How to Plant, Grow, and Care for Autumn Sage

Common sage is widely used for culinary purposes and is grown in kitchen gardens around the world. But many varieties of ornamental sage offer up beautiful blooms that will attract pollinators to your yard. In addition, they are drought-tolerant and low-maintenance. Autumn Sage, known for its stunning red flowers, is one of those ornamental varieties. Gardening expert Kelli Klein shares the best practices for growing this perennial plant.

Autumn Sage features aromatic, lance-shaped leaves with scalloped edges and vibrant tubular flowers in shades of red.


Salvia greggii, also commonly known as autumn sage, is an ornamental sage that is grown for its abundant flowers. The small, delicate tubular flowers are a favorite of hummingbirds. Not only do they attract bees, butterflies, and birds, but the flowers also sit atop sturdy stems, which makes them perfect for use as a cut flower. Red is the most popular flower color, but there is a variety of cultivars that showcase other colors as well. 


Salvia greggii displays slender, serrated leaves of silvery-green hue, contrasting beautifully with its profusion of tubular flowers of pink-red hue.
Plant Type Perennial
Family Lamiaceae
Genus Salvia
Species Salvia greggii
Native Area Southwest Texas and Mexico
Exposure Full sun to partial shade
Height 2-3 feet
Watering Requirements Low
Pests & Diseases Aphids
Maintenance Low
Soil Type Rocky or sandy
Soil pH Neutral

What Is Autumn Sage?

Autumn Sage displays slender, serrated leaves of silvery-green hue, contrasting beautifully with its profusion of tubular flowers in scarlet hues blooming on long thin purple-green stems.
Drought-tolerant perennial with red blooms attracting diverse wildlife.

Autumn sage is a herbaceous perennial shrub. It grows in a mounding habit to a height of two to three feet tall and wide. It is evergreen in mild climates but will die back to the ground in areas with colder winters. It is a tough and drought-tolerant plant once established.

Like most plants in the mint family, it will rarely need supplemental water after one to two growing seasons. Its red flowers attract bees, butterflies, and birds, including hummingbirds. Despite its name, it blooms throughout the spring and into the summer, right up until the first frost. 


Salvia greggii
Named in tribute to a pioneering journey through Texas.

The species name ‘greggii’ is in honor of Josiah Gregg. In 1841 and 1842 he traveled through the Red River Valley in Texas taking note of Texas geology and trees in addition to prevalent attitudes and politics. His manuscript “Commerce of the Prairies” was published in two volumes in 1844. In 1848 he joined a botanical expedition through western Mexico and California, where he collected specimens of this native plant. 

Native Area

Close-up of a bee hovering next to a Salvia greggii flower inflorescence consisting of tubular flowers in a bright pink-violet hue.
A resilient native, thriving in arid southwestern climates.

This perennial is native to southwestern Texas and southwards into the Chihuahua region of Mexico. It has adapted to survival in the hot and dry climates of its native habitat. In these areas, it has also adapted to thrive in rocky and sandy soils. Once established it is drought-tolerant and makes an excellent addition to a rock garden or xeriscaping. It adapts well to planting in many soil types.

Many different cultivars exist, but Salvia greggii is the most popular for use in ornamental landscaping. Closely related to Salvia microphylla, many naturally occurring hybrids can often be found in the wild. 


Closeup of red flowers of Salvia greggii on tall stems covered with small, lance-shaped green leaves.
Vibrant red blooms beckon hummingbirds and pollinators to gardens.

This pretty plant has narrow, elliptical, gray-green leaves and bright red flowers. These flowers attract a host of pollinators and birds. Most birds have an extra photoreceptor that allows them to see the color red much more brightly. For this reason, along with the tubular-shaped flowers, hummingbirds love it.

The flowers grow along upright stems, and the plant grows in a mounding habit. At maturity, it will reach a height and spread of two to three feet. Be sure to space plants accordingly, with consideration for their mature size.  


