Woody Stem Perennial Salvia Part I: Hybrids, S Chamaedryoides and S Microphylla
This article is the first of two covering the woody Salvia. After reading this one, don’t forget to check out the other.
Few plant genera offer the amazing diversity and ornamental potential found in the genus Salvia. These members of the Lamiaceae (formerly Labiatae) family are first cousins to Nepeta (Catmint), Mentha (true mint), and monarda (bee balm), to mention but a few. Salvias range from woody subshrubs to annuals, and are native to virtually every continent. Salvias are known for their fragrant foliage and subsequent deer-resistance. Most salvias are full sun plants although a small handful are shade tolerant. I am omitting the popular herb, S. officinalis, since it is a short-lived plant that does not like our NC climate.
The focus of this article series is salvias which make good perennial garden specimens between Hardiness Zones 3 and 8. For the sake of making sense of the genus, I’ll divide the salvias into three groups; those with woody stems, those which are both herbaceous (non-woody stems) and deciduous (die to the ground) in the winter, and finally those which are herbaceous and form basal rosettes.
Woody Stem Salvias
There are also a number of wonderful hybrids between the woody species mentioned in the previous articles. Hybrids of S. greggii and S. microphylla are known as S. x jamensis (pronounced «haamensis»). There is a wide range of hardiness in this group, depending on which clone of each parent is used. Some Salvia x jamensis selections are only hardy in Zone 8b, while others are fine to Zone 7.
S. ‘California Sunset’ (California Sunset Sage) S. ‘California Sunset’ forms a 3′ tall x 4′ wide clump, topped with peachy orange flowers. (Hardiness Zone 7b-9)
S. x jamensis ‘Cienego D’oro’ (Cienego D’Oro Sage) S. ‘Cienego D’Oro’ is a Yucca Do selection, discovered in Mexico. The 30″ tall x 3′ wide clumps are topped with light yellow flowers. (Hardiness Zone 8b-10)
S. ‘Maraschino’ (Maraschino Cherry Sage) S. ‘Maraschino’, a Rich Dufresne hybrid of S. microphylla and S. greggii ‘Furman’s Red’ forms a 30″ tall x 3′ tall clump, topped with bright velvet red flowers. (Hardiness Zone 6-10)
S. x jamensis ‘Moonlight’ (Moonlight Sage) S. ‘Moonlight’ is a selection from California’s Nevin Smith. S. ‘Moonlight’ makes a 2′ tall x 3′ wide clump, topped with light yellow flowers. (Hardiness Zone 8b-10)
S. x jamensis ‘Pat Vlasto’ (Pat Vlasto Sage) S. ‘Pat Vlasto’ comes from a James Compton expedition to Mexico with the folks from Yucca Do. S. ‘Pat Vlasto’ makes a 3′ tall x 3′ wide clump of light orangy-peach flowers. (Hardiness Zone 8b-10)
S. x jamensis ‘San Isidro Moon’ (San Isidro Moon Sage) S. ‘San Isidro Moon’ is a Yucca Do introduction, discovered in Mexico, which makes a 30″ tall x 3′ wide clump, topped with light peach flowers with a darker rim. (Hardiness Zone 8b-10)
S. x jamensis ‘Sierra de San Antonio’ (Sierra San Antonio Sage) S. ‘Sierra de San Antonio’ is a Yucca Do selection from Mexico. S. ‘Sierra de San Antonio’ makes a 30″ tall x 3′ wide clump, topped in light pastel yellow and orange flowers with dark calyxes. (Hardiness Zone 8b-10)
S. x jamensis Stampede Series (Stampede Sage) This series of S. x jamensis hybrids were bred by the breeding company Floranova. Each makes a compact 18″ tall x 2′ wide floriferous clump. Varieties include S. ‘Stampede Cherry’ (cherry flowers), S. ‘Stampede Punch’ (pink fruit punch flowers), S. ‘Stampede Citron’ (light yellow flowers), and S. ‘Stampede Lavender’ (lavender flowers). (Hardiness Zone 7b-10)
There is an array of other woody-stemmed interspecific hybrids including other species. Some of the more popular ones are listed below.
S. ‘Christine Yeo’ (Christine Yeo Sage) S. ‘Christine Yeo’ is the first salvia hybrid between S. microphylla and S. chamaedryoides, originating at Christine Yeo’s Pleasant View Nursery in England. For us, S. ‘Christine Yeo’ makes a durable 15″ tall x 3′ wide clump, topped with purple violet flowers. (Hardiness Zone 7b-9)
S. regla (Orange Mountain Sage) A woody salvia species that is a must for fall garden color is S. regla, (Orange Mountain Sage). In the trade, S. regla is represented by S. regla ‘Jame’, a Dr. Rich Dufresne collection from Coahuila, Jame, Mexico that makes a 4′ tall x 3′ wide clump, adorned with glossy, round green leaves and topped, starting in September, with 3″ long scarlet orange, tubular flowers… a hummingbird’s favorite. South of Zone 7, S. regla could reach 10′ tall. (Hardiness Zone 7b-10)
S. chamaedryoides is a Mexican native which goes by the common name of Blue Oak sage. S. chamaedryoides forms a 1′ tall x 2′ wide clump of woody stems adorned with small ever-grey leaves. From midsummer through fall, the plants are adorned with dark pure blue flowers. Good drainage and bright sun are preferred… S. chamaedryoides has been quite easy in our experience. (Hardiness Zone 7-10)
S. microphylla is another Mexican native, closely related to S. greggii. As a general rule, S. microphylla makes a larger clump, also with larger foliage than S. greggii. Additionally, S. microphylla is much more tolerant of hot, humid weather than S. greggii.
S. microphylla ‘Hot Lips’ (Hot Lips Sage) This selection of the Mexican S. microphylla was introduced by Richard Turner of California after the plant was shared with him by his maid, who brought it from her home in Mexico. The fast growing, 30″ tall x 6′ wide clump is adorned with stunning bicolor flowers with red tips and white lips. In spring, the first flowers are all red, then bicolor. When the nights warm in summer, the new flowers are mostly white with an occasional solid red one. As fall approaches, the flowers again will be bicolor red and white. (Hardiness Zone 7 9)
S. microphylla ‘La Trinidad Pink’ (La Trinidad Pink Sage) S. ‘La Trinidad Pink’ is a Yucca Do introduction from Mexico that forms a 2′ tall x 4′ wide clump topped with red violet flowers. (Hardiness Zone 7-9a)
S. microphylla ‘San Carlos Festival’ (San Carlos Festival Sage) This 1997 Yucca Do introduction was discovered 5 years earlier in Tamaulipas, Mexico, in the village of San Carlos at 3,800′. The 2′ tall x 3′ wide clump is adorned with red violet flowers. (Hardiness Zone 7-9a)
S. microphylla ‘Wild Watermelon’ (Wild Watermelon Sage) This 1996 Rich Dufresne introduction is a selection of S. microphylla from a seedling population from a Don Mahoney collection at Cerro Potosi, Mexico at 7000-8500′ elevation. The plant was selected and named by Rich during a visit to the Strybing Arboretum. S. ‘Wild Watermelon’ is adorned with large pink flowers. (Hardiness Zone 7-9a)
We hope that you try out various members of the genus Salvia as they are all garden worthy.