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Boerne Chapter

May 2020

NICE! Plant of the Month

Big Red Sage

(Salvia pentstemonoides)

A stand of red sage against a blue, cloudy sky.
Photo submitted by Boerne Chapter.

Photo courtesy of Lee Page, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center)

Family: Lamiaceae
Other Common Names: Penstemon sage, Beardtongue red sage
Type: Perennial herb/wildflower
Natural Habitat: Seeps along ledges and streams in riparian habitats in central and lower Edwards Plateau. Also depressions and ravines
Deer Resistance: Low
Wildlife: Attracts hummingbirds
Light Tolerance: morning sun/partial shade/understory
Flowers: Red, raceme, conspicuous, edible
Foliage: Leaves opposite, Fragrant with a lemony odor
Bloom Period: June to October
Water Requirements: low water requirement once established
Soil Requirements: Alkaline adaptable, loam, well drained

Planting Instructions: Space plants two feet apart. Dig a hole at least two times wider than, but the same depth as the root ball in the nursery container. Sides of the hole should be irregular, not smooth. Remove plant from container, taking care to support the root ball. Loosen exterior roots gently with your fingers. If the plant is root-bound and cannot be loosened by hand, the outer roots may be cut in several places. Lift the plant by the root ball and place into the hole. Backfill hole, using soil that was dug out. Do not add any soil to the top of the root ball. Gently firm the soil with your hands, but do not tamp it down. Place 3-4 inches of mulch over the bare soil around, but not touching the base of the plant.

Watering Instructions: Water deeply after planting to settle soil around roots. Then every 7-10 days, as needed, during the first growing season. Before watering, check for soil moisture at a depth of an inch or two at the edge of the root ball. Skip a watering after a rainfall of ½ to 1 inch. Maintain this watering schedule until the first fall. Reduce watering during the cool fall and winter months. In a “normal” year, no watering may be necessary during the fall and winter, but during a dry period, monthly watering may be needed. Second Spring and thereafter: Water monthly only during periods of drought. Once established, natives will survive with little supplemental irrigation.

NICE! Tip: Salvia pentstemonoides has become extremely rare in its native habitat of the Edwards Plateau but can be found readily in nurseries and home gardens. There is a great story that details the history of discovery of this superb addition to your landscape: https://www.npsot.org/wp/story/2009/1091/

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About the Region

New Braunfels, the location of our Fall 2024 Symposium, straddles both the Edwards Plateau Ecoregion and the Blackland Prairie ecoregion. Interstate 35 divides the city of New Braunfels; its path through the city closely parallels the boundary of these two ecoregions, with the Edwards Plateau on the west side and the Blackland Prairies region to the east. The Edwards Plateau area is also called the Hill Country; however, this general term covers a much larger area extending farther north. Spring-fed creeks are found throughout the region; deep limestone canyons, rivers, and lakes (reservoirs) are common. Ashe juniper is perhaps the most common woody species found throughout the region. Additional woody species include various species of oak, with live oak (Quercus fusiformis) being the most common. Sycamores (Platanus occidentalis) and bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) border waterways. This area is well known for its spring wildflower displays, though they may be viewed in spring, late summer, and fall, as well. According to Texas Parks and Wildlife, average annual rainfall in the Edwards Plateau ranges from 15 to 34 inches.

The Blackland Prairie extends from the Red River south to San Antonio, bordered on the west by the Edwards Plateau and the Cross Timbers, and on the east by the Post Oak Savannah. Annual rainfall averages 30 to 40 inches, with higher averages to the east. This region is dominated by prairie species. The most common grass species include little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) and Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans) in the uplands and switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) in the riparian areas and drainages. Common herbaceous flowering plants include salvias, penstemons, and silphiums. This area has suffered greatly from overgrazing and agricultural use. Few intact areas remain, though many of the plants can be found along county roadsides throughout the region.

Our four host chapters (New Braunfels, Lindheimer, Guadalupe, and the Hill Country chapters) are located in one or both of the ecoregions above. However, the eastern portion of Guadalupe County also falls within the Post Oak Savanna ecoregion. Annual rainfall averages 35 to 45 inches, with higher averages to the east. A wide variety of hardwood trees are found, including several species of oaks, elms, and in the Bastrop area, loblolly pine (Pinus taeda). Grasses and forbs dominate in the open savannas, with most common grass being little bluestem. Ranching, agriculture, and fire suppression have allowed woody species to encroach on the once-open savannas.

Source: Wildflowers of Texas by Michael Eason