Step-by-Step Guide to Growing and Caring for Texas Sage at Home

Salvia coccinea brightens up gardens with tall spikes of brilliant red flowers. Hummingbirds and butterflies flock to these nectar-filled flowers, but pesky deer and rabbits leave the plants alone. In warm zones, Texas sage is a perennial and in colder zones, it’s treated as an annual. No matter where you live, you’ll enjoy this plant’s easy-to-maintain habit. Here we’ll take you through everything you need to know about growing and caring for Texas Sage (Salvia coccinea) at home including planting, soil considerations, light preferences, feeding, pruning, and over-winter care.


How to Grow Texas Sage (Salvia coccinea) – The Essentials:

Botanical Name:Salvia coccinea
Also Known As:Texas sage, blood sage, scarlet sage, tropical sage, Indian fire
Hardiness Zones:Grown as a perennial in zones 8-11 and as an annual in zones 4-7
Flowering Months: February through October
Growing Difficulty:Easy
Type of Plant: Perennial, treated as an annual in cold climates
Light Requirements:Sun to shade
Temp & Humidity:Thrives in temperatures between 60-90ºF, cannot tolerate temperatures below 30ºF
Watering Needs:Drought-tolerant, water in the spring and summer when the top two inches of soil is dry, about once every two to three weeks
Soil Preferences:Ideally sandy or loamy, but can tolerate well-drained clay soils
Feeding:Fertilize in the late spring and middle of summer with a fertilizer designed for flowering plants
Growth Expectations:Up to four feet tall and two and a half feet wide
Toxicity:Listed as non-toxic to pets, but can cause upset stomach

About Texas Sage (Salvia coccinea)

About Texas Sage (Salvia coccinea)

Family, Genus, and Species

  • Family: Lamiaceae
  • Genus: Salvia
  • Species: coccinea

When you’re looking for Salvia coccinea plants, it’s a good idea to look at scientific names. While this plant goes by Texas sage, scarlet sage, and blood sage, these common names also apply to other sage species.

Origins and History

Salvia coccinea is native to Mexico. Over time, it spread throughout Central America, South America, and Southern North America.

General Botanical Characteristics

General Botanical Characteristics

Texas sage plants have an upright form with numerous branching stems. These stems are square and covered with fine hairs.

Stems are adorned with triangular leaves that are arranged oppositely. Leaves are larger near the base of the plant and get smaller near the top.

Texas sage plants produce bright red flowers. Multiple flowers appear on a stalk that can be up to a foot long.

The flowers are tubular and look a bit like an open mouth. 

Uses & Benefits of Texas Sage

Hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees love blood sage flowers. Both hummingbirds and butterflies can reach into the long flowers to obtain sweet nectar.

Blood sage flowers also make excellent cut flowers.

When are Texas Sage Plants in Bloom?

When are Texas Sage Plants in Bloom?

Salvias will bloom from early spring to late fall as long as temperatures are warm enough.

Texas Sage Growth Expectations

Plants can reach up to four feet tall and two and a half feet wide. However, plants grown as annuals will rarely reach this size.

Companion Plants for Texas Sage

Other drought-tolerant plants make excellent companion plants for Salvia coccinea.

  • Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia spp.)
  • Common yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
  • Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
  • Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

How to Grow Texas Sage (Salvia coccinea)

How to Grow Texas Sage (Salvia coccinea)

Choosing a Location

Texas sage works well both as a container plant and a garden plant.

Try clumping a few plants together for a big burst of color in a garden bed. Or you can plant a line of plants for a stunning border.

Due to its ability to attract lots of butterflies and hummingbirds, it’s a great addition to a pollinator garden.

When choosing a location, the most important thing to check for is good drainage. Make sure soil is well-drained and containers have drainage holes.

What are the Best Times of Year to Plant Texas Sage?

Like with many herbaceous plants, the best time to plant Texas sage is in the spring or fall. If you live in an area that receives frosts, you should plant in the spring.