Close-up of Autumn Sage flowers, borne on tall stems, are tubular in shape and exhibit a bright red hue.
Delicate leaves and vibrant blooms adorn ornamental gardens gracefully.

Autumn sage is generally used as an ornamental but is technically edible. The leaves are said to taste like a cross between mint and sage. The flowers make a beautiful edible garnish. However, this plant is almost always grown as an ornamental. Common sage, Salvia officinalis, produces much more of the sage flavor along with broad leaves for bigger harvests which makes it the best choice for your edible sage needs.

Meanwhile, it produces beautiful red blooms which make it a standout choice as an ornamental. The sturdy stems also make it a great choice for a cut flower garden. 

Where To Buy

With its lance-shaped foliage in shades of green to gray-green, Autumn Sage produces an abundance of tubular flowers in a spectrum of colors, including crimson, providing a delightful pop of color in the garden.
Available in various cultivars, it’s a nursery favorite for gardens.

You can find this plant at a wide range of online retailers. You will likely also be able to find it at your local nursery, especially if you live in its native range or a similar climate where drought-tolerant ornamentals are becoming popular.

‘Furman’s Red’ is a popular cultivar from Texas that showcases the bright red flowers that this plant is known for. However, there are other colors of flower available, like peach and lavender. ‘Strawberries and Cream’ produces bicolored yellow and pink flowers.  


Close-up of a gardener's hands replanting young salvia seedlings with thin bending stems covered with small lance-shaped green leaves growing in a small flower pot.
Plant in spring or fall for resilient perennial beauty.

Spring or in the fall is a good time for planting. It’s best to avoid planting it during the summer since you’ll want to give it time to become established before its first season of hot weather and potential drought. Likewise, if you’re planting in the fall, be sure to plant at least six to eight weeks before your first frost date to give it time to establish a good root system before its first winter. This will give you the best chance of this perennial coming back for a second year. 

Autumn sage can survive in very lean soils, and for this reason, amending the planting site is not necessary. Dig a hole the same depth as the pot it arrived in and at least twice as wide. Place the sage into the hole and backfill with soil. Water it in well and provide regular water for the first few weeks until it has become established.

When your sage begins to put out new growth this is a sign it has established. During its first growing season, you’ll need to water it at least once a week. If it is raining regularly then this should provide it with enough moisture. In times of extreme drought and heat, you’ll need to water it twice weekly. After its first season, you can cut watering in half. In its third growing season, it will be drought-tolerant. 

How to Grow

As mentioned above, this sage is low-maintenance and extremely drought-tolerant. However, there are a few requirements that need to be met to ensure that your sage becomes established and produces the most beautiful blooms. 


Salvia greggii showcases slender leaves and clusters of small, tubular flowers in shades of pink, creating a vibrant and pollinator-friendly addition to the sunny landscape.
Thrives in full sun, with occasional afternoon shade in heat.

In its native range, sage can be found growing in hot and dry climates in full sun. To produce the most flowers, it will need at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight per day. In areas with extreme heat in the summer (temperatures regularly above 80-90°F or 27-32°C), it can benefit from afternoon shade.

Just be sure that it receives six to eight hours of sunlight per day, even if the hours aren’t consecutive. For example, this can be three hours of morning sun, followed by afternoon shade, then followed by three hours of sun in the late afternoon. 


Close-up of watering a salvia in a clay pot with an orange watering can in the garden.
Established sage thrives with minimal watering, adapting to climate.

Once established, autumn sage is drought-tolerant and has low water requirements. There are, however, a few considerations. Immediately after planting, you’ll want to provide your sage with regular water for the first few weeks or until it begins to show signs of new growth.

During its first growing season, make sure that your plants receive water once per week during the hottest part of the year. Plants will need less water in the spring and fall when temperatures are cooler and almost no supplemental water in the winter. In its second year of growth, you can cut watering back to once every other week during the hottest part of the year. By the third growing season, your plants should be drought-tolerant and will rarely require supplemental water. 

