Scientific Name: Salvia leucantha
Common Names: Mexican Bush Sage
Plant Type: Shrub
Environment: Thrives in full sun and warmer temperatures and tolerates many soil types, even more clay based soils with proper drainage; can tolerate some drought
Bloom: Summer to Fall; purple flowers with fuzzy purple calyces that are the real attraction as they persist long after the flowers have fallen off
Uses: Works well where you need a medium-sized shrub; good as an understory planting or placed at the edge of a wooded area
Other: Attracts butterflies and hummingbirds. One of the few Salvia that make good cut flowers due to the persistent and colorful calyces. There are a few specific plantings in the Garden highlighting many Salvia species. Check out the Garden of Fragrance (south of the plant arbor) and the Dry Mexico area to the left of the Succulent Garden.
There are at least 900 recognized species of Salvia worldwide and they exist on every continent but Australia. Structurally, they have some universal features including: square stems, opposite leaves which are often aromatic, and uneven, two-lipped flowers of varying sizes and colors. Salvias can be annuals or perennials. The name comes from the Latin Salvus, meaning "safe." The leaves and roots of Salvia officinalis, a native to the Mediterranean area, have been used medicinally for centuries for many disorders. Teas were made to ward off fevers or taken as a spring tonic to lighten depression and stimulate memory. Today it is often used as a culinary herb to season poultry and lamb.
Mexican bush sage is a popular robust specimen reaching 2-4 feet tall and just as wide. It is not suitable for a small garden space! The purple flowers are staggered up the pale stems in intervals and mildly perfumed. The fuzzy purple calyces remain long after the flowers have fallen and are considered by many to be more attractive than the flowers. Its leaves are soft, narrow and pungent with the pale undersides covered in white-wooly hairs. This Salvia is considered fairly drought resistant and tends to die back in winter.
IN BLOOM CONTRIBUTORS:Photos by Docent Joanne Taylor; text by Docent Kathy McNeil; profile by Associate Curator David Kruse-Pickler; Additional photo courtesy of Far Out Flora.