinary world calls sage, is also sage; Salvia officinalis – Save it for your herb garden or plant with your other plants.
Once established, after about a year, salvia plants need very little water which is well suited to our dry years. I have tried several types of salvia with varying degrees of success.
Several years ago I purchased two 4′ Salvia Brandegeei Pacific Blue from Floral Native Nursery in Chico. This is on the border along the south side of my house, which is a very hot location. Currently, the footed stems are covered with green, pebbled, lance-shaped leaves. Later they will have lavender-blue flowers with dark bracts. These are California natives, so a deep watering once or twice a month is fine.
Well, they didn’t do well, and I’m not sure why, they lost them all. I replanted this border with Salvia x sylvestris May Night which has grown to 2-2.5 feet tall and wide. They have oblong, medium-green, slightly fuzzy leaves and three-quarter-inch-long dark violet flowers with dark bracts. We’ll see how they do in this place.
I purchased Salvia microphylla Hot Lips from a Redding Garden Club plant sale years ago and planted it on the east side of my house. It is evergreen, like most sage plants, grows to a 4-by-4-inch mound and has red flowers with a touch of white almost year-round. I only prune it occasionally.
In 2011, I purchased 6 4-inch pots of Salvia greggii Navajo Bright Red from my local Walmart. They are planted along the walk against a mesh fence. They have grown to 2 1/2-3 feet tall and just as wide, of course the flowers are ‘Navajo Bright Red’, and they also attract bees and bumblebees, butterflies and hummingbirds. I wasn’t able to prune it this year so it had flowers all year. One of my neighbors keeps bees so we had bees all year round too! I usually prune them back by half in late winter – don’t be afraid to prune.
Buy a few sage plants that are suited to our climate zone, keep them moderately watered for the first year and see what happens, you will love it!
Red Bluff Garden Club welcomes visitors and new members. Please join us on the last Tuesday of each month, except July and December, at 12:30 PM in the David Street Methodist Church Fellowship Hall in Red Bluff. We hope to see you at the Fall Luncheon in Rolling Hills on Saturday, October 8th.
The Red Bluff Garden Club is a member of the Cascade District and California Garden Clubs, Inc. and Pacific Region Garden Clubs, Inc. and National Garden Clubs, Inc.