Cardinal Flower Salvia fulgens

👤 Non-toxic to humans
🐾 Non-toxic to pets
🌸 Blooming
🍪 Not edible
‍🌱 Easy-care
Mexican scarlet sage


Salvia fulgens, commonly known as Cardinal Sage, is an ornamental plant that boasts strikingly beautiful flowers and foliage. The most captivating characteristic of Cardinal Sage is its bright red tubular flowers that give it its common name, as they resemble the vibrant red garb of a cardinal. These flowers are arranged in loose whorls that gracefully embellish the tips of the branches, providing a bold splash of color in the garden. The leaves of Cardinal Sage are equally attractive, with a lush green color and a somewhat velvety texture. They are typically oval-shaped, with a textured surface that may feel slightly rough to the touch due to the presence of fine hairs. The edges of the leaves are gently serrated, creating a soft, slightly jagged outline that complements the overall bushy appearance of the plant. In terms of its growth habit, Cardinal Sage presents a pleasantly rounded and full shape. The stems of the plant are firm and can occasionally show hints of reddish hues, especially when exposed to plenty of sunlight, which contrasts nicely with the green of the leaves and the red of the flowers. The bloom period of Cardinal Sage is another aspect of its ornamental appeal, as it produces its luscious flowers over an extended period typically encompassing the warmer months. This long bloom season allows for prolonged enjoyment of its vivid colors and makes it a favorite among gardeners looking to add long-lasting visual interest to their landscapes. Overall, the Cardinal Sage is prized for its striking floral display and lush foliage. It's a beautiful addition to any garden, bringing with it a bold pop of color and a lively presence that can capture the attention of onlookers and pollinators alike.

Plant Info
Common Problems

About this plant

  • memoNames

    • Family


    • Synonyms

      Cardinal Sage, Mexican Scarlet Sage

    • Common names

      Salvia cardinalis, Salvia fulgens var. cardinalis, Salvia gesneriflora, Salvia gesneriiflora.

  • skullToxicity

    • To humans

      Cardinal flower (Salvia fulgens) is not commonly known to be toxic to humans. While most salvia species are considered non-toxic, it is always advisable to avoid ingestion of any plant not specifically intended for consumption due to the potential for individual allergic reactions or unforeseen toxicity. If symptoms arise after ingesting any part of the plant, medical attention should be sought.

    • To pets

      Cardinal flower (Salvia fulgens) is generally not considered toxic to pets such as cats and dogs. While the salvia family includes many non-toxic varieties, it is always best to prevent pets from ingesting plants as they might cause gastrointestinal upset or an allergic reaction in sensitive pets. If a pet exhibits any unusual symptoms after consuming any part of the plant, it is wise to consult a veterinarian.

  • infoCharacteristics

    • Life cycle


    • Foliage type


    • Color of leaves


    • Flower color


    • Height

      3 feet (0.91 meters)

    • Spread

      2 feet (0.61 meters)

    • Plant type


    • Hardiness zones


    • Native area



  • money-bagGeneral Benefits

    • Attracts Pollinators: Salvia fulgens, commonly known as Scarlet Sage, attracts bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds which are important for pollination.
    • Ornamental Value: With its vibrant red flowers, Scarlet Sage is used for ornamental purposes in gardens and landscapes, adding a splash of color.
    • Drought Tolerance: Scarlet Sage is tolerant of drought conditions, making it suitable for xeriscaping and low-water gardens.
    • Low Maintenance: The plant generally requires minimal care beyond basic watering and occasional trimming, making it easy to grow.
    • Fast Growing: Scarlet Sage grows quickly, providing rapid coverage and blooms, which can be ideal for new gardens or filling in spaces.
    • Deer Resistance: The plant is known to be resistant to deer, which is beneficial for gardens in areas where deer browsing is a problem.
    • Aromatic Foliage: The leaves of Scarlet Sage can have a pleasant aroma, which can add a sensory aspect to the garden.
    • Long Blooming Period: This plant can bloom for an extended time from late spring to frost, providing long-lasting visual interest.

  • medicalMedical Properties

    This plant is not used for medical purposes.

  • windAir-purifying Qualities

    This plant is not specifically known for air purifying qualities.

  • leavesOther Uses

    • Cardinal sage can be used in dye production, as some species of Salvia have a history of being used for natural dye due to their pigmented leaves and flowers.
    • It is often used in ornamental garden designs for its vibrant red blooms that can add intense pops of color to landscape arrangements.
    • The plant's aromatic foliage can be a natural deterrent for certain pests in the garden, helping to protect nearby plants without the use of chemicals.
    • Cardinal sage can serve as a food source for hummingbirds and butterflies, making it an excellent choice for pollinator gardens.
    • Its flower nectar can be used as a natural sweetener in creating syrups and potentially in some culinary recipes that call for a hint of floral sweetness.
    • When dried and bundled, the branches of cardinal sage can be burned as incense, offering a fragrant aroma that is used in some traditional ceremonies.
    • Cardinal sage can be utilized in companion planting to boost the growth of vegetables by attracting beneficial insects that prey on common garden pests.
    • The dried flowers can be incorporated into potpourri mixtures for natural home fragrance options.
    • Floral designers may use cardinal sage as an accent in bouquets and floral arrangements for its bright color and unique form.
    • The leaves of cardinal sage can be used in crafts, such as natural printing or eco-dying on fabric, due to their interesting texture and shape.

