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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Friday - June 12, 2015

From: Palmerton, PA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Shrubs
Title: How to Overwinter Texas Sage in PA
Answered by: Anne Van Nest

QUESTION:

I live in northeast PA. I just bought a Texas sage tree. How do I care for it in the winter?

ANSWER:

Whether it is called Texas sage, Cenizo, Texas barometer bush, Texas silverleaf, or Purple sage, Leucophyllum frutescens is a great plant for the southwest because it is drought tolerant, has a beautiful display of lavender flowers a few days after it rains in the summer or fall and silvery foliage. But the plant is only hardy to USDA zone 8 - quite a ways south of PA.

Here's what we say about the shrub on the www.wildflower.org website:

A gray shrub with leaves densely covered with stellate, silvery hairs and bright pink-lavender, bilaterally symmetrical flowers borne singly in crowded leaf axils. Typically a compact shrub, 2-5 ft. tall, Texas barometer-bush or cenizo occasionally reaches 8 ft. in height, and 4-6 ft. in width. Leaves silvery gray to greenish, soft to the touch, up to 1 1/4 inches long but mostly 1 inch or less, tapering more gradually to the base than to the rounded tip, margins smooth. Flowers violet to purple, sometimes pink, nearly bell shaped, and up to 1 inch in length and width, appearing intermittently from spring to fall. Fruit a small capsule.

As one travels east across southern Texas near the Mexican border, the olive green of Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata) gives way to the gray of this species, with its display of bright pink-lavender flowers. These burst into bloom for only a few days at a time, in the summer and fall, depending on rainfall. The ashy appearance of the leaves, also described as silvery, white, or gray, is due to the millions of tiny hairs covering them. A grouping of several individuals makes a good screen or hedge. There are many nice color selections and cultivars. This and other Leucophyllum species are popular water-conserving ornamentals in the Southwest.

Now, keeping your shrub indoors in PA over the winter will be a challenge and you will have to try and give your Texas sage the most sunlight (south or west window), warmest location, and try to keep it on the dry side for it to survive.  Good luck!

 

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