If you like loud, gawdy, bright, attention-getting plants, then take a look at Dancing Flame salvia. This speciman is located in the Heritage Rose Garden in the Tyler Rose Garden, and you cannot miss it. It’s bright yellow and green variegated leaves on a 2.5 by 2.5 foot bush are alone enough to catch your attention. But, add to that large inflorescences of brilliant red flowers, and you have a show-stopper.
I did a little online research, and Norman Winter, horticulturist at Mississippi State (and A&M Aggie), had a nice write-up on this plant last year in his online “Southern Gardening” series. He writes that some think this is a Salvia van houttei relative, while others think it is a type of Salvia splendens – that’s what I figured it to be, with its large leaves and very large, bold flowers. Supposedly it is hardy to zone 8, so that will be interesting to watch. It should root very easy, so insurance cuttings will assure its continued existance.
The plant in the Heritage Rose Garden is in full sun, getting late afternoon shade from the beautiful ‘Musgkogee’ crape myrtles to the west. The soil there is very well drained, which is good for a questionably hardy plant – like Norman Winter reminds us, it is not just cold that does in some herbaceous perennials, but cold plus wet soil that rots away the crown.
Dancing Flame lives up to its name, and if you need a hot plant for a hot site, it can fill the bill all summer.