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Products > Salvia africana-lutea
Salvia africana-lutea - Beach Salvia

Note: This plant is not currently for sale. This is an archive page preserved for informational use.  
Image of Salvia africana-lutea
Habit and Cultural Information
Category: Shrub
Family: Lamiaceae (Labiatae) (Mints)
Origin: South Africa (Africa)
Evergreen: Yes
Flower Color: Orange Red
Bloomtime: Spring/Fall
Synonyms: [Salvia lutea, S. aurea]
Height: 4-8 feet
Width: 6-8 feet
Exposure: Full Sun
Seaside: Yes
Summer Dry: Yes
Irrigation (H2O Info): Low Water Needs
Winter Hardiness: 15-20 F
Salvia africana-lutea (Beach Salvia) - A densely branched shrub growing 4 to 6+ feet tall. The pleasingly aromatic slightly woolly 1 to 2inches long leaves have an undulating margin, are rounded at the tip and are a flat gray-green color. The interesting flowers on short upright inflorescences begin appearing in later winter and continue through spring and then sporadically to fall. Flowering starts off with yellow buds emerging from an expanded purple-brown saucer shaped calyx that opens with a 1- to 2-inch-long hooded upper petal that is a rusty-orange then turn a russet-brown color. The papery calyces remain attractive well after the flowers fade and drop away.

Plant in full sun to light shade and irrigate occasionally to very little - it is quite drought tolerant, but maintains a cleaner and fresher appearance if given an occasional watering. Hardy to around 20F and for short durations to at least 18F as it went undamaged in our December 1990 freeze that dipped to this temperature - reportedly will resprout from the base if exposed stems are damaged. It does need a decently well-draining soil but is not otherwise fussy about soil types and tolerates coastal conditions (where stays lower) and brackish water. Trim back the top by at least one third in late spring or early summer to encourage plant new basal growth. A great tough shrub in the garden where its solid appearance is useful, and the interesting flower color is sure to attract attention to human visitors and nectar feeding birds and insects as well. One fun thing to do is tell someone new to this plant that they are looking at a fresh flower, which often appears withered and brown.

Salvia africana-lutea is native along the coast of South Africa from western Namaqualand south to the Cape Peninsula and eastwards to Port Alfred in the Eastern Cape province. It typically grows near the sea and often in coastal sand dunes but can also be found in the coastal dune scrub and arid fynbos on rocky slopes up to 2,600 feet in elevation. The name Salvia comes from the Latin name used by Pliny for the plant and comes from the Latin word 'salvere' meaning "to save" in reference to the long-believed healing properties of the plant. The specific epithet given to this plant by Linnaeus in 1753 is a combination of 'africana' for the country of origin and 'lutea' meaning "yellow" as a description of the color of the emerging flowers. This plant has gone under the names Salvia lutea and Salvia aurea but the current name is Salvia africana-lutea. Other common names include Dune Salvia, Brown Salvia and Golden Salvia (or Beach Sage, Dune Sage, Brown Sage or Golden Sage).

We first got this plant as Salvia aurea from John Bleck in 1985 and first listed it in our 1990 catalog but, though we still very much liked the plant, it had limited marketability since not everyone appreciated the unusual flower color, so when others nurseries began growing it, we decided to move on and discontinued growing it in 1997. In 2013 we noted it not being grown by other nurseries so grew crops and listed it again in 2014, but discontinued it again 2017, twenty years after we previously stopped growing it. We miss this plant and would still be willing to grow this unusual plant again. 

This information about Salvia africana-lutea displayed is based on research conducted in our horticultural library and from reliable online resources. We also will relate observations made about it as it grows in our nursery gardens and other gardens we have visited, as well how the crops have performed in containers in our nursery field. We will also incorporate comments that we receive from others and we welcome hearing from anyone with additional information, particularly if they can share any cultural information that would aid others in growing it.