Landscaping Made Easy

Sage is Ideal for New Mexico's Climate

Mike Dooley, April 2017

Sages take on many forms, and it even grows wild in our high desert climate. Artemisia is the main player for your landscape with its silver lacy foliage mounding to just over a foot in height yet two feet in width. To the landscape designer, sages are salvias and the genus is made up of more than 600 species worldwide. For the homeowner in the high desert of New Mexico, only a couple of species are commonly planted.

Salvia officinalis is “the” culinary sage, but it also makes a great landscape plant. It grows to about two feet in height and three feet in width at the most. Culinary sage is mostly evergreen but looks pretty sad in winter and needs to be cut back a foot in the spring.

Salvia may night is only noticed in the spring as it has show-stopping purple or pink spikes that dominate the landscape. May night only grows to about a foot in height, so it’s great for sunny areas where you need a very small plant. Cut it down to near the ground in early spring.

Salvia greggii is the most commonly planted sage in New Mexico, but it is commonly misunderstood. The problem is that it will bloom nine months out of the year. So why is that a problem? Well, it will usually have some leaves and even blooms year round, so most homeowners don’t know how to maintain it.

I rate salvia greggii as the longest blooming plant sold in the area, but it must be cut back severely and fertilized to get away from the twiggy look. When I first started using it in my designs in Texas, I did not understand why it was also called autumn sage. Now that I design in New Mexico, I get it. It blooms its heaviest in the fall due to our much colder winters. It needs the cold just like Apples. An associate in Texas would design in groups of three, as I do, but he would mix white, pink and red. As the group grows together it looks like the plant is blooming three different colors. Very Cool.


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