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Salvia greggii

Autumn Sage
Lamiaceae (Labiatae)
Deciduous, Evergreen, Shrubs


Thought of as drought-tolerant shrubs in much of the West, this huge genus—the largest in the mint family—includes many species of shrubs and perennials that need moderate to regular water. In recent years, scores of new species and selections have appeared in Western nurseries, many tender varieties that are even being offered as annuals in cold-winter climates. All sages have square stems and whorls of two-lipped flowers, either distinctly spaced along flower stalks or so tightly crowded that they look like one dense spike; some species have branched inflorescences. Flower colors range from white and yellow through salmon and pink to scarlet and pure red, from pale lavender to true blue and darkest purple. A few sages have fragrant blossoms. Many have aromatic foliage.

Nurseries in the West offer nearly 100 species as well as dozens of selections and hybrids. Names are often confused; S. x jamensis varieties are often assigned to S. greggii; and S. nemorosa varieties are often interchanged with S. x superba and S. x sylvestris varieties. 

Salvia greggii

Evergreen or deciduous shrub, native to southwest Texas and north-central Mexico. Rounded plant, branching from the base; typically grows to 1–4 ft. tall and wide. Slender, hairy stems are closely set with glossy green leaves that vary in shape from rounded to linear. Blooms throughout summer and fall, bearing 1/4–1-in. flowers on 3–6-in. stems, in colors ranging from deep purplish red through true red to various rose and pink shades to white. (Varieties sold as S. greggii with flowers in shades of orange, orange-red, or yellow actually belong with S. x jamensis.) To keep plants tidy and free blooming, prune and remove dead flower stems frequently. Before new spring growth begins, shorten and shape plants, removing dead wood. Good low hedge. Replace plants every 4 or 5 years, when they become woody and unproductive. Drought-tolerant but does best with moderate water. Full sun or partial shade (be sure to give some shade in hottest climates).

A few of the best selections are pure white ‘Alba’; deep red ‘Furman’s Red’; ‘Purple Pastel’; ‘Ultra Violet’, with magenta-purple flowers; and hot pink ‘Wild Thing’. The Heatwave series, which grows 2–3 ft. tall and wide, was bred in Australia for compact growth, long flowering, and drought tolerance.

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