Salvia koyamae

Dragon Tails

by Andrew Keys on October 10, 2012

We designers always say if you want a well designed garden, don’t just buy one of everything. Right? That IS true, but I also believe in leaving room for a few single plants as experiments, especially if you’ll be able to divide them later, and I believe in allowing yourself the occasional informed impulse buy. It’s part of the FUN of gardening! All planning and no fun makes Andy an incredibly boring designer.

Case in point: one of my favorite plants was a total impulse buy. Japanese yellow sage (Salvia koyamae) called my name as soon as I saw it. Those leaves: they are like the ends of cartoon dragon tails. A quick Google search via iPhone (handy when considering an impulse buy) revealed it liked shade and bloomed pale yellow (the color of my obsession) in FALL, when pretty flowers are always a plus.

You guys, this plant is a star. It’s happy in my dry shade, that foliage holds up all season—wilting a bit if sun hits it, but perking right back up later in the day—and look at those flowers. It also stretches its wings WAY out. My gallon-sized pot hasn’t much made babies, but it’s spread out, to the tune of 3 feet. What’s more, the few divisions I carved off this spring were sad for, like, 5 seconds, before they settled in. Next spring I’m dividing the heck out of it, because I need more. Be nice and maybe I’ll give you some.

Salvia koyamae

Name: Japanese yellow sage (Salvia koyamae)
Hardiness: Zones 5-9
Best features: Dragon tail-shaped embossed foliage, yellow flowers in fall
Comes from: the Japanese island of Honshu, where it’s rare, so really you’re something environmentally responsible by growing it
Sources: Broken Arrow Nursery, Woodlanders

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