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Exuberantly colorful year after year ... the perennial sages.

Exuberantly colorful year after year . . . the perennial sages

Their colors are not for the cautious. Brilliantblues, blazing reds, and rich purples are typical of the perennial sages. In mild-winter areas, these exuberant plants bloom year after year. In colder climates, consider them annuals that may survive longer in warm years or in protected sites. These sages perform well in full sun or partial shade and need minimal attention; in desert climates, planting in some shade means less frequent watering. Clip off flowers as they fade, and most plants will bloom off and on from spring or early summer until winter's chill. If foliage gets shaggy, prune back hard--almost to the ground if stems are leafless. Most grow in poor soil as long as it's not soggy. Some are quite drought tolerant.

Here are six flowering perennial sages.The two shown above are widely available; the rest may be harder to find. Look for these and other sages in nurseries specializing in perennials or native plants.

Texas sage (Salvia coccinea). Small scarletflowers stand out against nearly black papery bases. "Brenthurst' has watermelon pink flowers. More compact than most, Texas sage stays 1 1/2 to 2 feet tall. Despite the tender look of its light green leaves, it can take some drought once established.

Mealy-cup sage (S. farinacea). Risingabove gray-green leaves, bright blue-purple flowers cluster tightly along 10-inch-long wands. "Victoria' stays about 2 feet tall; "Blue Bedder' stretches to 3 feet. Plants bloom best with regular watering but can take somewhat dry soil.

Autumn sage (S. greggii). Rosy red flowershighlight gray foliage that spreads 3 to 4 feet tall and equally wide. Once established, these plants can get by with watering only once a week during summer, even in Phoenix. Near the coast, mature plants can thrive with almost no water.

Mexican bush sage (S. leucantha). Longstalks with fuzzy rose to violet tufts rise above textured gray leaves. From the tufts poke furry white flowers. Plants grow 3 to 4 feet tall and equally wide.

Gentian sage (S. patens). Two-inch-longbright indigo blue flowers are twice the length and width of most other sage blossoms. Fuzzy, arrow-shaped green leaves clothe a short-lived bush 1 to 2 1/2 feet tall.

Bog sage (S. uliginosa). Sky blue flowerswith white centers cover the upper foot of slender stalks that reach 6 feet by fall. As the common name implies, this sage needs regular watering.

Photo: Already in bloom, 1-gallon plants can spread to 3 feet or more by midsummer or fall. She's carrying the most available perennial salvias: Mexican bush sage (left) and mealy-cup

Photo: Tiny but profuse, rosy redflowers speckle autumn sage most of the year

Photo: Shrub border of autumn sage needsonly occasional light trimming and infrequent watering; plants are spaced about 3 feet apart
COPYRIGHT 1987 Sunset Publishing Corp.
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Copyright 1987 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Mar 1, 1987
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