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What is Texas Sage?

By S. Boerchers
Updated May 16, 2024
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Leucophyllum frutescens, or Texas sage, is an evergreen plant native to the desert areas of Texas, New Mexico and northern Mexico and cultivated in the tropical climates of Florida and Southeast Asia. Also known as purple sage, Texas ranger, cenizo and silverleaf, this low-maintenance shrub grows from 5 feet to 8 feet (1.5 m to 2.4 m) tall and from 4 feet to 6 feet (1.2 m to 1.8 m) wide and features 1-inch (2.54 cm) bell-shaped flowers in purple, rose or white. Its silvery-gray, oval-shaped leaves are generally 1 inch (2.54 cm) long, and velvety to the touch because of tiny, densely packed hairs on the leaf surface. Texas sage thrives in the low humidity, well-drained soil and full sun conditions of the Southwest. With its abundance of flowers and exceedingly hardy nature, this perennial shrub is an inexpensive yet lovely addition to any desert landscape or garden and is equally suitable for potting.

The Texas sage is not a true sage but a Leucophyllum and a member of the Scrophulariaceae family. It flowers several times throughout the summer and into fall, depending on the frequency of rain. This robust ornamental shrub is extremely drought-, wind- and cold-tolerant but blooms during periods of humidity after a rain, which is why it is sometimes referred to as a barometer bush. The blossoms last for about a week and are followed by two-valved capsules that are filled with wrinkled seeds. Established plants should not be watered more than every two or three weeks in the summer and once a month in the winter.

While it is generally a compact shrub, Texas sage may be pruned in spring or between blooms, as desired. The shrub is easily shaped and can tolerate poor soil. It has no pest problems but is frequented by bees and butterflies. Texas sage tends to be disease-free, though it can be affected by the cotton root rot fungus.

Texas sage can be found growing wild throughout the desert areas of the Southwest. Its low-maintenance requirements and hardy nature lead to its wide use as an ornamental or hedge in landscaping and gardens. The dried leaves and flowers of the Texas sage can be made into an herbal tea that is mildly sedative and used by some as a cold and flu remedy.

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