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What is Scarlet Sage?

Deneatra Harmon
Deneatra Harmon

Salvia coccinea, or scarlet sage, comes from the mint family known as Lamiaceae. This favorite of butterflies and hummingbirds and, depending on weather conditions, grows in a wide range of soil types as an annual or a perennial. This herbaceous plant thrives in mostly dry places and visible locations in the sun and shade. Tall and short varieties of scarlet sage bloom each year with bright, showy flowers. The ability to reseed in the soil makes scarlet sage an easy care plant.

Scarlet sage may also be found under the botanical name Salvia coccinea, and it also classified by other common names. These alternative names include hummingbird sage, Texas sage, tropical sage and blood sage, depending on the cultivar. The plant belongs to the same mint family that produces peppermint, spearmint, giant hyssop and white bee balm, among others.

The Salvia genus contains many varieties of sage.
The Salvia genus contains many varieties of sage.

Depending on weather conditions in a specific geographical area, the hummingbird sage grows as an annual or a perennial plant. It classifies as an annual when planted in winter climates with below-freezing temperatures (32°Fahrenheit or 0° degrees Celsius). The hummingbird sage qualifies as a perennial when propagated and grown in warmer, above-freezing temperatures. It grows well by seed in either in partial shade or full sunlight, although the heat from the sun helps it to flourish faster. Dry or moist soil works with scarlet sage, as long as the soil features a loamy, clay or sandy texture.

Scarlet sage grows in clay soil.
Scarlet sage grows in clay soil.

Favorite places of the scarlet sage include dry environments as well as open spaces and other highly visible areas. Floral beds, landscaped borders, roadsides, fields, and thickets all house this ornamental plant. While the garden plant derives from the southern U.S., it also lives in the West Indies, Central America, and other places with varied temperatures and dry to moist soil.

Blooms normally debut in various sizes. Height of 1 feet to 3 feet tall (0.3 to 0.9 m) are not uncommon for this ornamental. Triangular leaves that appear opposite each other on each stem commonly define the hummingbird sage. A common denominator of scarlet sage and most plants in the mint family includes an upright, square-shaped stem.

Flowers of hummingbird sage bloom from the early summer season until the first frost of fall. Fluorescent colors of the annual/perennial help to illuminate any garden or field. The plant comes primarily in fiery red, which may be found under names like "Rose" or "Red Express." Other colors include pink or salmon, purple or violet, and white and cream.

The bright colors of scarlet sage attract hummingbirds and butterflies alike. Blooms also draw their attention because of their fruity fragrances and sweet nectar. Fragrances of the hummingbird sage act as a deterrent for deer because they find the smell to be pungent.

Once plants establish themselves through seeds and cuttings, they may reestablish themselves within the soil each year with little maintenance. Seeds remain in the soil to reseed as often as possible while temperatures remain mild. They go dormant once the soil freezes from cold temperatures.

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    • The Salvia genus contains many varieties of sage.
      By: nito
      The Salvia genus contains many varieties of sage.
    • Scarlet sage grows in clay soil.
      By: Photocreo Bednarek
      Scarlet sage grows in clay soil.