If you are planting in the spring, make sure the danger of frost has passed. Similarly, make sure fall-planted transplants have time to establish strong root systems before days turn dark and cold.

Growing Texas Sage From Seed vs. Transplanting

Growing Texas Sage From Seed vs. Transplanting

Texas sage is easy to grow from seed or transplants. Seeds are the less expensive option, but transplants are quicker.

If you live in a frost-prone area, start seeds a month or two before the last frost date. By the time the seedlings are large enough to plant, temperatures will be warm.

If you want to purchase transplants, wait until the danger of frost has passed.

What to Do Before Planting Texas Sage

Before you plant scarlet sage, check the soil and see if it is wet or compacted. If the area seems wet, choose another location.

If the soil is heavy in clay, consider adding some sand or perlite to increase drainage.

You should also make sure the plant has enough room to grow. Remember that they can grow over two feet wide.

What’s the Best Soil for Texas Sage?

What’s the Best Soil for Texas Sage?

Scarlet sage plants thrive in sandy, well-drained soils. However, they can tolerate loam and clay soils, as long as they are well-drained.

If you notice your soil seems to hold onto moisture, mix in some sand or perlite to increase drainage.

Aim for a soil neutral or slightly acidic soil pH.

How to Plant Texas Sage

If you are planting transplants, dig a hole that is slightly larger than the plant’s root ball. Place the root ball in the hole and cover it with soil. Gently pack and water well.

Light Preferences

These plants prefer at least eight hours of bright sun each day.

They can survive in part-shade, but they will produce fewer flowers when they are planted in shady areas.

Temperature & Humidity Preferences

Scarlet sage prefers temperatures between 60-85ºF during the summer. It can handle cooler temperatures in the winter, but will not survive frost.

These plants can tolerate both dry and humid air.


How to Care for Texas Sage (Salvia coccinea)

How to Care for Texas Sage (Salvia coccinea)

When and How to Water Salvia Coccinea

Salvia coccinea is drought tolerant and can handle dry periods. However, it will not flower with a lack of water.

During hot and dry summer periods, water thoroughly about once every two weeks. When temperatures are cooler, you will only need to water about once every three weeks.

How, When, and Why to Fertilize Texas Sage

While plants can grow without fertilizer, added nutrients will boost overall health as well as the number of flowers.

Apply a fertilizer designed for flowering plants in the late spring and again midsummer

When and How to Prune Texas Sage

When and How to Prune Texas Sage

Regular pruning will keep Texas sage plants looking tidy.

During the summer, remove any dead branches and flower stalks. You can remove them by gently pulling dead material until it dislodges. Alternatively, you can cut the stems near their base.

Pruning your plant during the early spring will keep it healthy and full of flowers. During March or April, cut back the flower stalks until they are a few inches tall.

Propagation

Scarlet sage is easy to propagate by both seed, division, and stem cuttings

Seed

Plants readily produce seeds that can be planted to produce new plants. To collect these seeds, place wilting flowers in a bag. Shake the bag to separate the seeds from the flower.

If you are producing transplants for an area that experiences frost, start seeds indoors about two months before the last frost date. Once the chance of frost has passed, plant the seedlings outdoors.

Division

Division is a great way to separate large plants so you can plant salvia in multiple areas. Follow these steps to propagate scarlet sage via division.

  1. Dig up a mature plant; you may need to cut back the foliage first.
  2. Use a trowel or knife to separate the roots and stems into sections.
  3. Immediately plant each section, or wrap in wet paper for up to two days.

Stem Cuttings

One more way to propagate scarlet sage is via stem cuttings. This is a great way to propagate hybrid varieties, since their seeds do not produce plants identical to the parent.

First, cut a piece of stem that is 5-8 inches long. Remove all leaves from the bottom 2-3 inches.

Place the cutting in a glass of water then place the glass in an area where it receives indirect light. Make sure no leaves are submerged in the water. 

