by High Country Gardens
The sage family (Salvia) is a huge one, with species of Salvia found throughout the northern hemisphere, as well as Africa and South America. Wherever they're found, they are important sources of nectar and pollen for many pollinators (butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds).
Friendship sage (Salvia 'Amistad') is a new hybrid sage that was discovered in Argentina. A sharp-eyed botanist found it at a local plant sale and recognized it as an unusual hybrid plant. It is now thought that 'Amistad' is a hybrid between S. guaranitica x S. gesneriiflora, two large and showy subtropical species. This spectacular variety has huge violet-purple flowers held by dark blue-black calyxes. The flowers are nectar-rich (as is often the case with hybrids) and highly attractive to hummingbirds. And I suspect swallowtail butterflies will also sip at the flowers.
Plant Outdoors in Mild Winter Climates
'Amistad', which means "friendship" in Spanish, can be planted as a landscaping plant in USDA zone 8-10 climates where winter temperatures stay above 10-20° F. It's an excellent choice for coastal California, western Washington, and Oregon. It is also worth planting in Gulf Coast states and Florida. (I'm not sure how it holds up in the dripping heat, but Argentina's climate is no picnic.) For those of us in colder climates, don't despair; 'Amistad' is a long-blooming summer container plant for porches and patios.
Companion Plants in the Garden
In the garden, 'Amistad' is a tall plant (3-5' tall x 4-6' wide) for the back of your flower beds, where it can reach full size and not block out shorter neighbors. The plant likes adequate moisture and rich soil to be its best. Recommended companion plants on the West Coast include ornamental grasses, such as Pennisetum 'Karley Rose' or burgundy fountain grass, taller growing Agapanthus (Lily-of-the-Nile), Fuchsia shrub, and annuals, such as Cosmos. In the Gulf states and Florida, Hedychium (Hardy Ginger Lily) and Canna would be excellent flowering friends.
Companion Plants in a Container
Use 'Amistad' in large containers (greater than 24" diameter pots) as the center plant ("thriller"). Surround it with pink Angelonia, Cosmos, or tall single Marigolds ("filler"), and edge the pot with yellow Bidens or Trailing Wave® Petunias ("spillers") for an ever-blooming pollinator's paradise.
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