Floridata Plant Encyclopedia

A Floridata Plant Profile 713 Salvia madrensis

Common Names: forsythia sage Family: Lamiaceae (mint Family)
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forsythia sage
A large shrub-sized clump of forsythia sprawls huge spikes of spectacular yellow flowers across a path in Jack's garden.


A huge yellow-flowered salvia! Forsythia sage is a very large and robust salvia that can get as much as 10 ft (3.1 m) tall with a spread of 4-5 ft (1.2-1.5 m). In frost prone areas it usually gets only 3-5 ft (0.9-1.5 m) tall. The square stems are very distinctive, with well developed ridges on the corners, and they can be more than 1 in (2.5 cm) across. Forsythia sage grows in a spreading clump. It has large, bright green, heart shaped, rather rough leaves. The leaves and the spreading branches are produced in pairs, originating on opposite sides of the stem. The flowers are canary yellow and borne in 12 in (30.5 cm) spikes from early fall until first frost.

The cultivar, 'Dunham' may be more cold hardy than the species, having survived -9F in North Carolina.


Forsythia sage, Salvia madrensis, is native to the Sierra Madre Oriental in Mexico, where it grows at elevations of 4000-5000 ft (1219-1524 m).


Light: Like many of the large-leaved salvias, forsythia sage grows well in partial sun to nearly full shade. Moisture: Forsythia sage likes a well drained soil and regular watering. Hardiness: USDA Zones 7 - 11. Forsythia sage is a semi-woody sub-shrub in zones 9B-11. It loses its leaves or dies to the ground during winter in zones 7-9A. May require winter mulching in zone 7. Propagation: Propagated by cuttings or by dividing the root mass.
closeup of forsythia sage flowers
The huge yellow spikes of forsythia sage bloom over a long period in the fall to the delight of the bees and certain butterflies.


Forsythia sage is one of very few salvias with yellow flowers. It produces its showy blooms in late fall and early winter, when many flowering shrubs and perennials are beginning to go dormant. Give it plenty of room in a shaded or semi-shaded perennial or mixed shrub border. Or let it stand alone beneath tall oaks or pines. You may need to stake forsythia sage to keep it from falling over. The butter-yellow flowers, arranged in whorls, do well as cut flowers.


There are more than 700 species of Salvia, the largest genus in the mint family. Many gardeners have become collectors as they come to appreciate the diversity of sizes, shapes and colors.

Steve Christman 4/24/00; updated 11/11/02, 12/4/03, 8/1/04

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Salvia species profiled on Floridata:

Salvia 'Indigo Spires'

( Indigo Spires sage, Indigo Spires salvia )

Salvia coccinea

( scarlet sage, Texas sage, salvia )

Salvia elegans

( pineapple sage, pineapple scented sage )

Salvia farinacea

( mealycup sage, blue sage )

Salvia greggii

( autumn sage )

Salvia guaranitica

( blue anise sage, Brazilian sage, anise sage )

Salvia leucantha

( Mexican bush sage, Mexican sage, velvet sage )

Salvia lyrata

( lyreleaf sage, cancerweed )

Salvia madrensis

( forsythia sage )

Salvia mexicana

( Mexican sage )

Salvia nemorosa

( wood sage, hybrid sage )

Salvia officinalis

( garden sage, common sage )

Salvia splendens

( scarlet sage )

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