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.
(Island Pitcher Sage) Native to shady canyons on the coast of Southern California's Channel Islands, this threatened species is highly desirable for its ruggedness, its aromatic furry leaves and its spectacular pink flowers.
Grow this shrub in rich soil with regular watering in partial shade for a breathtaking blooming every year - or grow it in any amount of shade with any amount of water in all but the very worst soil, and you will still be rewarded for your efforts.
A California native that catches everyone's eye. Highly recommended in locations with climates similar to its native range.
(Oaxaca Red Sage) This rare sage has small, furry, bright orange-red flowers in abundance. It grows nicely in containers or, in mild climates, can become a large shrub in the ground. Attractive, bright green foliage and winter-to-summer blooming make it a desirable choice.
It may not be scientific, but the best way to describe this plant is "cute." Buds that look like little balloons ready to burst are followed by furry, tubular flowers. This water-loving Salvia does best in partial shade. Even though Oaxaca Red is a tender perennial, it's well worth the effort to grow this gem.
(Sacred White Sage) Bees, hummingbirds and spiritual blessings are all connected to this elegant shrubby sage, which is an important herb to indigenous Californians and deserves a place in every salvia garden. Stiff and almost fleshy, its leaves are tight rosettes of brilliant, silvery white. The flower spikes soar above the foliage, with hundreds of small white-to-lavender flowers that are one of the most important sources of pollen and nectar for pollinators. This Salvia is also the source of leaves for Native American smudge sticks used in purification rituals.
Slow growing but not difficult, this California native requires good drainage and full sun. In its dry-summer/wet-winter range, it often grows on rocky, south slopes. Very little water is needed once the plant becomes established.
Our strain is well adapted to the moist environment of coastal Northern California, and performs well in a wide variety of climates. We select only the whitest and most compact plants for vegetative propagation, insuring a tidy shrub that will not overgrow its space.
Historically, Sacred White Sage has been used in medicinal teas and ground into flour for cooking. We burn the leaves in our home to sweeten and purify the air. This is a beautiful and powerful plant.
(Cinnabar Sage) Think of this plant as Pineapple Sage on steroids. It grows 5 feet tall and can be twice as wide in a good spot and bursts with large, furry, cinnabar red flowers all winter. Our overwintering hummingbirds adore it. This sage is hard to forget once you see it in full bloom.
Coming from the cloud forests of Southern Mexico, this species is a great choice for woodland-style gardens where it can spread out and poke its long stems up here-and-there. In partial shade, it is a rambler that forms an attractive screen. Cinnabar Sage responds well to feeding and watering, but is not delicate. It is well worth growing if you live in a mild climate.
(Blue Black Mexican Sage) This spectacular and hardy native of Central Mexico is exciting to watch as new growth shoots upward rapidly from its root stock in spring. Its large, vibrant, purple-blue flowers bloom for about 10 months and are profuse from late autumn through winter on flower spikes up to 20 inches long.
Calyxes similar in color to the flowers they cup give this sage its scientific name, which means “of the same color.” Easy to grow in a partial shade location, this woodland plant is sometimes mistaken for Salvia guaranitica. However, it is a different species.
Blue Black Mexican Sage works well up against a fence or building that offers morning sun and afternoon shade as well as protection from wind. Plant it as a shrubby border, screen or container plant. It's ideal for moist areas.
(Red Velvet Sage) Reaching up to 18 inches tall, the floral spikes of this exotic looking Salvia are crowded with small, velvety, orange-red blossoms from mid-summer to late autumn. Its large, dark green, pebbly leaves are beautiful in their own right, making this one of our favorite sages.
Red Velvet Sage is native to Central and South America. In mild climates, it can grow up to 5 feet tall and 4 feet wide. So sheltering it from the wind -- by staking or situating it near plants that provide support -- is necessary to prevent breakage of the heavy, red tinged stems.
We have found that deep, weekly watering, an occasional light feeding of multipurpose fertilizer and heavy pruning in late winter or early spring keep this dramatic plant looking its best. One reward for this care is excellent stems for cut flower arrangements.
