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Annual Texas sage acts like perennial

Annual Texas sage acts like perennial

Posted: Tuesday, July 27, 2010 8:01 pm
By: By Jimmy Williams

Many annuals are so proficient at seeding that they are, in effect, perennials. That is, they appear every year almost without fail.
That doesn’t mean they will reappear in precisely the same spot every time, as per a true perennial. Most of them will be in the general vicinity of their parent, but some species will self-seed far away.
In past columns on the subject of self-seeding annuals, I have dwelt on one of the most prolific, the old-fashioned cleome. We’ll give it short shrift this time, but suffice it to say once you have cleome you’ll always have it unless you desire to end the relationship by hoeing out all the volunteers. I doubt you will, however, such is its excellence as a season-long flowering attraction.
Salvia coccinea would seem, on the basis of its botanical name, to be red. (See “cochineal,” a red dye made from the dried bodies of female cochineal insects.) Indeed, some varieties are, but others run the gamut of shades of pink through white and bicolors.
This salvia is commonly called Texas sage, and is sold as a bedding annual in cell packs, like so many others. In more southerly regions it is a perennial. At any rate, it is a first rate self-seeding annual, apt to come back for many years unless overwhelmed by something more smothering.
The red form superficially resembles the more familiar red sage, which is Salvia splendens, also an annual but not self-seeding. Texas sage, however, has a presentation and carriage of sanguine sophistication, with daintier flowers presented on foliage answering that same description.
I used to have this in my red borders, where it was a valuable resident, the flowers dangling two feet above surrounding lower life nearby. It finally, alas, was overcome by aggressors. I must start it up again.
Another variety is Coral Nymph, a fine bi-color of pale coral and white. Otherwise the plant is identical to the red. Coral Nymph has proven her mettle in another border for some 15 years, and has flowered prolifically and seeded plentifully, but not to the point of nuisance. She has been showing for a couple of weeks now, and will keep on until frost.
The albino is, of course, solid white. While some white flowering plants are weaker than their colored brethren, this does not seem to be the case here. The white ones seem to self-sow just as efficiently as the others.
Texas sage will sprout only after hot weather has arrived, and a danger is cultivating them out of existence while the plants are so minuscule as to go unnoticed. They will appear in any niche that receives even minimal sunlight.
Even after they are sizable, however, they so resemble the hated pigweed it is easy to weed them out by mistake. (Have you ever seen pigweed as bad as it has been the past few years?)
Once you have the salvias identified and they are under way — say, six inches tall or so — it is good to pinch them back a time or two to bulk them up and create multiple stems. Thus treated, they will make bushy plants up to two feet tall by late summer and bloom right the way through the fall until hard frost.
Another identification problem is in the fact that Texas sage seedlings often appear far away from their parents, perhaps in an area where they are not expected. While small, they transplant easily, hence they can be moved to where they are most wanted.
Editor’s note: Jimmy Williams is production superintendent at The Paris Post-Intelligencer, where he also writes this column.
Published in The Messenger 7.27.10

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