Texas Sage in the Phoenix Landscape

A Plant by Many Names: Purple Sage, Texas Ranger, Cenizo, or Silverleaf

Purple sage and a wooden wagon
••• work by Lisa Kling / Getty Images

The Texas sage (Leucophyllum frutescens) is a evergreen desert shrub often called "purple sage," "Texas ranger," "cenizo," or "silverleaf." The Texas sage is one of several desert plants that you may see in great abundance as you take a spin through the Phoenix area. It has silvery-gray foliage and 1/2-inch to 1-inch, bell-shaped, light purple flowers.

These evergreen shrubs are native to Texas and Mexico and are commonly grown throughout the southwestern U.S. It provides cover for wild animals and birds and helps stabilize loose desert soils.

It is a member of the figwort family of plants, although commonly known as a "sage," it is not a true sage and is distinct from Salvia, the sage line of plants.

Texas Sage in the Phoenix Metro Area

Phoenix is the largest city in the Sonoran Desert, a North American desert, which covers 100,000 square miles of the southwestern U.S. More than 4 million people live in the Phoenix metropolitan area. Phoenix is the fifth largest city by population in the U.S.

If you travel to Phoenix and are inspired by the colors you see in the desert floral displays, Texas sage is one of those blooms that dots the landscape. The most common forms of Texas sage that you'll see in the Phoenix area are the green cloud (green leaves, bright flowers) and the thundercloud (silvery-green leaves, lighter purple flowers, and a spikier appearance) varieties. All varieties have purple blooms.

Texas sage and its local varietals are also on display at Phoenix's Desert Botanical Garden and can be found throughout Phoenix-area nurseries.

In addition to being a great stop while sightseeing in Phoenix, the Desert Botanical Garden offers gardening advice and online guides for those who are interested in growing a desert-inspired garden.

The shrubs thrive in USDA zones 8 through 11, which includes the Phoenix area. All of the Texas sages tolerate temperatures as low as 10 F, as well as thrive in Phoenix's famous summer heat.

Phoenix is known to endure several weeks of triple-digit temperatures in the summer.

Growing Texas Sage

You can enjoy the colorful, lightly scented blooms several times a year. One of the beauties of Texas sage is that it is perennial, meaning you only have to plant it once and it will bloom when its conditions are optimal. The plant is also called the "Texas barometer bush" because flowering is triggered by moisture levels. It blooms repeatedly in waves from spring through fall, especially after summer rains moisten the soil or when it is humid

Texas sage is extremely drought tolerant and only needs low maintenance once it is established. It requires full sun but tolerates partial shade. This plant prefers soils with good drainage. It is easy to find and cheap to buy. Texas sage usually attracts birds, butterflies, and other beneficial insects.

Green Thumb Tips

Texas sage can be shaped into balls and squares, hedged, or grown free form. You can also encourage blooming by giving them extra water, but first, let the ground dry out between waterings.

The toughest challenge when it comes to making a hedge out of Texas sage is that you want to trim them to keep them neat, but then you might cut off all the purple flowers.

The trick to Texas sage is to resist the urge to prune until they are no longer flowering. When they are flowering, let them grow out (even if grows out wild or misshapen).

The height of a Texas sage bush depends on its environment. In arid conditions, it stays compact and short—reaching up to 5 feet tall. But if the plant receives water that supplements the natural rainfall that would fall in a desert climate, the plant can grow more than 8 feet tall (usually in gardens).

Other Easy Desert Plants

Many Phoenix-area visitors are in awe of the colors and vibrancy of the plants that you can find in the Sonoran Desert. If you are planning on starting a desert garden or desert landscape, there are a number of plants and shrubs that are easier to establish than others.

More Easy Desert Plants
Bougainvillea
Oleander
Lantana
Ornamental Grass
Fairy Duster
Red Bird of Paradise
Orange Jubilee
Yellow Bells
Mexican Petunia
Bottlebrush