Blooming after a Hard Summer


Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha) - a colorful, drought-tolerant fall bloomer

After a grueling summer, with many garden plants biting the dust from drought and extreme heat, this fall weather with cooler days and occasional showers is a much welcome change. It almost seems a miracle that anything would be blooming up a storm, seemingly unaffected by the recent summer stresses, but there are many plants that made it through not only with little problem but are putting on a floriferous fall display.

Included in this group are the salvias. Many of these species come from central and west Texas, Mexico and other places where heat and limited rainfall are an annual way of life. There are dozens of different kinds of salvias that make wonderful garden plants. Many varieties bloom from spring all the way through first freeze. And, they hotter and sunnier it is, the better they perform. Too much water can make them lanky and flop.

Salvia greggii

Indigo Spires

Salvia farinacea 'Henry Duelberg' and Yucca 'Color Guard'

Some choice Salvia species and varieties in bloom now include Texas or Cherry Sage (Salvia greggii) that comes in red, pink, white, and many other colorful shades; Salvia ‘Indigo Spires’ with long spikes of dark blue flowers on a very tall plant, and its compact cousin ‘Mystic Spires Blue’ (a Texas Superstar); Mealy-Cup Sage (Salvia farinacea) with mounds of bright blue flowers (cultivar ‘Henry Duelberg’ is a Texas Superstar); Brazilian Sage (Salvia guaranitica) with enchanting dark blue flowers; and Hot Lips Salvia (Salvia microphylla).

Salvia darcyi set off by a chartreuse coleus

One of the newer additions to the IDEA Garden display in the Tyler Rose Garden is Salvia darcyi, or Darcy’s Mexican Sage. The plant was originally found in Galeana, Mexico, by plant explorers from Yucca Do Nursery, but is happy here in Tyler. Beautiful, large bright red, tubular flowers bloom on a large mounding bush all summer, but the show seemed to step up several notches in the last several weeks.

Salvias not only are beautiful to behold, but also tremendous nectar plants for hummingbirds, especially during their fall migration.

Salvia leucantha - 'Santa Barbara' in middle; Fall Aster far right

Some salvias only bloom in the fall, such as the popular Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha), a very attractive plant both in and out of bloom, and a Texas Superstar selection. During the summer, it grows to about 4 feet tall with long branches covered with gray-green leaves. Then, in late summer through fall, long spikes bearing soft purple flowers appear. There are several varieties, some with purple and white flowers, all purple and even a pink form. ‘Santa Barbara’ is more compact, growing only 2 to 3 feet tall.

Many other plants bloom only, or mainly, in the fall. Chrysanthemums immediately come to mind, as do fall asters. One of my favorite herbs is a fall-only bloomer. Mexican mint

Mexican Mint Marigold (Tagetes lucida)

marigold (Tagetes lucida), also called Spanish tarragon and Yerba Anise, is a true marigold, but, unlike the common annual bedding plants, this marigold is a perennial, and only blooms when the days get shorter and nights are longer. This plant, with its small but abundant yellow flowers, makes a great blooming companion with the taller Mexican Bush Sage. The foliage has a delightful aroma all season long and tastes like tarragon or anise. Full sun for this fragrant herb.

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