After a few weeks, you should see roots form. When the roots are 1/2 inch long you may plant the cuttings in soil.

Overwintering Texas Sage

Texas sage plants can survive the winter unprotected in zones 8-11.

If you have a potted plant and live in an area that receives frosts, it’s best to bring your plant indoors during the winter. 

Place the plant in an area that receives bright or indirect light. Avoid placing it in a very warm place since this could lead to shock.

Texas sage plants may survive light frosts if you cover them with frost cloth. However, heavy frosts will kill the plants.

Repotting Texas SagePlants Grown in Containers

If you’re growing Texas sage in containers, you’ll need to repot plants every few years.

To repot, remove the plant from the container and dust off excess soil from the root ball. Add a few inches of new potting soil to the container and then add the plant. Fill the remainder of the container with potting soil and water well.

Deadheading

Deadheading flowers isn’t necessary but it can help continue the production of new flowers. 

You can remove entire flower stalks when all of the flowers are done blooming.


Common Texas Sage Problems

Common Texas Sage Problems

Salvia coccinea is quite a hardy plant. It can withstand periods of drought and is resistant to deer and rabbit damage. With that said, you should keep an eye out for the following problems.

Powdery Mildew

Powdery mildew is a fungus that coats plants in a layer of white. In extreme cases, it can cause leaves and flowers to die.

Texas sage is more susceptible to powdery mildew when the weather is cool and wet.

To prevent powdery mildew, leave space between plants. This will allow airflow and discourage fungi.

Yellowing Leaves

If you notice leaves turning yellow, water is likely to blame. Your job is to figure out if your plant is receiving too much or not enough water.

Remember that Texas sage can withstand periods of drought, so you don’t need to water every day or even every week. However, you should water your plant every few weeks during times of drought.

Sap Sucking Pests

While Salvia coccinea isn’t often impacted by pests, it can become affected by sap-sucking pests. These include aphids, thrips, and spider mites.

If you notice these pests, remove them with a soapy cloth or spray from a hose. You can also release beneficial insects such as ladybugs and green lacewings.


Essential Tools for Growing Texas Sage

Essential Tools for Growing Texas Sage

Texas sage doesn’t require too many specialized tools, but the following items will be useful:

  • Soaker hose or watering can
  • Pruning shears
  • Perlite or sand
  • Soil probe or moisture meter
  • Mulch, compost, or slow-release fertilizer pellets

Wrapping Up

Texas Sage is a very rewarding plant that produces stunning red blooms with the right care and attention. These beauties are great for attracting pollinators to the garden and also have the benefit of being deer and rabbit resistant. Enjoy! 


Growing Texas Sage (Salvia coccinea) FAQs:

Salvia coccinea can grow up to four feet tall and two and a half feet wide.

If you live in USDA hardiness zones 9-11, you generally do not have to protect your plant in the winter. However, if the danger of frost is present, cover your plant with a frost cloth or a sheet.

If you live in an area that receives hard frosts, your Salvia coccinea plant will die over the winter. 

If your plant is in a pot and the danger of frost is present, bring the plant indoors.

No, Texas sage is not invasive.

Texas sage is a perennial in areas that do not receive hard frosts. In areas with cold winters, Texas sage is treated as an annual.

While Texas sage plants prefer full or part sun, they can grow in shade. However, they will not grow as quickly and they may not flower.

While many types of Salvia species are edible, you should refrain from eating Texas sage. NC State reports that the flowers are not edible. If you eat the flowers or leaves, you may experience an upset stomach.


More Salvia Flower Growing Guides:

For more essential step-by-step guides to growing and caring for Salvia plants at home, please see our in-depth features on Salvia greggii (Autumn sage), Salvia splendens (Scarlet Sage), and Salvia nemorosa (Woodland sage).


Author

Briana holds a B.S. in Plant Sciences from Penn State University. She manages a small market garden where she grows vegetables and herbs. She also enjoys growing flowers and houseplants at home.

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