If you live in a climate that receives snow in the winter, then this will likely provide all of the moisture that your plants need during this time. However, if temperatures are above 40°F (4°C), the ground is not frozen, and there is no snow in the forecast, then consider giving your plants a drink. If you live in a mild climate, then you can cut watering in half during the winter. Of course, if you’re receiving regular precipitation, you likely won’t need to provide additional water at all. 


Close-up of a gardener's hands holding a handful of fresh, loose soil in a rich black color against a blurred background.
For optimal growth, ensure well-drained soil with appropriate amendments.

This drought-tolerant perennial prefers well-drained soils. For this reason, it does best in rocky or sandy soil, although it can tolerant a wide range of soil types. The most important factor is that the soil is well-draining.

If you need to amend your existing soil to increase drainage, you can do so by adding sand, perlite, organic matter, or compost around the planting site. Compost and organic matter increase drainage by improving the soil structure and easing compacted or clay soils. 

Temperature and Humidity

Salvia greggii presents slender, silvery-green leaves and prolific clusters of tubular flowers of pink color.
Moderate humidity and partial shade optimize growth for these salvias.

While it’s true that these salvias can survive periods of drought, they prefer a moderate amount of humidity rather than arid conditions. Humidity levels between 40-60% are ideal. The ideal temperature range during the growing season is between 65-80°F (18-27°C).

Again, they can survive harsher conditions, but they might not bloom as much. In areas that receive weather consistently above 80°F (27°C) during the summer, these plants can benefit from afternoon shade during the hottest part of the day. 


A close-up of a flowering Autumn Sage plant with small, tubular flowers in a vibrant red hue among slender stems covered in small, lanceolate-shaped, dark green leaves.
Salvia greggii thrives without much fertilizer but benefits from compost.

Fertilizing is optional for Salvia greggii. Like most plants in the mint family, it is a vigorous grower once established. This perennial can survive in lean soils, so they don’t need much in the way of additional compost or organic matter aside from what might have been used to help increase soil drainage.

However, you can still add a sprinkle of compost around the base of your plants at the beginning of each growing season to give them a boost. 


Close-up of a gardener pruning back a wilted and withered sage plant in the garden using blue pruning shears.
It is effortlessly beautiful, needing only minimal spring maintenance.

Autumn sage is very low maintenance. Because of its drought tolerance, it doesn’t require much water and doesn’t need any special irrigation running to it. It’s most important to cut back last year’s growth to a height of six inches just as new growth appears in the early spring.

You should leave the dead growth standing over the winter as this will help protect the root system. But once temperatures become mild in the early spring, it can be cut back just as the new growth appears at the base. 

Growing In Containers

Autumn Sage displays lance-shaped, gray-green leaves that provide a lovely backdrop to its profusion of tubular red flowers, showcased in a large black pot in the garden.
Thrives in containers with ample space and proper drainage.

Yes, Salvia greggi does well when grown in containers. When choosing a container, make sure to choose one large enough to accommodate its mature size of two to three feet tall and wide. A container with a width and depth of at least 20 inches is best.

When growing in a container, make sure to use a potting mix rather than regular garden soil. The potting mix will have better drainage. Even better yet, you can use cactus mix, which will contain an even faster draining mix which is what this plant prefers. Follow the same planting instructions as above to dig a hole and place your salvia including keeping it well watered until it becomes established. 


Close-up of salvia sprouts consisting of thin, upright pale green stems and a pair of heart-shaped green cotyledons.
Easily propagate from seeds or softwood cuttings.

Salvia greggi is a short-lived perennial that will live for about three to five years. But once you fall in love with this plant, you might be wondering, can I propagate this plant? The answer is yes! You can propagate by collecting seeds or by taking softwood cuttings. This salvia regularly self-seeds on its own, but you can also collect the dried seed heads and start seeds indoors the following spring. 

