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Mexican Bush Sage is a Beautiful Shrub

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Mexican bush sage is a popular and versatile shrub that looks beautiful in any setting. The fast-growing shrub native to Mexico and Central America has soft foliage and fuzzy purple and white flowers that bloom each fall, attracting humming birds and butterflies and thrilling home gardeners.

In the warmer climates like its native range, Mexican bush sage is a bushy evergreen. In climates that receive colder temperatures and frost it is most often planted as an ornamental perennial that wilts during the winter months but comes back strong when the weather warms. Mexican bush sage grows 2-4 feet tall and, while it can tolerate some afternoon shade, thrives if planted in full sun. Mexican bush sage is drought resistant and seems to especially love hot, dry summers. Its low water needs make it an excellent choice for xeriscaping, the concept of designing landscapes that require few resources for maintenance. In addition to its beauty in the garden, flowers from Mexican bush sage are also used by florists for arrangements.

Uses for Mexican bush sage

Part of the salvia group of the mint family, Mexican bush sage, salvia leucantha, works equally well as a border plant or in mixed beds. Some gardeners also like to plant it in containers. The purple and white flowers are fuzzy and large – each flower spear can be 6 to 10 inches long. One of the plant’s common nicknames, velvet sage, comes by way of the fuzzy, velvet-like flowers. In warm climates it will flower all winter. Although it is hardy to 15 degrees Fahrenheit, in cold climates it typically stops flowering as fall temperatures dip below freezing.

There is also a dwarf variety of Mexican bush sage, called “Santa Barbara.’’ It is a shorter version of the larger variety, growing to around 2 feet tall, but still features the compact mound-like appearance and flowers profusely. In fact, in some areas of south Texas, garden experts say the dwarf Mexican bush sage is better at attracting butterflies and humming birds than the larger variety.

Mexican bush sage thrives with annual pruning

While its water and maintenance requirements are low, Mexican bush sage does enjoy a good pruning each year. Experts say trimming Mexican bush sage to ground level each spring will encourage a nice, bushy growth. The annual pruning is especially important if Mexican bush sage is planted in a garden where it is supposed to have a mounded shape. Without the annual pruning, the plant’s spread will be more spread out and less in the compact mound form.

Gardeners seeking a fall jewel for their landscape designs will be pleased with the performance of Mexican bush sage. It is always one of the brightest stars of any garden in which it is planted.

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