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Publication #FPS527

Salvia leucantha Mexican Sage, Mexican Salvia1

Edward F. Gilman and David Marshall2


The Mexican sage is an herbaceous perennial which sends up tufts of gray-green foliage (Fig. 1). The upright stems are wooly and support the lanceolate, pubescent leaves. Leaves are soft to the touch. The inflorescence consists of numerous flowers arranged in whorls at each node. Flower color ranges from rose-purple studded with white to a uniform rose-purple. These beautiful flowers appear summer to fall and are very attractive to hummingbirds.

Figure 1. 

Mexican sage

[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

General Information

Scientific name: Salvia leucantha
Pronunciation: SAL-vee-uh loo-KANTH-uh
Common name(s): Mexican sage, Mexican salvia
Family: Labiatae
Plant type: perennial; herbaceous
USDA hardiness zones: 7 through 11 (Fig. 2)
Planting month for zone 7: Jun; Jul
Planting month for zone 8: May; Jun; Jul
Planting month for zone 9: Apr; May; Jun; Jul; Aug; Sep
Planting month for zone 10 and 11: Feb; Mar; Apr; May; Jun; Jul; Aug; Sep; Oct; Nov; Dec
Origin: not native to North America
Uses: cut flowers; border; edging; mass planting; attracts butterflies; attracts hummingbirds; hanging basket; cascading down a wall
Availability: somewhat available, may have to go out of the region to find the plant

Figure 2. 

Shaded area represents potential planting range.

[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]


Height: 1 to 2 feet
Spread: 2 to 3 feet
Plant habit: spreading
Plant density: open
Growth rate: moderate
Texture: fine


Leaf arrangement: whorled
Leaf type: simple
Leaf margin: serrate
Leaf shape: lanceolate
Leaf venation: pinnate
Leaf type and persistence: semi-evergreen
Leaf blade length: 4 to 8 inches
Leaf color: silver/gray
Fall color: not applicable
Fall characteristic: not applicable


Flower color: rose-purple
Flower characteristic: fall flowering; flower season is longer in zones 9–11


Fruit shape: unknown
Fruit length: unknown
Fruit cover: unknown
Fruit color: unknown
Fruit characteristic: inconspicuous and not showy

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: typically multi-trunked or clumping stems
Current year stem/twig color: gray/silver
Current year stem/twig thickness: medium


Light requirement: plant grows in full sun
Soil tolerances: acidic; alkaline; sand; loam; clay
Drought tolerance: moderate
Soil salt tolerances: unknown
Plant spacing: 18 to 24 inches


Roots: not applicable
Winter interest: no special winter interest
Outstanding plant: plant has outstanding ornamental features and could be planted more
Invasive potential: not known to be invasive
Pest resistance: no serious pests are normally seen on the plant

Use and Management

This perennial is charming when used in the landscape as a specimen in a container, or massed together in a landscape bed. The flowers are quite lovely when used in flower arrangements. They last several days as cut flowers.

Mexican sage prefers a bright position in the landscape and a rich, sandy, well-drained soil. It grows best and stays thick with regular watering but will tolerate periods of drought. Cut the plant back and irrigate during the summer if it becomes too leggy. The plant is killed to the ground by freezing temperatures in the northern part of its range.

The Mexican sage can be propagated by cuttings and division.

Pests and Diseases

No pests or diseases are of major concern.

Leafspot may be an occasional problem.



This document is FPS527, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date October 1999. Reviewed February 2014. Visit the EDIS website at


Edward F. Gilman, professor, Environmental Horticulture Department; and David Marshall, agricultural Extension agent and program leader, UF/IFAS Extension Leon County; UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.