Salvia Leucantha Care: How To Grow Mexican Bush Sage

Salvia leucantha (SAL-vee-uh loo-KANTH-uh) is a member of the Lamiaceae (lay-mee-AY-see-eye) family of plants hailing from Mexico and Central America.

Flowering Salvia Leucantha with fuzzy purple calyces

This shrubby, evergreen perennial is also known as:

  • Mexican Sage
  • Mexican Bush Sage
  • Purple Velvet
  • Velvet Sage

The genus name, Salvia, is derived from the Latin, salveo, which means to heal or to save. Salvia plants are known to have curative properties and often used in folk medicine. The specific epithet, leucantha, refers to the plants’ white flowers.

Salvia Leucantha Care

Size & Growth

Mexican Bush Sage grows to a height and width of 2’ to 3’ feet tall. It can attain this height and width in a single season. It is often planted as an annual in areas where the winters are too cold for it to survive from year-to-year.

The plant’s fragrant gray-green leaves are lance-shaped, and velvety. They grow in pairs on either side of the square stems and may be up to 4” inches long.

Popular Varieties of Salvia Leucantha

  • Santa Barbara Plant Patent #12,949 – bright purple flowers
  • Danielle’s Dream – Plant Patent #21,734 – pink and white flowered
  • Midnight – purple flowers enclosed by furry white bracts

Flowering & Fragrance

This Salvia produces an abundant number of showy flowers in late summer with numerous fuzzy purple calyces in multiple colors on the same plant. Blooms may be purple, deep pink, white or bicolored combinations.

The flowers grow thickly on arching spikes that are about 10” inches long. The flowers stand high above the foliage and are accessible and very attractive to hummingbirds, bees and butterflies.

Bloom time is late summer through late autumn.

Light & Temperature

A full sun setting is best, but this Salvia can tolerate light shade in the afternoon.

Velvet Sage is winter hardy in USDA hardiness zones 8 through 10. In areas with slightly colder winters, this Salvia may overwinter if cut back and heavily mulched before the first frost.

Watering & Feeding

It is best to provide regular watering, but this hardy Salvia can tolerate some drought.

At the beginning of the growing season, mulch deeply with garden compost or well rotted manure to feed the plants and help retain moisture in the soil.

Soil & Transplanting

Mexican Bush Sage performs best in well-drained, evenly moist, rich, slightly alkaline soil.

Grooming & Maintenance

Regular deadheading will encourage Purple Velvet to produce more blooms. At the end of the growing season, prune the plant back and mulch deeply to provide protection from the cold.

More Salvia Sages You May Like:

How To Propagate Salvia Leucantha

Purple velvet is easily grown from seed, which you should start indoors a couple of months before the last predicted frost date.

Alternatively, you can purchase seedlings at your local nursery. Either way, put your seedlings out after the last frost in the springtime.

You can also propagate Mexican Bush Sage from cuttings. At the end of the growing season, you can simply trim away 3” to 4” inch cuttings and place them in water to take root. 

Once they have, transplant them to their own pots and keep them as houseplants until spring.

Salvia Leucantha Pests or Diseases

Mexican Sage has no serious disease or insect problems. Excessive watering may lead to leaf spot.

Is The Leucantha Salvia Considered Toxic or Poisonous?

This medicinal plant is not considered toxic.

Is The Leucantha Salvia Considered Invasive?

This plant is not listed as invasive in the United States. 

Suggested Salvia Leucantha Uses 

This woody sage makes an excellent choice as an ornamental border plant in full sun. It also does well in containers and as a bedding plant.

Purple velvet is not especially attractive to deer, but it is very attractive to pollinators. It makes a fine addition to your herb garden, butterfly garden or pollinator garden.

With its bright, fragrant, showy flowers and spreading growth habit, Mexican Sage looks gorgeous in mass plantings, cascading over rock walls or kept as individual specimen plants in containers or hanging baskets.

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