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Salvia 'Tropical Red'


Salvia coccinea

Salvia coccinea is one of about 900 species in the genus Salvia. It is just one of the dozens of sages grown as garden ornamentals. As both its scientific name of coccinea (meaning “scarlet dyed”) and shared words of scarlet sage and blood sage suggest, this herbaceous perennial in the mint family (Lamiaceae) has bright red flowers. (Beware of familiar names – another species, S. splendens, is sometimes called scarlet sage, but these are very different plants; S. coccinea is also occasionally referred to as Texas sage or tropical sage, both those names are used for other species, too.)

It is probably native to Mexico and widespread throughout the Southeastern US, through Central America, and in northwestern South America (Columbia, Peru, and Brazil). It is the only native US sage with red flowers. S. coccinea is hardy in zones 9 and 10 and will reseed readily in zones 6 to 8, but is quickly grown as an annual in cooler climates.

Scarlet sage is a vase-shaped to upright subshrub in its native range, but because it is fast-growing, it also makes a good bedding plant in colder areas where it is not hardy. Plants grow 2-4 feet tall and up to 2 ½ feet wide, branching readily.

The medium green, hairy leaves are roughly triangular, with scalloped edges. The opposite leaves vary considerably in size, but all have long petioles coming off the square stems.
Scarlet sage blooms continuously whenever the weather is warm (including indoors in a greenhouse during the winter). Flowers are produced in loose whorls in an upright, terminal, racemose inflorescence up to 10 inches long.

Height: 2’-3’
Spread: 1’-2’
Bloom: June-November
Light: Full Sun, Part Shade
Water: Low
Zone: 8, 9, 10, 11
Origin: Texas

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