Salvia Tequila is an herbaceous perennial with a reputation for growing very large, from 2-4 meters high and wide. The plant has many woody stems and can get very heavy with foliage and flowers when in bloom. The stems are particularly striking in their black colouring, supporting the black calyx and contrasting with the stunning red flowers and deep green leaves. The large heart shaped leaves are very aromatic and have an interesting texture with noticeable veins.
The scarlet red flowers are fuzzy and large at 3-4 cm, growing in tight whorls on spectacular inflorescences. When combined with the stem length they extend 40 cm upwards, leaving black stems visible when the petals fall off. The flowers bloom for several months over the winter and spring periods.
The name Tequila is taken from the Sierra Madre region where the seed was first collected by botanists from the Californian Huntington Botanical Gardens in 1970. They were found in the Volcan de Tequila region in the Mexican Provence of Jaliso at an elevation of 3000 meters. Two distinct varieties were collected: one green calyx variety and the black Tequila variety. Salvia Tequila is also known as the ‘Big Mexican Scarlet Sage’ for obvious reasons. However, the scientific name S. gesneriifolia is taken from the 15th century botanist Conrad Gessner, who named the Gesneria genus of plants, which are similar to this salvia.
It is the most recommended of the large salvias and is definitely not for a small area. The red and black colouring of Salvia Tequila blends well with other garden plants with yellow or orange flowers. With Tequila in the background, purple flowers also look striking against the black bracts. Naturally, it is very popular with birds, bees and butterflies.