November 19th, 2010
Salvia madrensis

Salvia madrensis
Salvia madrensis.

I notice Salvia madrensis (Forsythia sage) for the first time last fall when some Austin garden bloggers make a field trip to the San Antonio Botanical garden. I was surprised to see a yellow salvia. I fell in love on the spot. It was blooming in dappled shade so I thought maybe I could grow it. When Renee (Renee’s Roots) heard I wanted one, she shared a plant from her garden.

I plant it in a new bed by the driveway with another acquisition from that trip, an Italian stone pine from Dan Hosage’s Madrone Nursery.

Salvia madrensis
2009-11-19. Plant the passalong from Renee.

I protect it during freezes and it survives even Austin’s big freeze in January 2010. After that, however, I get careless and forget to cover it in a later milder freeze. It responds by freezing to the ground. I fear I’ve lost it. During the spring that bed was a mass of Nigella damascena from Lancashire Rose. When the Nigella dies down and I clear it out, I’m happy to see three salvia plants coming up from the roots.

Salvia madrensis
2010-07-12. Three plant sprout from the roots.

Salvia madrensis struggled a bit in our very dry August 2010. Every day its large leaves wilt. I was relieved it was getting only morning light. I baby it with water more than most plants that month.

Now that it’s blooming, I know that it was worth the little extra effort.

Salvia madrensis
2010-11-17. Almost a year later, looking fantastic and producing new sprouts.

Salvia madrensis is said to grow in part to full shade. Just this week, the tree it was growing under was cut back severely resulting in much more sunlight in this spot. In order to help it survive next summer, I’m going to transplant the offsets in another part of the garden. It’s great to find a flower that I like that is happy in shade.

Salvia madrensis


Dateline: 2011-02-20.
I was afraid I’d lost the Salvia madrensis because (despite being covered) all the fresh new growth that had sprouted after I’d cut down the fading flower stems froze to the ground. Today, scores of little sprouts are coming back from the roots.

Dateline: 2017-07-17
They freeze back in a hard winter and die back in the heat of summer, but they have come back reliably every spring and fall.

by M Sinclair Stevens

6 Responses to post “Salvia madrensis”

  1. From Dorothy/Gardening with Nature:

    That’s a gorgeous salvia. I had never heard of it until I started seeing reports of it in the blogs this fall. I think I have to get some.

    It never registered with me until I saw it last fall at the botanical gardens. Now it seems everyone is raving about it. Unlike some trendy plants, I think this one deserves the attention. — mss

  2. From Julie:

    Just was down visiting neighbor Margaret Adie and, it’s blooming in her dappled-shade front yard, too. (I think she picked it up at BSN). So tall! Had never heard of this or seen it before. You can see strong shoots coming up from the base of hers. It’s happy.

    Discovering a new plant that is happy in Austin is thrilling. — mss

  3. From Annie in Austin:

    The Salvia madrensis looks perfect in that spot, MSS! It seems to lean & flop with too much shade, so if there are a few branches left to dapple the new sun that might be enough.

    I’d fallen for this salvia in Pam/Digging’s 2007 photos from the Chicago Botanical garden, then it showed up at the Natural Gardener in April 2008 so it’s added fall color to my garden for three autumns.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

    You’ve had it for three years? I’m obviously slow on the uptake. –mss

  4. From Jenny Austin:

    It really is a beauty. I have had little success getting this plant to grow in my garden. I planted one a couple of years ago but I think it died over the winter. However, recently I noticed a stalk growing in the same spot where I planted it and it has the tell tale square stem. I wonder if it did survive after all. No pretty bloom spike like yours. I’ll wait and see and hope.

    I hope so! It took a very long time for mine to come back from the roots. I was surprised to see them. As you can see on the date of the photograph above it was mid-July before I had new plants the size of the one originally planted. — mss

  5. From renee (renee's roots):

    Your Salvia madrensis looks very content in its new home. I adore mine. It’s putting on the best show of anything in my garden right now with very little effort on my part. However a few of its offspring are a bit far flung, so I need to dig them up soon and pot. If you know of others who would like to give them a try, let me know.

    Thanks so much for sharing this plant with me. It makes me happy every time I see it. — mss

  6. From Pam/Digging:

    I got my plants from Annie in Austin two years ago. I’m still trying to find the perfect spot for it, but it is a lovely yellow salvia.