(Blue African Sage or Blousalie) A handsome, densely branched shrub with small, gray leaves, this Salvia puts on a show when in full bloom. The pale blue flowers bloom on foot-long spikes that cover the plant. Each flower has a large, trumpet-shaped, green-and-red bract at its base.
This plant is widespread on the coastal hills and adjacent rocky hills of the South African Cape where it loves full sun. Used both as a culinary and medicinal herb by the native peoples of this area, it was adopted by Dutch colonials in the 18th century.
Hardy and drought-resistant, Blue African Sage can be a foundation planting in your garden or an unusual container choice. It is a butterfly favorite that blooms from late spring through summer with abandon. We love this deer-resistant Salvia and believe it should be used more widely.
Note: We have reason to believe this species may have greater cold tolerance than documented. Also, according to some taxonomists, the correct name for this species is now Salvia africana.
These are species that grow as woody shrubs and keep their foliage year round.
Pruning is both an art and a science. It takes practice, experience and learning from your mistakes to become a proficient pruner. The pruning information about this plant should be considered as a guideline for getting started. Your particular climate, soils, watering and fertility schedules, sun exposure, space requirements and weather are all factors that influence how and when you choose to prune. We’re providing a starting place for you, and over time you will learn the particularities of this plant in your garden. Don’t be afraid to get started – Salvias, in general, are quick to rebound if inappropriately pruned.
Deadheading – the removal of spent flowers, is a practice that will always benefit the plant’s health and appearance. This can be done at any time. Pruning involves removal of entire stems of spent growth. Becoming "spent" means that flowering stems stop blooming and begin going to seed.
(Wild Cotton) From the winter rainfall area of southern Africa, this shrubby and unusual Milkweed is especially common in the Western Cape region. An especially tough plant, we have noted that the Monarch larvae that migrate through our area seem to prefer this over all other species.
The endangered Monarch butterfly is particularly drawn to the milkweed family ( Asclepiadaceae), which includes this plant.
Monarchs lay their eggs on milkweeds, because those are the only plants their caterpillars will eat. The roughness of fuzzy milkweed foliage makes it easier for eggs and chrysalises to cling to the plants. Monarch caterpillars consume powerful chemicals in the leaves protecting them as babies and adults against predators for whom the chemicals are toxic. Perhaps it is these chemicals that make deer avoid the plant.
This particular milkweed is a shrubby perennial in USDA zones where winter temperatures are warmer. In zones with colder winters, it works well as a bedding plant. When grown as an annual, Wild Cotton can be cut back in late autumn and moved indoors to overwinter. But don't forget to reduce watering and place it in a cool, but sunny location.
Unlike Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), this species doesn't have a taproot. This means that it is easier to control the plant's spread.
In the past few years, much has been written about the problems as well as the benefits that Tropical Milkweed species present for Monarch butterflies. Butterflies adore these lush bloomers, which offer plentiful nectar and provide what is becoming scarce -- lodging for Monarch larvae.
However, where these plants persist outdoors during winter, Monarchs may not complete their migration to Mexico. This creates a number of difficulties, including illness for the butterflies. The best way to avoid this problem in warm regions is to cut all species of Tropical Milkweeds to the ground during autumn.
(Rough Blue Sage) Honeybees and butterflies love this deer-resistant shrub, which grows wild on the southwestern Cape of South Africa. It is a member of the most diverse plant community in the world, the fynbos -- an Afrikaans word, meaning "fine bush" and referring to scrub plants or shrubbery.
Rough Blue Sage is a dense shrub that is heat tolerant and requires full sun. It grows in the wild along seepage areas, such as riverbeds, and in sandy soil among rocks. Good drainage is essential, but this plant can tolerate moist soil when necessary. It grows up to 4 feet tall with many strong, upright stems. The leaves are dotted with glands that release a strong scent when touched and leave a sticky residue on fingers.
The reddish-purple bracts surrounding the large powder blue flowers provide bonus color. Although it is considered to be a spring and summer bloomer, this sage puts on a show for us until autumn frost. We highly recommend this beauty, which makes a great patio plant in colder areas.
(Greek Sage) Most of the dried culinary sage sold in the United States is Greek Sage. Frescoes on the island of Crete, dating to 1400 BC, depict this plant used by the Phoenicians and Greeks for cooking and medicine. It is an ancient and beloved friend of mankind.
In the garden, Greek Sage provides a pleasant lavender fragrance, especially on warm days, and has spikes of pink-to-lavender flowers. Similar to most culinary sages, it loves full sun and well-drained soil. However, it tolerates moist ground. This compact plant, which grows 24 inches tall and 18 inches wide, is a good choice for fragrant borders and patio containers as well as kitchen gardens.
Grow this drought-resistant, heat-tolerant plant in well-drained soil that is on the dry side. Butterflies, honeybees and hummingbirds will thank you with frequent visits.
Although some cooks find Salvia oficinalis culinary sages tastier, Salvia fruticosa is easier to grow. It comprises 50 to 95% of the commercial market. We think it offers an interesting change of taste.
(Fruit Sage) Also known as Apple Sage, this is an extremely drought-resistant plant. Its common names come from the small round fruit-like galls that an insect creates on its branches on the island of Crete where it is native to dry slopes.
The galls develop when a small gallfly, also called a gall wasp, invades the sage's branches -- something that also happens to Salvia fruticosa in its Grecian homeland. Some people eat these tart-flavored galls raw and others use them to create a sweet conserve. Herbalists also use the leaves as a folk remedy, such as in tea.
