Louise Grabell, Pinal County Master Gardener
There is a wonderful, care-free and attractive plant I’d like to tell you about. There is a story behind my love of this landscaping beauty that I need to share with you first. You know it is always a good idea to have different shapes, colors and textures when creating a landscape for your home. Amongst the greenery it’s nice to include grey, blue and spiky leaf colors and shapes. With that in mind, I planted agaves [Agave Americana] in my front yard to enhance the other plantings. I’ve done this over and over because of perpetual fatal attacks of the agave beetle despite my efforts to control this pest for years. In the end, the beetle won and I was in search of a plant that would create that spiky appearance and grey-blue color. Enter: Mexican sage [Salvia leucantha].
Your landscape should always be designed with drought-tolerant, heat/sun-tolerant shrubbery that will not require your constant attention. Mexican sage fits the bill! This perennial bushy plant will not only provide that spiky appearance like an agave, but it will also surprise you with late summer into fall brilliant purple [or white] blossoms that are mildly fragrant, attractive to hummingbirds and butterflies on mounded silvery-spiked stems that are long-lasting as well. The best thing is that Mexican sage does not have many disease or insect problems and will reliably do a repeat performance for you year after year.
What about the upkeep you ask? There is very little you have to do for Mexican sage. Not being a cactus, so some irrigation is necessary. I don’t bother fertilizing mine but maybe I should! This native to eastern and central Mexico grows into a bushy clump about three-four feet tall and equally wide. Each fuzzy, silvery stalk will develop a flower bud which will bloom in late August, adding sprays of color to your landscape for months. The stalks are sturdy and remain upright, and the blooms can be cut for your indoor enjoyment.
The sage clump will get larger each year until it is the size of an adult Agave Americana plant. The good thing is that beetles won’t attack the Mexican sage! The only upkeep is to cut down the flower stalks in late fall [November] when the blooms are done: Somewhat like the pruning you do for your Mexican bird-of-paradise plants. New shoots will appear in mid-winter, setting the stage for a repeat performance. The clump size increases over time and you can use a garden spade to dig up root sections and share these with friends or make another plant for yourself as I have done. Mexican sage is an easy way to add color, texture, and interesting shape to your landscape.
Your Master Gardeners invite you to visit their website: http://saddlebrookemastergardeners.org/ for all up-to-date information and events for your community. Garden questions? You can reach our very own Garden Helpline by calling Pat at 407-6459.
Remember, nothing brings more tranquility to the heart than a beautiful garden.