(Columbian Mountain Sage) Deep purple bracts support the small, lighter purple flowers of Salvia cuatrecasana -- a rare Colombian sage. White beelines mark the flowers of this long-blooming shrub, which is a hummingbird favorite.
According to South American plant explorer Rolando Uria, the rarity of this sage is due, in part, to its limited native habitat. Also known as Colombian Mountain Sage, it is endemic to the Andes in Colombia's northern department (state) of Boyaca. It is particularly at home in scrublands and on banks of streams.
Uria notes that Colombian sages are known for their attractive foliage. The fragrant leaves of this heat-tolerant sage are large, glossy and deeply veined.
Salvia cuatrecasana loves water, but does fine with average watering. Give it full sun to partial shade and rich, well-drained soil.
In 1944, Botanist Carl Epling (1894-1968) named it for botanist José Cuatrecasas (1903-1996), who collected the plant four years earlier in Boyaca.
Cuatrecasas specialized in South American plant research for the Smithsonian Institution beginning in 1955.
(Southern Mexican Sage) With its graceful, shrubby habit, purplish green leaves and intense tomato-red blooms, this herbaceous perennial makes a delightful display in your garden. It begins blooming in October and continues sporadically through the winter and into spring in frost-free areas.
Collected by Strybing Arboretum botanists in the late 1980s, it is native to high elevations (7,500-11,000 ft.) in the Mexican provinces of Oaxaca and Chiapas as well as in Guatemala. This is a true cloud-forest sage that best loves a planting location with morning sun and afternoon shade.
For a medium-size plant with pleasing proportions by bloom time, cut stems back to a few inches above the ground in early spring. You'll be pleased to know that although honeybees and hummingbirds love this sage, deer don't.
(Shaggy Chiapas Sage) This is a sweetheart! Glowing magenta flowers lure the eye as well as hummingbirds to this heat-tolerant sage. It begins blooming in late summer where weather is warm and in fall where it is cooler.
This compact shrub from Chiapas, Mexico, has heavily textured leaves and is attractive even when not in bloom.
Reports from colder areas suggest that this Zone 9-to-11 plant may be suitable for Zone 8. Even if you grow it as an annual, you will be very impressed by the large clusters of 1-inch, furry, bright flowers.
This is an adaptable plant, which grows in full sun or partial shade and does well in containers and shrubby borders. We highly recommend it as one of the strongest hummingbird magnets we grow.
(Silly Mexican Sage) Also known as Salvia roscida, this close relative of Blue Sky Mexican Sage (Salvia caudata 'El Cielo Blue') has thousands of deep violet-blue flowers with prominent white bee lines.
Honeybees love this Salvia, which blooms from spring to fall. It has such a high flower-to-leaf ratio that it is covered with color when in full bloom.
Use this tall, columnar sage as a background plant for larger-flowered species. It also works well in shrubby borders, woodland-style gardens and containers. Adaptable about watering, it is a good choice where conditions are dry or water is ample.
When we have visitors, they go far off the path to ogle this plant up close. We highly recommend it for being so floriferous and doing well in full shade.
(Gravid Sage) This tender perennial from Michoacán, Mexico, has large, rich magenta flowers that hang from the arching branches in clusters up to 12 inches long. Growing up to 5 feet tall, this sage offers an unforgettable display when in bloom.
"Gravid" means "with child," and a plant loaded with it's full inflorescence does bring a pregnant woman to mind. Grow this dazzling sage against a wall or trellis. Give it full sun or partial shade as well as rich, well-drained soil and ample water.
Consider Gravid Sage for border, background and container plantings.
(Alice's Sage) We have John Fisher of Australia to thank for this fascinating intraspecific cross, which he named after his daughter. It really looks to be intermediate between the parents, and the fragrance of the leaves is divine.
Salvia greggii is a warm season blooming hardy perennial - S. dorisiana is a tender winter blooming shrub. This plant has some cold tolerance, but should be protected outside of Zone 9. We find it does best in rich soil in partial but not deep shade. Overwatering is not advised, but neither is dryness. If you are looking for something unigue and with a strong fruity fragrance, this variety is for you.
