Autumn is in the air and it’s a great time to plant some autumn sage – a low water perennial with lovely flowers that will grow in most of the Southwest.
The name says it! The autumn sage (Salvia greggii) blooms in autumn and even beyond – making it great for some low water seasonal color. Yes it is native. From the Chihuahuan Desert, meaning it can stand alkaline soils like we have, hot summers, and will grow with little water.
Autumn sage can be grown in much of the Southwest. Along with the original species, most hybrid varieties and cultivars are wonderfully cold hardy and can take cold and frost right down to zero degrees. There is even one that can go colder! Read on.
Autumn is in the Air
This post is inspired by Wendy Proud of Mountain States Wholesale Nursery (MSWN). She shared these words in her newsletter. I did edit slightly.
“Can you feel it? That slight change in the weather, cooler nights and of course the shorter days. Fall is just about to set in and certain plants are triggered to wake up. Salvia greggii and its many hybrids are certainly a group that comes to mind.”
“The common name – autumn sage – is perhaps the biggest clue to when these plants bloom, although they often start much early in late spring to early summer. Bloom colors can range from white to hot red, to pink, and even a salmon colored selection.”
“Salvia greggii and hybrids typically take a rest during the hottest part of summer, only to wow you in fall with a burst of flowers that cover the plants. The best practice for getting the most bloom out of your salvias is to prune them back 20 to 30 percent every 3 to 4 months, especially after a bloom cycle.” [This is called rejuvenation pruning, and is similar to what is done with rose bushes – just not as extreme as with roses.]
“This group of salvias are wonderful low water use masters that prefer fast drained soils with low to moderate fertility, and full sun to light shade exposures.”
Autumn Sage Care
I prune mine only twice a year. First in spring after the majority of blooming (late April) and will do so again in November after the fall flush of bloom. I did JUST now fertilize mine this Labor Day weekend (with a bloom fertilizer) to encourage their autumn bloom.
Check with your local nursery. Mountain States (MSWN) is wholesale only – but they ship to many nurseries across the region (yes, even into Texas).
Wendy Proud notes this, “MSWN has long offered a selection of Salvia greggii and hybrids in 1gallon and 5 gallon sizes. For the first time we’re now offering these gems of fall in a 2 gallon size! Offering a 2 gallon size has significant cost savings to our customers while still receiving a substantial plant for a wide range of applications. Let’s also mention the hole to dig will be smaller (yay!). Plants in 2 gallons are less weight so you can can carry or transport more at one time, offer a cost savings price point to the customer, and this is appropriately sized for the smaller nature of these lovely charmers.”
You may be able to ask your nursery to order you some. Me – I am eyeing those stunning purple ones the Salvia greggii ‘Ultra Violet.’ Best of all those are cold hardy to -10F so you readers in USDA Zone 6 can have some!
This is not the same plant as the sage used for cooking. In fact – please do not cook with autumn sage. For more on sage you can cook with, consider my book on herbs for the Southwest –
Father Kino’s Herbs – Growing & Using Them Today
The last few copies of this out-of-print award winning Southwestern book are now for sale. Father Kino’s Herbs: Growing and Using Them Today The review says:
“Award-winning garden writer Dr. Jacqueline A. Soule has pulled together a fascinating book on the life of Father Eusebio Francisco Kino and some of the plants that he brought to Southern Arizona and northwestern Sonora, and area called the Pimeria Alta.”
A steal at only $20! This link is to our sales site. The profits from the sale go to the local Horticulture Therapy non-profit Tierra del Sol Institute. We hope you will help support this great Southwest non-profit!
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