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Arboretum Spotlight: Sage of a different color

Arboretum Spotlight: Orange autumn sage offers a lot of colorful firepower in the water-wise native garden in both spring and fall.
Arboretum Spotlight: Orange autumn sage offers a lot of colorful firepower in the water-wise native garden in both spring and fall.

This is one part in a weekly series featuring the UC Davis Arboretum’s “40 Plants You (Probably) Have Never Heard of – But Will Love,” 40 can’t-fail, easy-care, low-water plants well adapted to our region but hard to find.

Orange autumn sage

Salvia greggii ‘California Sunset’

Size: 2 feet tall and wide.

Bloom season: Peachy orange flowers in spring, then again in fall.

Exposure: Full sun for best flowering.

Pruning needs: Prune to shape in late winter.

Water needs: Medium low; once established, water deeply once a week or twice a month.

Snapshot: It’s name may be “autumn,” but it blooms in spring and summer, too. Autumn sage is a small woody perennial especially valued by gardeners for its spring and autumn flower shows. Hybrids of this plant native to Texas and Mexico now come in many colors, including red, pink, yellow and white. But this variety – marketed as California Sunset or orange autumn – is unique; it’s a vibrant (and unusual) peachy-orange. In bud, the blooms start vibrant orange. But as they open, the flowers reveal a softer peach side, lined with the narrowest dark-orange edge. Like all Salvia greggii, it blooms in early spring, stops when summer temperatures get too hot, then picks up blooming again in fall as weather cools back into the 70s. Another benefit: It’s deer resistant.

For more on “40 Plants,” click on arboretum.ucdavis.edu.

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