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Salvia pentstemonoides (Big red sage)
Crank, Elinor

Salvia pentstemonoides

Salvia pentstemonoides Kunth & Bouché, orth. var.

Big Red Sage, Penstemon Sage

Lamiaceae (Mint Family)

Synonym(s): Salvia penstemonoides

USDA Symbol: SAPE15

USDA Native Status: L48 (N)

Once thought to be extinct, Big Red Sage was rediscovered in the 1980s and has become an established garden plant in Texas. It occurs in the wild in only a few locations in central Texas, but luckily it is easy to grow from seed and can attain an impressive stature in garden soil. The flowers are a sort of purplish red and appear in the summer, drawing many hummingbirds. Its robust, glossy foliage looks attractive behind a border and also smells pleasant - rubbing against the leaves releases a scent vaguely reminiscent of lemon-lime, but somehow more like Sprite or 7-Up. The specific epithet, formerly spelled penstemonoides, is an orthographic variant.


From the Image Gallery

32 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Herb
Leaf Retention: Semi-evergreen
Leaf Arrangement: Opposite
Inflorescence: Raceme
Size Notes: Up to about 4 feet tall.
Fruit: Nutlets.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Red
Bloom Time: Jun , Jul , Aug , Sep , Oct
Bloom Notes: Flowers are red sort of tinged with purple, or red sort of tinged with blue.


Native Distribution: Endemic to seeps on limestone ledges and banks along streams in central Edwards Plateau. Well-drained loam, clay, limestone.
Native Habitat: Stream, river banks, Ditches, Ravines, Depressions

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
Soil pH: Alkaline (pH>7.2)
Heat Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Medium Loam, Clay Loam Clay, Limestone-based, Calcareous


Use Ornamental: Attractive flowers and leaves that smell faintly like lemon-lime when brushed against
Use Wildlife: A sure hummingbird attractor
Use Food: Like many red-flowered Salvias, its flowers are both edible and sweet.
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Fragrant Foliage: yes
Attracts: Butterflies , Hummingbirds
Nectar Source: yes
Deer Resistant: Minimal


Propagation Material: Seeds
Commercially Avail: yes
Maintenance: Cut spent flower spikes to their basal rosettes.

National Wetland Indicator Status

Status: FACW
This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - Austin, TX
NPSOT - Native Plant Society of Texas - Fredericksburg, TX
NPSOT - Fredericksburg Chapter - Fredericksburg, TX
NPSOT - Austin Chapter - Austin, TX
NPSOT - Williamson County Chapter - Georgetown, TX


Bibref 318 - Native Texas Plants: Landscaping Region by Region (2002) Wasowski, S. & A. Wasowski

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Web Reference

Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter

Additional resources

USDA: Find Salvia pentstemonoides in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Salvia pentstemonoides in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Salvia pentstemonoides


Record Modified: 2023-02-27
Research By: TWC Staff, GDG

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