Plant of the Week – Mexican Bush Sage: September 17, 2020

Mexican bush sage is perfect complement to Gold Star Esperanza and firebush in this East Texas garden.

Unless you’re lucky enough to inherit a photo file that’s been carefully collected and filed, and unless the prior photographer had a great knack for the visual arts, it’s not much fun to sort through someone else’s old 35mm slide boxes.

That’s where I found myself when I came aboard as Dallas County Extension Horticulturist 50 years ago this month.

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I opened up one of those old, gold boxes of Kodak slides and found something that looked like it was shot in the Great Depression. Faded colors – it almost looked gray. Tall plant in an odd setting. I wasn’t sure why anyone would have taken that photo.

Jump ahead one year and I was visiting a Dallas park.There it was, but this time in a beautiful setting and in full, rich color. 30 inches tall and velvety purple. Blooming alongside mums and copper plants, showing its glory proudly.

I had made a new friend.

I prefer to plant my Mexican bush sage alongside something more colorful, but to show its true colors, here it is in front of a white wall.

Here’s what you’ll need to know to grow it…
Mexican bush sage Salvia leucantha
Native to South Texas and Mexico
Perennial in southern two-thirds of Texas. (It’s made it through many winters in my gardens in rural DFW. I mulch it with shredded tree leaves in fall.)
Grows to 30 inches tall, but can be kept at 24 inches with one pinch in late spring. Dwarf forms are available.

Salvia leucantha is a bold, fall-flowering sage that has much to offer to Texas landscapes.

Flowers are borne in terminal spikes that keep producing for 4-6 weeks.
Flowers are purple and lavender, some varieties with white flower parts.
Foliage is gray-green and bold.
Best used toward the back of a perennial garden or behind fall-color annuals such as marigolds or lantana.

Mexican bush sage, like other salvias, is popular with bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.
Posted by Neil Sperry
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