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Select Nontraditional Flowers For Fall Color
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
The indigo spires may be the most beautiful perennial salvia that we grow. I hope you have the opportunity to see them blooming right now. It seems strange that I have hundreds of books, but only a couple even mention this great plant.
The Salvia indigo spires is a cross between salvia farinacea and salvia longispicata. This gorgeous plant reaches about 3 to 4 feet tall and has blooms that reach close to 15 inches in length.
The name spires refers to the blooms as they start to curl or take on a spiral effect. As cooler temperatures arrive, the spirals become more pronounced and the color even more beautiful.
The flowers are great for cutting, and as you might guess, they are loved by bees and some butterflies. There are a few nurseries that have them for sale now -- ready to plant.
Indigo spires is one plant I beg and plead with gardeners to buy on faith. Buy in the spring when they are not blooming and rejoice when you have blooms from late summer until frost.
Plant in well-drained, well-prepared soil to the rear of your border or as a divider. They work well with a number of perennials like purple cone flowers and summer phlox, or combined with yellows like new gold lantana, melampodium or black-eyed Susans.
Pay close attention to Mexican bush sage, or salvia leucantha, which is another sage that is blooming right now.
Mexican bush sage is the plant of the year in Texas, and we can beat their socks off at growing it in Mississippi. The plants which you will also purchase by faith in the spring will become large 5- to 6-foot mounds.
The gray-green foliage is welcome, but it is the unbelievable number of flowers we get that makes this plant a must for your garden. Would you believe 150 to 200 long-stemmed cut flowers? It is very possible. The Mexican bush sage is available in purple and blue flowers.
The Mexican bush sage has returned nicely at Crystal Springs and Jackson, but you may have to count it as an annual north of Interstate 20. Still, it is well worth the effort as an annual.
To maximize its chance of returning in the spring, make sure it has great drainage and a good layer of mulch. The combination of wet feet and cold will probably cause it to rot. It is easy to propagate by cuttings if you want to make some before winter.
While filming an upcoming episode of Southern Gardening on Mexican bush sage, we noticed the hummingbirds would really fight over the opportunity to feed off the flowers. As we would get too close for their comfort, they would go to a nearby bush and wait for us to move.
Salvias are among the easiest and showiest of flowers for the garden. These are the flowers to plant if you want to garden and golf. They are also well suited for the backyard wildlife habitats.
Plant Salvia farinacea Victoria Blue, Indigo Spires and the Mexican bush sage, and you will have color from spring until freezing weather.