Salvia explosion

One of the first flowering plants that I put into my garden, probably around 2002, was Salvia coccinea or "Scarlet Sage". I'm not sure what attracted me to it, but it was probably the brilliant red flowers.


It certainly wasn't the fragrant foliage, because it's pretty unpleasant when crushed or brushed against. The flowers though... wow!


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Looking at a single bloom is not very impressive, but these plants produce dozens of flowers from mid-summer until frost. They also reseed readily, so you could end up with quite an impressive bed of red if you're not careful:


I don't remember buying this plant more than once, but I must have as there are two different forms in my garden. There is the form that has the green calyxes (calyces?), which are pretty nice:


But then there is also the form with the black calyxes, which I like so much more:


They're so dramatic -- I really like these!

There are also intermediate forms, a cross between green and black:


Some butterflies like these salvia, as do some bees, but hummingbirds are really attracted to them. Wish I had a photo of that... but I don't. There are some small, pinkish moths that seem to really like these flowers too. I think they're responsible for the tiny caterpillars that eat the flower buds before they have a chance to open. I remember seeing them earlier this year, but there are obviously plenty of flowers right now, so maybe it's too late for those moths this year.

I had white-flowered versions of this salvia several years ago, but they didn't seem to reseed. I also have a few of these:


Yes, pink! "Coral" I believe is what the growers call it. Whatever you call it, I like it!


It's a nice change from the red. If I can find a source for seeds of the white version, I'll start several of those in the spring and try to end up with a nice mixed planting of red, white, and pink. It may not be as impressive as red alone though... maybe I'll just mix the white and pink.

Red, white, or pink, the flower heads all look the same when they're developing:


I haven't yet mentioned that this is a tough plant. Drought doesn't bother it too much (although it will slow down flower production), and it grows almost anywhere. Here's a patio crack plant:


Here's another one:


Even though the plant above is tiny (less than 1' tall -- these can normally reach 4' tall and 3' wide or so) it's still flowering. I love how adaptable flowering plants are -- if they can't grow enough roots to get as large as they want to, they'll just go through their whole life cycle in "mini mode".

Besides the Salvia coccinea, I have a few other species of salvia that are blooming now too. This is Salvia azurea, which is native here in Missouri:


It's completely overgrown by the red salvia and other plants, but it's surviving.


You can see that the flower structure is pretty similar to the Salvia coccinea. This next one looks very similar too:


It's Salvia farinacea, and I believe the cultivar is 'Victoria Blue', although I'm not certain.

Here's another:


Salvia greggii 'Wild Thing'. It's hot pink. Very deep, hot pink. I mean almost fluorescent! My largest plant of this is struggling a little bit, since it's now in the shadow of a climbing rose and I may have to move it. This is a difficult color to blend with other flowers though. It's also marginally hardy here -- I think too much winter moisture will kill it. I had another planting in a different part of the garden that didn't survive the winter, so maybe I'll just leave this where it is for one more year.


It's really a striking flower, isn't it? The hummingbirds love this one too.

Finally, the Salvia leucantha ("Mexican bush sage") that I planted in the ground recently is starting to flower:


Next week I'll have more photos of it's spectacular fuzzy goodness. The hummingbirds go crazy for that one too.

For late season color, the Salvias (or "sages") can't be beat. They're essential, so if you're not growing them and have the full sun that they really want, give them a try next year! The hummingbirds will thank you.

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