Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Prairie Plant Profile #1 - Big Red Sage

This is the first of a monthly (hopefully) feature where I profile a plant in my prairie. Each month I will photograph and describe a plant from my garden that is of particular interest at the time. For the sake of alliteration and the opportunity to show I know and can even spell a five syllable word, I will call the post Prairie Plant Profile.

Big red sage, Salvia penstemonoides, is the subject of my first profile. This Texas native perennial was once thought to be extinct, but was rediscovered in the 1980s and is now regularly available at native plant sales and nurseries that specialize in natives.

Big red sage has simple, elongated, glossy leaves that look similar to the leaves of a penstemon, which is how it gets its botanical name and the alternate common name, penstemon sage. The plant grows about three feet tall, with most of that height being from the flower stalk. The flowers are purplish red and very attractive to hummingbirds, as are most other salvias. Big red sage grows in full sun or with some afternoon shade. My plants are drought tolerant, but appreciate an occasional soaking. The lower leaves of my plants sometimes turn yellow and die—maybe from getting too dry. My plants start blooming in June and continue blooming into November. You can cut the flower stalks back to the rosette after the plant stops blooming, but I leave the stalks on mine long enough to set some seeds. I usually find a couple of volunteer seedlings each spring, so it is not an aggressive re-seeder.

Plant some big red sage in your garden. It is a great tall accent flower and attracts hummingbirds.


  1. You and I have so many plants in common. I just learned about Big Red Sage at a native plant meeting last year and this is my first year for blooms. We can see the plants from the kitchen windows and enjoy the hummingbird activity.

    Keep up the good work, I'm tickled that you'll be profiling your prairie.

  2. Bob and Elaine McDowellAugust 13, 2010 at 4:21 PM

    Your yard is beautiful.

  3. Wow!!! I was very impressed and I admire your work. I love gardening! I grew up in a tropical place and for years I have been growing some of these plants in my home in Houston, TX. So far, very good but a lot of work! I lost some during the winter season. Last year, it hit me. I said to my self: Why am I growing something that is not native to TX? I love the prairie. I think I can do my own prairie on my front/back yard! I am currently doing my landscaping projects in my computer to start next month. I can wait to get my hands dirty :). Keep posting pictures. They are great!

  4. Thanks Anonymous. Good luck with your native plants and prairie. Keep me posted you your progress.


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