To propagate by cuttings, you will want to take a softwood cutting at least four inches long. Take the cutting just below a leaf node and strip the leaves from the bottom two inches. Place your cutting into a glass of water, and new roots will appear within one to two weeks. Once you see white roots, place your cutting into soil. Keep it well watered until it shows signs of new growth. Then, plant it out into its final home. 

Common Problems

In addition to its drought tolerance and low-maintenance growing requirements, this sage also suffers from very few pests and no major disease issues. There are a few growing problems that can pop up. Read on to learn about the signs and symptoms to be on the lookout for. 

Leaf drop 

Salvia greggii boasts clusters of small, tubular flowers in hues of red on a blurred green background.
Revive wilting leaves by watering thoroughly and consistently.

Leaves wilting and dropping from the plant are a sign of extreme drought stress. During drought, these plants will drop their leaves as a survival mechanism so that they have less foliage to support. If you notice dropping leaves, then feel the top few inches of soil around the base of your plant. If it feels dry then water it and continue to water once a week until the symptoms of dropping leaves resolve. 

Yellowing leaves

The Autumn Sage presents vibrant red tubular flowers against a backdrop of yellowing leaves, creating a contrasting yet captivating display in the garden.
Combat yellowing leaves by adjusting watering frequency judiciously.

If leaves turn yellow and then drop, it may be due to overwatering. Remember, these plants are drought-tolerant and will do better with less water rather than too much. For this reason, it’s always best to underwater rather than overwater. If you notice leaves turning yellow and then dropping from the plant, this is due to over-watering.

Feel the top few inches of soil around the base of the plant. If it is wet or waterlogged discontinue watering until the soil has dried completely. Begin watering again, but cut back on the frequency. 


Close-up of aphids on a leaf, which appear as tiny, soft-bodied insects with pear-shaped bodies, pale green in color.
Keep aphids in check with natural remedies or beneficial insects.

There are little to no pests that will trouble these plants. That is, aside from the garden pest to rule all garden pests: aphids. These small, soft-bodied insects can be found on the foliage and stems. They usually don’t bother salvia unless the plant is in a state of stress, which can leave it susceptible.

If you catch the infestation in the early stages, then you can either remove them by knocking them into a cup of soapy water or you can blast them off with a spray from the hose. Another benefit of creating a balanced ecosystem full of native flowering plants is that ladybugs will show up and eat them for you! In extreme infestations, a spray of neem oil can help reduce their populations but use this sparingly. 


The Autumn Sage boasts slender, tubular flowers in vibrant hues of red, adorning aromatic foliage characterized by lance-shaped, gray-green leaves.
Resilient and disease-free, a perfect addition to any garden.

No major diseases affect autumn sage. This is just another pro to add to the list of reasons why you should find a space for it in your garden. It makes a beautiful border plant and looks nice dotted throughout a perennial cut flower garden. In addition to being deer and rabbit resistant as well! 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is autumn sage edible?

As with most plants in the Salvia genus, it is technically edible, though it is mostly used as an ornamental in the garden. Common sage, Salvia officinalis, is most often used for culinary purposes.

Is autumn sage drought tolerant?

Yes, this plant is native to hot and dry areas of the southwest and Mexico and is considered to be drought-tolerant.

When does autumn sage bloom?

The flowers appear in the spring and will continue blooming until the first frost.

Final Thoughts

Autumn sage is a beautiful, drought-tolerant, low-maintenance perennial to add to your water-wise garden or pollinator patch. This native plant attracts loads of beneficial insects, including hummingbirds that prefer the tubular-shaped, red flowers. As with most plants in the mint family, Lamiaceae, they are both heat and cold-hardy. It has sturdy stems, which make it a great cut flower, too. Give a place in your perennial flower garden, and you won’t be disappointed! 

A ladybug with red wings rests on a green leaf, basking in the warm glow of sunlight, its delicate spots and tiny legs visible up close against the leaf's surface.

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