Unexpected Treat Earlier This Week

Salvia greggii in full December bloom on Eldorado Parkway just west of Ridge this past Sunday.

We’ve already had killing frosts or near misses in McKinney this fall. That’s why I was so surprised to see autumn sage (Salvia greggii) blooming beautifully on Eldorado Parkway between Ridge and Alma.

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One of the few problems I have with perennials is that almost all types bloom for a couple of weeks, then they’re done for another entire year. (Think about daffodils, iris, daylilies, coneflowers, spider lilies, even mums. Most are “one-time-and-done.”) It’s not that I want to discourage planting any of these lovely flowers. It’s just that too many gardeners don’t understand that you have to use many different types to have a full year of color.

Lynn and I were sitting in a restaurant on February 15 several years ago. That was in Allen, Texas, on Stacy Rd. This plant was blooming outside our window. (And, it’s still there doing its thing every February!)

Well, here comes this little workhorse. It blooms from the first evidence of spring all the way until winter convinces it to shut down. In between, it holds up to the heat very well in the summer. Folks in Deep South Texas get to enjoy its blooms 12 months a year.

Here’s that same beautiful bed in McKinney, blooming its heart out this week. How great is this!

A summary of its assets…
Autumn sage: Salvia greggii;
Native Texas plant from the Hill Country and Southwest Texas;
Blooms almost all season long, unlike most other perennials;

It’s a great pollinator plant, too. This may be the “perfect perennial!”

Bees, butterflies and hummingbirds love it;
Xeriphytic, which means it’s drought-tolerant;
Virtually trouble-free;

Autumn sage comes in a dozen shades, rich purple being one of them.

Comes in a variety of flower colors, mostly reds, but also pink, purple, white and two-toned (white and red).

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To be successful in growing it…
Full or nearly full sun;
Well-prepared garden soil – it needn’t be perfect, but rake out the roots, rocks and building debris and add in organic matter;
Ensure good drainage;
Buy color(s) that will blend with other plants around it;
Space plants 18 to 24 inches apart;
Little trimming will be needed first year;

Finally, just one more visit back to that great planting on Eldorado. But it’ll be back in the spring!

Beginning second year, trim plants back by one-half in early February each year and by one-third in early August. (That basically parallels timing and amounts given for bush roses.)
Apply high-N or even all-N fertilizer to keep plants vigorous.
Properly tended, plants should last for many years.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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