Interesting Facts

  • bedFeng Shui

    The Cardinal Flower is not used in Feng Shui practice.

  • aquariusZodiac Sign Compitability

    The Cardinal Flower is not used in astrology practice.

  • spiralPlant Symbolism

    • Healing and Cleansing: Salvia plants, which include the Salvia fulgens, commonly known as Cardinal Sage, are often associated with healing due to their use in traditional medicine and their cleansing properties, which are believed to purify spaces from negative energies.
    • Wisdom: The name Salvia comes from the Latin word 'salvere,' meaning 'to save' or 'to heal,' suggesting a connection to knowledge and wisdom, as healing often requires understanding and insight.
    • Longevity: Some cultures view Cardinal Sage as a symbol of longevity and immortality, potentially due to the plant’s hardiness and the perennial nature of some Salvia species.
    • Spirituality: Salvia plants have been used in spiritual rituals for centuries, so Cardinal Sage is sometimes tied to inner peace, spiritual awakening, and the seeking of sacred experiences.
    • Protection: In some belief systems, the Cardinal Sage is thought to offer protection against evil and negativity, making it a commonly used plant in protective amulets and charms.

Every 1-2 weeks
2500 - 10000 Lux
Every 1-2 years
Spring-Early Summer
As needed
  • water dropWater

    Cardinal Sage prefers consistent moisture and should be watered once the top inch of soil feels dry, which typically translates to about once a week. During the growing season in spring and summer, water deeply with approximately 1-2 gallons per plant to ensure the roots are well-hydrated. In the hotter months or in full sun, you may need to water more frequently to maintain moisture levels. Scale back watering in the fall and winter, when the plant is not actively growing, to prevent waterlogged soil which can lead to root rot.

  • sunLight

    Cardinal Sage thrives in full sun to partial shade, with a preference for at least 6 hours of direct sunlight daily. An ideal spot for this plant would be in a garden bed that receives morning sunlight and is protected from the intense heat of late afternoon sun, especially in hotter climates.

  • thermometerTemperature

    Cardinal Sage performs best in temperatures between 50°F and 85°F, and while it can tolerate lows down to about 20°F, it is not frost-hardy. It's important to protect the plant from extreme cold below this threshold by providing mulch or bringing it indoors if potted. In regions with hot summers, Cardinal Sage appreciates a bit of afternoon shade to prevent stress from high temperatures.

  • scissorsPruning

    Cardinal Sage should be pruned to maintain shape, encourage bushier growth, and promote more blooms. Prune lightly in the spring as new growth appears and after each flowering cycle to remove spent flowers and rejuvenate the plant. The best time for a more significant pruning to reshape or reduce size is in late winter or early spring, just before the growing season begins.

  • broomCleaning

    As needed

  • bambooSoil

    Cardinal Flower Sage prefers well-draining soil with a slightly acidic to neutral pH, around 6.0 to 7.0. A good soil mix might consist of equal parts garden soil, peat moss, and perlite or coarse sand to ensure proper drainage and aeration. Amend the soil with organic matter to provide nutrients.

  • plantRepotting

    Cardinal Flower Sage should be repotted every 1 to 2 years to replenish the soil and accommodate root growth. Choose a pot that is no more than one size larger than the current one to prevent excess moisture retention.

  • water dropsHumidity & Misting

    Cardinal Flower Sage thrives best in moderate to high humidity levels, ideally between 40-50%. Average room humidity is usually sufficient, but a light misting can be beneficial during dry periods.

  • pinSuitable locations

    • Indoor

      Place Cardinal Flower Sage in bright, indirect light indoors.

    • Outdoor

      Position Cardinal Flower Sage in partial shade to full sun outside.

    • Hardiness zone

      8-10 USDA

  • circleLife cycle

    Salvia fulgens, commonly known as Cardinal Sage, begins its lifecycle with seed germination, typically occurring in the spring when soil temperatures warm. The seedlings emerge and grow into vegetative plants characterized by square stems and vibrant green leaves. As the plants mature, they enter the flowering stage during summer or early fall, producing vivid red tubular flowers that attract hummingbirds and other pollinators. After pollination, the flowers develop into small nutlets that disperse seeds for the next generation. During winter or in response to drought, Cardinal Sage may exhibit a period of dormancy, where growth slows or ceases and the plant conserves energy. With the return of favorable conditions, the plant resumes growth, completing its perennial cycle.

  • sproutPropogation

    • Propogation time

      Spring-Early Summer

    • Propogation: Salvia fulgens, commonly known as Cardinal Flower or Mexican Sage, is usually propagated through stem cuttings, which is one of its most popular methods. Propagation is best done in late spring or early summer when the plant is actively growing. To propagate, select a healthy, non-flowering stem and cut a 4 to 6-inch (10 to 15 cm) section just below a leaf node. Remove the leaves from the lower half of the cutting and dip the cut end into a rooting hormone. Plant the cutting in a well-draining potting mix and keep it moist and warm until roots develop, which typically takes a few weeks. Once the cutting has established roots, you can transplant it into the garden or a larger pot for further growth.