An easy-to-grow, drought-tolerant plant also known as velvet sage, Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha) produces showy, bright purple and white flowers above attractive, grayish-green foliage from late summer to the first frost. Gardeners in frost-free climates often enjoy blooms throughout the winter. Perennial in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 7 through 11, Mexican sage is a shrubby, sprawling plant that reaches 3 to 4 feet tall. Plant Mexican bush sage in the garden after all danger of frost has passed in early spring.
1 Prepare the soil where the Mexican sage plant will receive full sunlight. Although the plant grows in nearly any type of well-drained soil, Mexican sage performs best in rich, acidic soil with a pH between 5.5 and 7.5.
2 Hoe weeds from the planting area, then spade the soil to a depth of 8 to 10 inches. Dig in 2 to 3 inches of organic matter such as compost, leaf mold or manure to improve soil drainage and promote the proper soil pH. In addition, enrich the soil by digging in a general-purpose, 10-10-10 fertilizer at a rate of 1 tablespoon of dry fertilizer per 10 square feet of planting space.
3 Remove the plant carefully from the nursery container. Dig a hole double the width of the plant's root ball. Place the plant in the center of the hole with the top of the root ball even with the surface of the soil. Avoid planting too deeply, because the roots may rot.
4 Fill the hole around the roots with soil, then pat the soil gently with the back of your shovel to remove air bubbles.
5 Water the Mexican sage deeply, providing enough water to saturate the soil around the roots to a depth of about 6 inches. Water as needed to keep the soil evenly moist, but not soggy, until the roots are established and new growth appears. Thereafter, water to a depth of 6 inches, but only when the soil is completely dry. Don't water excessively and don't keep the soil moist because Mexican sage is a drought-tolerant plant that thrives in dry, desert climates.
6 Spread 1 to 2 inches of organic mulch such as finely chopped bark or compost around the plant to conserve moisture and discourage growth of weeds.
Items you will need
- Organic matter
- 10-10-10 fertilizer
- Organic mulch
- If possible, water Mexican sage at the base of the plant to keep the leaves dry. Although the plant is relatively disease-resistant, it may develop diseases such as powdery mildew or stem rot in wet, humid conditions.
- University of Florida IFAS Extension: Salvia Leucantha Mexican Sage, Mexican Salvia
- The A-Z Guide to Growing Flowers from Seed to Bloom; Eileen Powell
- Clemson University Extension: Growing Perennials
- North Carolina State University Extension: Fertilizer Conversions
- The New Sunset Western Garden Book; Kathleen Norris Brenzel, ed.
- Stephen F. Austin State University: Salvia Leucantha, Mexican Bush Sage
- Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images