However, in USDA Zones 8 to 10, this fragrant, heat-tolerant sage is simply an elegant shrub that must be grown in dry soil. Excess water during the growing season leads to a rapid demise. Salvia pomifera thrives in full sun, even in dry clay soils. Yet it prefers ground that drains well.
From summer into fall, its pale white-to-lavender flowers attract honeybees and butterflies to dry gardens. Use it as a groundcover on a slope, as part of a shrub border or an edging for sunny pathways.
This sage is not common in the United States. We are very happy to be able to recommend it to gardeners in hot, arid regions.
(Mauretania Tingitana Sage) Native to Northern Africa and Saudi Arabia, this sage has a long history of cultivation going back 400 years and weaving throughout various countries in the Middle East and North Africa before arriving in Europe in the 1700s. It was first described scientifically in 1777.
Before the discovery of its Saudi Arabian connection in 1989, the origin of this heat- and drought-tolerant perennial was a hotly debated mystery. Was it native to Egypt, Syria, Aleppo, Tunis or Tangier?
Tingitana grows in a wide range of conditions and is particularly useful as a border or cut-flower plant in dry gardens. It branches freely and features flower spikes with large numbers of 1-inch-long, bicolor, yellow and lavender blossoms. The roseleaf-type foliage is lime green, heavily textured and fragrant.
Given full sun and well drained soil, this lovely sage forms a compact mound that also looks pretty in patio containers. This plant deserves to find a home in more gardens.
(Mid-East Sage) Native to the mountains shared by Israel and Lebanon, this fragrant sage is drought resistant, heat tolerant and long blooming. Its tidy, basal foliage rises up and spreads only about 18 inches, but it has tall flower spikes.
Sometimes called Sticky Sage, its scientific name refers to the stickiness of the plant's calyxes, which cup small, dusky pink flowers that bloom spring into summer. Its strap-shaped leaves form a dense rosette.
Salvia viscosa is easy to grow. It is an efficient, heat-tolerant groundcover and is perfect for dry gardens in USDA Zones 8 to 10. Combine it in a mixed border with the deep purple flowers of Salvia coahuilensis, which is similarly short and has the same cultural needs of full sun and well-drained soil. Although Salvia viscosa can get by with little watering, it appreciates average moisture based on local conditions.
(Purple Stem Sage) Deep purple stems and cobalt blue flowers with pronounced white beelines and dusky gray calyxes cause this sage to command attention.
Aside from knowing that Purple Stem Sage was collected in the Northern Mexican state of Tamaulipas, little can be said with certainty about the taxonomy of this mystery hybrid Salvia. What we can say definitively is that it is easy to grow, flowers abundantly and does well in heat with limited water.
Purple Stem Sage is a waist-high, upright subshrub that combines tender herbaceous stems with woody growth. It looks particularly pretty planted in front of silvery leafed sages.
This drought-resistant sage does well in full sun to partial shade. It needs soil with good drainage and fits in nicely with California native sages.
(Snowflake Sage) Wiry, trailing stems of small white leaves make this plant look like fresh snowfall. Numerous, small, sky blue flowers with prominent bee lines further add to the cooling look. This dry-garden plant is native to the mountains of the Chihuahuan desert of North Central Mexico.
Just 6 inches tall and spreading to 36 inches, this is a perfect ground cover. However, we like it best spilling over the edge of a mixed planter or in a hanging basket. It can take a bit of shade in hot areas, but is at its best in full sun. Plant it in rich, well drained soil.
We suspect that this species may be hardy in the warmest parts of Zone 6 when planted in very well-drained soil and winter mulched. We highly recommend it.
Fragrance as well as color attracts butterflies. However, they don't have noses. Instead, butterflies smell and taste with their antennas and feet. Here are some ways to attract them:
If you live in suburbs or rural areas where deer plunder gardens, Salvias (sages) can be part of your plan for discouraging these hungry visitors. Here are some tips.
Xeric plants are excellent for water conservation. They grow well in dry gardens with little to no supplemental watering once established. In fact, overwatering can harm these plants, which are native to dry environments such as deserts and chaparral.
At Flowers by the Sea, we identify all xeric plants with a blue plant marker that warns against overwatering. Here are some tips for growing and understanding our xeric, or blue tag, plants:
1) In a humid region, you may find it difficult to grow plants native to semi-arid and arid environments. Yet xeric plants may succeed if you have a persistently dry area, such as under a roof overhang or in the shelter of a tree.
2) Xeric plants are excellent for locations far from garden hoses, such as along sidewalks -- areas often referred to as "hellstrips."
3) Shipping is hard on xeric plants, which suffer from confinement in small containers as well as boxes. You may see some mold, spots on leaves or withered foliage when they arrive. But xeric plants perk up with proper care while hardening off in partial shade before planting.
4) When amending soil before planting, remember that xeric plants not only need excellent drainage but also flower better in low fertility soil. Fertilize sparingly and use a mix with more phosphorous than nitrogen to encourage flowering and discourage lax overgrowth of foliage.
5) Organic matter, such as compost, is an excellent soil amendment for xeric plants, because it keeps their roots healthy by improving aeration and drainage.
6) When your xeric plants are established, water infrequently to encourage deep root growth and to avoid fungal problems. However, it's a good idea to gently spray dust off foliage about once a week.