Hill Country Blues

I love blue flowers in the garden and my current favorite blue flowering perennial is the Henry Duelberg Sage (Salvia farinacea ‘Henry Duelberg’).

(As a disclaimer, many of these photos show the flowers of this post as more purple than they are in real life. I don’t know if it’s me or the camera. It’s probably me.)

It’s lovely planted with other mid-to-late spring bloomers.

I’ve grown the compact cultivar Mealy Blue Sage  for a many years in my gardens.

The true native Mealy Blue Sage is taller and typically a lighter blue than the cultivar Mealy Blue.  The cultivar has a darker blue bloom and is compact in form, reaching a height of about eighteen inches. It is a terrific addition to the garden.  They’re happiest and most striking when they’re blasted by the hot, Texas sun.

These three have been in this spot for several years and bloom stunningly in spring, with a second, less dramatic bloom cycle in the fall.  During the summer, the Mealy Blue Sage tend to bloom less and typically, I’ll cut them back to the ground in July or August.   The plants bloom again in the fall but once the temperatures are consistently chilly and the days are short, I prune the spent bloom stalks down to the base rosette for winter.  The rosette is evergreen for winter here in zone 8b.  This plant is so pretty when planted en masse and is excellent for the xeric garden, especially because of its compact form.

I fell in love with the  Henry Duelberg S. farinacea when I started working at Zilker Botanical Gardens a few years ago.  I manage the Grow Green Gardens as Zilker Botanical Gardens (ZBG) and these demonstration gardens are designed to showcase low maintenance, native and non-native plants.  The City of Austin’s Grow Green program provides a wealth of information for homeowners and businesses about proper landscape plant choices and irrigation techniques to enhance water conservation.  Many folks who live in and around Austin are familiar with the free Plant Guide (located in the above Grow Green link, bottom right hand side of page) where some of the more popular landscape plants for Central Texas are profiled.  The Henry Duelberg Sage is listed in the Plant Guide, but when I started working at ZBG, there wasn’t one planted in the Green Garden.

So, I fixed that.

This beautiful specimen blooms three-quarters of the year and is a dramatic addition to the entry of the Green Garden.  It’s produced loads of seedlings (which will be  planted in other gardens at ZBG).  This spring, a white blooming hybrid seedling, the Augusta Duelberg, has joined the mix.


I was so entranced with the Henry Duelberg and its performance at ZBG, that I bought several for my gardens.

The Henry Duelberg is larger than the cultivar Mealy Blue Sage and has a graceful, open form.  The stems are two to three feet tall and the flower spikes atop the stems are three to four inches long.  This gorgeous bloomer is probably a hybrid of the native  Mealy Blue Sage (S. farinacea).

The leaves are lance shaped and are located along the length of the stem.  The Henry Duelberg will bloom from mid-spring, through early summer.  In my gardens, it experienced a dormant period during the hottest part of last summer.   I pruned mine to the ground and once the rains began again, the Henrys enjoyed a nice fall bloom cycle.  Like the cultivar Mealy Blue, the Henry Duelberg can be pruned to its evergreen winter rosette at the end of the growing season.

The Henry Duelberg at the Green Garden bloomed all of last summer, but it’s more established and receives more water than my personal plants.

Both the Mealy Blue Sage and the Henry Duelberg are favorites of bees and butterflies, as well, though I’ve noticed more pollinators visiting the Henry Duelberg than the Mealy Blue. I planted two, four-inch pots of Henry Duelberg in the fall of 2010 and they have re-seeded, so I have  six of these plants now.  Thus far, all of mine are blue–none have hybridized to the white ‘Augusta’ form.

As with most plants in the salvia family, the hybrids and cultivars of S. farinacea are generally considered deer resistant.

The Henry Duelberg Sage was discovered growing without care in a Texas cemetery by  Texas  horticulturist and garden writer, Greg Grant.  He named the blue flowering plant after Henry Duelberg and the white variety after Henry’s wife, Augusta.  If this plant can survive neglected in an old cemetery, surely it’ll perform beautifully for you in your gardens. So go ahead–plant a Salvia farinacea (‘Henry Duelberg’) in your garden.

Or, if you prefer its little cousin, plant the Mealy Blue Sage.

Or, plant both and enjoy the show!

10 thoughts on “Hill Country Blues

  1. Thank you for this most helpful and informative run down on these plants. I have grown the mealy blue for a while and just added the Henry and Augusta Duelberg salvias a few weeks ago. Mine will probably grow more like yours at home as minimal watering is the rule here.


  2. You’re welcome, Shirley and let me know how your Augusta does–I’m sure the one at the Green Garden will be fine, as it gets regular irrigation, but I’d like to know how one will grow/bloom with minimal water.


  3. I really would like the smaller version of the mealy blue sage. The other one is large and a rampant seeder although I allow it to stay because the goldfinches love the seeds. Do they come to the smaller one too or is it seedless?


    • Jenny, I haven’t seen birds at the smaller one. I do see some butterflies and bees, but no birds. You’re right though, the Henry is a seedy plant. I’m grateful for now, I’ll probably be annoyed as time moves forward.


  4. Thank you, Tina- the details you give are so helpful for a new gardener like me – such as when you cut them back and the bloom cycles. I’d benefit from actually seeing photos of the pruning- though it’s not eye-candy like above. I’m not usually drawn to blue flowers – but your photos of these nice relaxed mixes makes them tempting. I have a hot, high and dry corner of my backyard that is a blank canvas – your photos have inspired me try for a perennial / wildflower bed. Need to get down to Zilker and check out the Grow Green gardens.


    • Cyndi, I’m glad you found this information useful. As far as pruning, it’s a good idea to take photos as I go. In general, with most of the plants that I grow, you can’t really mess up too badly. When the bloom is spent, you either allow it to re-seed or prune it off. As a general rule, prune the the next or second set of leaves and clip just above that set. If you’re pruning the plant for shaping, or at the start of the hot time of summer, prune a quarter to a third of the plant, again, just above the leaf node. Good luck with your corner garden–I’m sure
      with some research, you’ll find some great perennials to plant.


  5. I love it when I learned something new. This was good information about these plants. I think I have both types. I do like the compact version of the mealy blue. But, they’re both really nice.
    Thanks for teaching us about how to prune them.


    • Linda, you’re very welcome. I hope you like them as much as I do! I imagine with your deer that these plants are fairly good ones to have Although, those darn deer will eat anything if they’re hungry enough.


  6. Pingback: Wildflower Wednesday, April 2014 | My Gardener Says…

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