Salvia Leucantha is probably the most beautiful looking salvia plant you’ll see thanks to its stunning purple flowers. While it is a close relative to the common sage which is best known for its flavor, this on is almost never used in cooking. Instead, it is prized as an ornamental plant.
The plant is more commonly known by many names including Mexican bush sage, Mexican sage, purple velvet and velvet sage.
In case you were wondering, the names all refer to either where it comes from, its velvety flowers and it purple color.
Because it grows into a dense perennial shrub, it is often grown outdoors or transplanted there. Upon maturity, it gets to about 4 feet high and covers a breadth of 3 feet wide. As such, you’ll want to allocated enough space when planting in your garden.
Speaking of which, it is also a great plant to have if you want to attract pollinators. It attracts all sorts of wildlife including butterflies, hummingbirds and bees. On the other hand, rabbits and deer ignore it.
Its low maintenance nature combined with its beauty makes it something worth considering if you want to add color to your yard.
Salvia Leucantha Plant Care
Salvia Leucantha Light
Salvia leucantha does best under full sun. However, it doesn’t mind partial shade as well. That said, the more sun it receives the bigger and fuller it will be.
You also want to be careful about giving it too much shade or dim conditions. This will cause the plant to become leggy, thin and sickly looking as it leans toward the light source.
As such, when choosing a location for this plant, you want to place it somewhere there is a lot of bright light for at least 6 to 8 hours a day. This will give it the best chance of growing and producing its beautiful colors.
Since the Salvia leucantha is native to conifer forests in Mexico as well as Central America, it is used to receiving lots of natural sunlight all year round.
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Salvia Leucantha Temperature & Humidity
Salvia leucantha thrives in warm weather. You’ll see it most in USDA hardiness zones 8 to 11 because these regions experience warm climates every month of the year. These include parts of Texas, Florida, California, Arizona and Alabama just to name a few.
Unlike most houseplants (and even most sage plants) that bloom in spring and summer, the Mexican Bush Sage comes to life later in the summer and continues through early to mid fall. As such, you can use it to maintain color in your home or garden after the summertime.
If grown in containers, you can bring them indoors once winter arrives. This is also the best option if you live in areas where it gets too cold for the plant.
If grown in the ground, you can overwinter it by cutting it back and adding a heavy layer of mulch to protect it from frost. This is especially true for younger plants.
During this time, the plant and its flower will die down in very cold conditions. It will be able to tolerate mild frost.
Watering Salvia Leucantha
Salvia leucantha are drought tolerant. But, they do need regular watering during the summer when the weather gets hot to stay hydrated. If grown outside rain will often be enough to sustain its watering needs. The only time you’ll need to water it more is when two weeks go by without good rain.
That said, weekly watering before the start of the growing season helps the plant develop healthy, strong roots.
In the winter, it is best to keep the soil dry. Wet soil during this time can kill your Salvia leucantha.
The Salvia leucantha enjoys is rich, well draining soil. And, even if it is drought tolerant, the plant does appreciate it when you water it enough to keep the soil evenly moist. It also prefers alkaline soil.
You can use a thick layer of compost to and incorporated it into the soil if you need to improve drainage. Its high humus content will likewise increase the fertility of the soil.
Because it grows into a dense shrub, you want to leave a space of about 3 feet apart between plants. This gives enough space to spread out. The good news is, in the U.S. it isn’t considered as invasive. So, you don’t have to worry about it not playing nice with the rest of the plants in your plot.
Use a balanced fertilizer at the beginning of its growing season before new shoots start appearing. You can likewise add compost and manure to make the soil retain moisture better.
Pruning Salvia Leucantha
Your Salvia leucantha benefits from regular pruning during the spring and summer. Doing so helps make this shrub look bushier, fuller and denser.
Some gardeners will tell you to trim them back 2 to 3 times during this time. I prefer pruning hard and heavy once a year. This seems to bring out more of its color.
Come wintertime, you want to cut it back to the ground. This will make it come back stronger and more vibrant during the spring with more flowers.
Speaking of flowers, once they become spend or begin to fade, you want to deadhead them to encourage more blooms.
Mexican Bush Sage can be propagated by hardwood or softwood (herbaceous) stem cuttings. You can likewise do so by seed. Although the latter does take considerably longer.
Here’s how to propagate Salvia leucantha from stem cuttings.
- Take piece of hardwood cutting that’s about 3 to 4 inches long. Ideally, you want to get a segment that has a few nodes on it.
- Remove the leaves from the cuttings.
- Plant them in pot with soil. You can put 4 to 5 cuttings per container.
- Once these start growing roots, you can move each of them into their own pots. This will give them a nice place to grow bigger before you decide the next step.
- When they grow, you have a couple of choices. You can keep them in containers. However, most people will move them into the garden. Before you do, you’ll want to have some kind of plan for what to do come wintertime. This will depend on where you live and how low the temperature drops during these times.
Propagating Salvia leucantha by Seed
While it takes longer to do so, you can likewise propagate this sage via seed. The process is fairly straightforward. But, it does take longer than using stem cuttings.
Here’s how to propagate Salvia leucantha from seed.
Buy some seeds from your local nursery or garden supply store.
Ideally, you’ll be starting the seeds indoors a few months before the upcoming last frost date. This lets your seeds be ready when the warm weather comes. This will let you compensate for the longer germination period.
Salvia Leucantha Transplanting & Repotting
The best time to transplant your Salvia leucantha into your garden is when there is moderate weather. You don’t want to do it under the heat of the summer. Nor do you want to do it in the cold of winter.
The reason for this is you want to keep the soil moist. This becomes very difficult when it is very warm or very cold.
Here’s how to transplant Salvia leucantha to your garden.
- Before you do anything, choose a good location. Mexican bush sage needs full sun. As such, do pick a space where it is able to get this. Similarly, it will spread sideways covering a breadth of about 3 feet wide. As such, you’ll need to leave enough space between plants.
- When it comes to soil, good drainage is key. The plant likewise enjoys fertile soil Here, you may need to add compost to help lighten the soil and increase its organic matter content.
- Once you have all the logistics set up, start digging. You want to dig ahead of time so you can directly insert the plant into the ground after you take it out of its container.
- Take the plant out of its current pot and insert the root ball into the hold you dug.
- If you want to add amendments to your garden soil, this is the time to do so.
- Then cover the rest of the hole with soil.
Salvia leucantha is not toxic to humans and animals. It does have some medicinal uses. And, while is edible it isn’t used for cooking because it doesn’t offer a lot of flavor or aroma unlike Salvia officinalis which is better known as garden sage or common sage.
Instead, the plant is often used to make natural insecticides and fertilizers.
Pests and Diseases
With Mexican Bush Sage, you won’t need to worry a lot of about disease and pests. However, it is important that you keep watering on point. As with most plants, too much watering can be problematic both for its leaves and roots.
You especially want to be careful about overwatering the plant because it can be susceptible to leaf spot.