Photo by ALLEN OWINGS -- A hybrid called salvia 'Amistad' grows 4 feet tall and blooms from spring through fall.

When Kathy McNamara was asked to choose her favorite heat-tolerant summer plants, the horticultural manager of the New Orleans Botanical Garden did not miss a beat.

“I would have to say the salvias,” she admitted. “There are just so many different varieties and forms, all heights and colors. And they all perform beautifully in our hot summers, even if some of them wait until fall to bloom.”

Salvias belong to the mint family and can occur as shrubs, perennials, biennials, and annuals. They can grow anywhere form 15 inches to 8 feet tall, depending on the variety chosen.

Blooms range from white, pink, coral, and red to purple, violet and blue. Some of the blooms and leaves are fragrant. They can be purely decorative or found in forms like sage and mint that can be used in the kitchen. One variety, salvia divinorum, is used as a psychedelic drug.

As one of a team of three Botanical Garden staff members who keep up the beds and greenery throughout the seasons, McNamara has come to love the salvias for their variety, beauty and versatility.

If you think you’re ready to take her advice and try out some salvias in your home garden, you are in luck. A dozen or so varieties will be offered for sale Saturday at the Pelican Greenhouse in City Park. Many of those offered and described below cannot be found in commercial garden centers, so put down your coffee cup and get a move on.

  • Salvia miniata, or Belize Sage: red blooms in mid- to late summer and early fall; low-growing.
  • Salvia greggii, or Autumn Sage: Blooms in bright pink (Lipstick), white (Navajo White) and pink from mid-summer to fall; grows to about 36 inches.
  • Salvia guaranitica, or Blue Anise sage: Van Remsen blooms in cobalt blue flowers starting in late spring; grows as tall as 7 feet; attracts hummingbirds.
  • Salvia microphylla, or Little-Leaf Sage: San Carlos Festival’s blooms are red-violet and appear from May to November; grows to about 2 feet tall; attracts hummingbirds.
  • Salvia melissodora, or Grape Scented Sage: blooms violet from spring through fall; grows to 8 feet tall; attracts hummingbirds; both leaves and blooms are fragrant.
  • Salvia leucantha, or Mexican Bush Sage: blooms purple (Midnight) or white (Danielle’s Dream) in late summer to early fall; grows to 3 feet.
  • Salvia elegans, or Pineapple Sage: blooms red in spring and late fall; leaves smell like pineapple.
  • Salvia sinaloensis, or Sinaloa Sage: Blooms sapphire from spring to fall; grows to 12 inches.
  • Salvia farinacea, or Mealycup Sage: Violet-blue flowers from May until frost, has shiny leaves; grows to 24 inches; attracts hummingbirds
  • Salvia Indigo Spires, a hybrid: violet flowers in closely packed whorls from mid-spring to early fall; variety of heights; attracts butterflies and hummingbirds.

R. Stephanie Bruno writes about houses and gardens. Contact her at and follow her @rstephaniebruno on Twitter.