Wild Thing and Furman’s Red sage: double delight

Salvia greggii Furman's Red Plant Select

Do water woes have you seeing red? These two Plant Select® 2005 selections are worthy of blue ribbon attention in your garden. Rated as XXX (very drought tolerant) by the Garden Centers of Colorado, these Salvias reward you with a long blooming display of flowers from late spring through early fall. Furman’s Red is a compact, upright selection with luxuriantly rich red blooms. The growth habit of Wild Thing is more open and sports bountiful hot pink to magenta blooms. Both are easy to grow and require minimal care or supplemental water once established.

Salvia greggii occurs naturally from the Southwest U.S. into Mexico. With its adaptation to low water use and temperature extremes, the genus Salvia gives us many of our best garden performers. Both ‘Furman’s Red’ and ‘Wild Thing’ have proven to be perennial in recent years in planting beds at Denver Botanic Gardens.

These Salvia greggii selections are versatile garden performers, valued as a nectar source for hummingbirds and butterflies. Often used as a cornerstone for hummingbird gardens, a grouping of several plants en masse ensures an attraction to hummers. In addition Furman’s Red and Wild Thing work wonderfully to complement monochromatic design ideas when planted with other plants of red or pink flowers or foliage shades. They also look just as comfortable in a more relaxed setting with contrasting bloom colors and different foliage textures. For example, consider a planting of red or pink-blooming Salvia greggiis among the silvery hues of Artemisia versicolor ‘Sea Foam’ or Oenothera macrocarpa SILVER BLADE®, both previous Plant Select® recommendations.

To encourage the most dazzling display of blooms, cut back established plantings of these semi-woody plants by 1/3 to 1/2 after the weather warms in spring. The resulting vigorous new growth yields a more profuse production of buds and blooms. Plant Select® introductions and recommendations such as Salvia greggii Furman’s Red and Wild Thing are chosen by landscape and nursery professionals for their unique adaptability to western climates, and for long-lasting garden enjoyment. So enjoy!

Furman’s Red Sage (Salvia greggii ‘Furman’s Red’)
Height: 18-24″ (up to 36″)
Width: 18-24″
Blooms: June to October
Sun: Full sun to partial shade
Soil Moisture: Moderate to xeric, once established
Hardiness: USDA zones 5b-10
Culture: Loam, sandy or amended clay soil

Wild Thing Sage (Salvia greggii ‘Wild Thing’)
Height: 18-24″
Width: 18-24″
Blooms: May to October
Sun: Full sun to partial shade
Soil Moisture: Moderate to xeric, once established
Hardiness: USDA zones 5b-10
Culture: Loam, sandy or amended clay soil

Thanks to Mark Bickerstaff for writing this piece.

17 responses to “Wild Thing and Furman’s Red sage: double delight”

  1. Pat Hayward says:

    Many people find the Salvia greggii selections to be less hardy for them. The most important thing to add is excellent drainage to planting areas, and if you’re in a colder zone, be sure to plant them in a sort of warmer microclimate – near a large rock or against a building.

  2. Nancy says:

    I love the wild thing sage and so do the hummingbirds! However, I had to re-buy them again this past spring as they do not survive the Denver, CO winters. Is there anything I can do to protect them and see them come back in the spring? They are planted in a huge garden we have that also has “gorilla hair mulch” thickly spread throughout the garden. I thought the gorilla hair would be enough of a blanket of protection for them but it was not. Thank you!

    • Pat Hayward says:

      Hi Nancy,
      You’ll have much better success with them if you try to recreate their natural habitat – hot, dry, little-to-no organic matter, and very sharp draining soil. I also find if they’re sited near a large boulder of building along the south or west sides. That means that the “gorilla hair” mulch is probably doing more harm than good. Try again next spring (DON’T move them this fall) and use a soil mix with sand and gravel, and then mulch with a gravel mulch. Hope this helps! I’ve had them for more than 10 years up in Masonville under these conditions and they’re thriving and even seeding around in the gravel mulch.

      • Marygael says:

        Yes, your explanation helped immensely!

        I bought six last Aug and I don’t think any of them survived the winter

        They’re located in a bed on the south side of the house.
        I’m disappointed but with your guidance I’ll try again

        Thank you

        • Nina says:

          I live in Aurora, near Denver, previously Zone 5, now Zone 6A. I just bought two Wild Thing plants this past summer 2023. I used a Dollar Store wire mesh trash bin to protect them from rabbits (cut open the bottom) and have filled each bin with dried leaves hoping the plants will survive the winter in my unprotected front xeric yard. I do the same, successfully so far, for agastache and several penstemons. The agastache would often not make it through the winter before I started doing this.

  3. Jane says:

    Does Furmams red sage do well in a container?

    • Ross Shrigley says:

      Yes, but it may not survive over winter depending on where you live. You can also store it in an unheated garage when it is dormant which will keep it alive. Enjoy!

  4. Dan Hartinger says:

    Can you provide a soil “recipe” for planting salvia “Wild Thing”. I have clay soil, which is terrible for over-wintering xeriscape perennials. Thanks for your help!

    • Ross Shrigley says:

      Try removing the soil from the planting hole and just replace it with crush refine pathway material (breeze) or other sharp drainage media. No need to mix in organic soil. Just use the breeze to plant in. That should do it. Enjoy!

  5. Mary says:

    Does the clay amending recipe for wild thing help with Furman’s red sage?

    • Ross Shrigley-Plant Select says:

      Yes, both of these plants need well-drained soil and clay situations must be amended to well-drained.

  6. Busybizzybee says:

    I too live in the Denver area and sadly lost my Wild Thing Salvias over the 22-23 winter. I am trying again using Ross Shrigley’s interesting suggestion to plant directly into crusher fines/breeze….wish me luck! I am wondering if planting into crusher fines would be helpful for other perennials that do not like wet feet, such as Jupiter’s Beard. Please advise!

    • Ross Shrigley-Plant Select says:

      Sending you Luck! I would not think Jupiter’s beard would ever be a problem, but adding some porous media to the clay or soil will help keep that area a little dryer.

  7. dena fuller says:

    Mine survived 2 winters in Colorado Springs. Very well draining soil. But as I look at them this spring I wonder if I should cut back the dead stems?

  8. Grace says:

    Would these stand up to Florida heat and humidity?

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