Commonly referred to as “Cenizo” in South Texas, the Texas sage is an unassuming shrub that can quickly brighten a landscape with a spectacular burst of purple blooms. A native to the Lone Star State, this sage plant has been recognized as the Native Shrub of Texas. Other names include “Texas Ranger” and “barometer bush.”
These silver-green shrubs can be seen while trekking through the brush country of the Coastal Bend. If you’re fortunate, you’ll see them in bloom, garnishing the higher elevations of our area with swaths of stunning purple color. During the summer months, these blooms make for a welcome sight to landowners in need of rain, as well as some easily appreciated color in an otherwise parched landscape.
A Texas sage bloom will prompt a nectar rush from pollinators, especially honeybees. The surge of sudden activity creates a sensory experience that engages not only sight and smell, but also the sound of hundreds of honeybees working quickly to capture the nectar flow. They are focused on the task at hand and have no interest in a defensive posture, so pull up a chair and enjoy the sound of honey production.
When mass planted, this shrub makes an excellent screen to hide an eyesore or create privacy. There are several pink and purple varieties available. Also, keep an eye out for a unique sage variety that will bloom with brilliant white flowers.
Spacing and height, 6’ to 8.’ Prefers full sun and can tolerate partial shade. This hardy shrub does not mind even the hottest summer days in the Coastal Bend and will do fine with temperatures down to 10 degrees Fahrenheit. When planting, dig the hole twice as wide as the plant and as deep as the root ball. Once established, Texas sage will not require supplemental watering. No serious insects or diseases threaten it.
To promote the most prolific blooms and leaves, plant in a well-drained spot that receives at least seven hours of sunlight per day. Prune after the last anticipated freeze to shape and encourage full, leafy growth on the branches. Planting in too much shade can result in “leggy” branches with few leaves. Texas sage is very suitable for xeriscaping, and don’t worry about deer, as this shrub is resistant to them.
The nickname “barometer bush” comes from its unique ability to flower when triggered by high soil moisture after a rain. It has been said that bush can predict rain by blooming a few days before rainfall. Science is still trying to solve that mystery, but the likely answer seems to lie in its sensitivity to humidity and barometric pressure changes. For the citizen scientist, consider documenting blooms throughout the year and look for patterns over time.