This year we are growing one in a container by the door, so as to be able to enjoy the fragrance every time we pass.
(Winter Mexican Sage) Call it the Snow Queen! From fall through spring, this graceful, colorful sage blooms through 20 degree F weather despite snow and ice. It has lovely, triangular, dark green leaves and profuse clusters of tubular, cinnabar-red flowers that puff out in the center.
in our coastal, Northern California garden, it often blooms from October through April and sometimes shoots up a few flower spikes in summer. Winter Mexican Sage is native to a wide territory from Chaipas, Mexico, to Guatemala where it grows at 3,000 to 9,000 feet in mixed pine and oak forests. It particularly appreciates locations with morning sun and afternoon shade. Use it as a mid-height groundcover, border plant or woodland garden highlight.
In colder climates treat this sage as a subshrub that dies back to the ground similar to an herbaceous perennial. Here on the edge of Zone 8 and 9, it is a shrub that can become large unless pruned. However, it's well worth the time spent trimming.
(Violet Calyx Sage) Here's another abundantly blooming sage from the cloud forest slopes of Chiapas, Mexico. Violet beelines mark the lower lip of the crimson blossoms, which are so numerous that it can be difficult to see the foliage at times.
Bloom time is autumn into winter in Zones 9 to 11. The 2-inch-long, netted leaves have purple undersides, making this plant attractive even when not in bloom. Well branched and compact, it has an attractive fountain shape that makes it work well as an accent plant. Violet Calyx Sage also looks good in a large patio container. Give this water-loving species rich, well-drained soil and full sun to partial shade.
One last bit of buzz: Butterflies, honeybees and hummingbirds -- especially ones hanging out for the winter in warm climates -- love this plant. Fortunately, deer don't.
(White Headed Sage) One of the most visually stunning members of the genus, this large growing, tender, winter blooming species from the mountains of Ecuador will turn every head with its furry white calyxes and brilliant magenta red flowers.
We've found this rare plant does well with full sun, rich well drained soil and ample water. It does not seem to like overly moist conditions, and excelent drainage is a key factor, as is moderately warm growing conditions. As it is a winter bloomer and quite tender, please make sure that you can supply the appropriate conditions for this species before ordering. We rate it as "Challenging" to successfully grow. It may be adapted to other cultural regimes, but there is so little experiance with this plant in horticulture that we are sticking with what we know to be sucessful. It is found in dry shrubland with sub-surface water sourcesin the wild, something to consider when making plant care decisions.
The IUCN lists this specias as "Vulnerable", the classification just below "Endangered".
Many thanks to our friend Dr. Richard Dufresne of supplying us with our original stock of this special plant.
(Mexican Many Flowered Sage) Blooming from late summer into winter, this Mexican cloud-forest native has so many flowers that they are difficult to count. The deep violet blossoms develop distinct, white beelines after opening.
Growing up to 5 feet tall and 4 feet wide, Salvia myriantha is a good size for the back of perennial borders in moist, woodland gardens. Its sticky foliage and strong aroma may also incline gardeners to use it as a background planting. However, those who love its multitudinous, vibrant flowers may want to plant it close up along pathways. Container planting also works well.
This shrubby, water-loving sage grows well in USDA cold hardiness zones 9 to 11. It does particularly well in settings with morning sun and afternoon shade. Give it well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter.
Our honeybees and hummingbirds love it, and we think you will, too.
(Autumn Purple Sage) Small but numerous, the flowers of this sage are a variable shade of light purple that is unlike any other we grow. Native to Southern Mexico and Guatemala, this shrub regularly grows up to 5 feet tall (or taller) and 4 feet wide.
The light yellow-green leaves of Salvia purpurea brighten a shaded garden. Similar to Scandent Mexican Sage (Salvia iodantha), the flowers of Autumn Purple Sage have a translucent quality. The two species form a pretty, blended clump when grown together. However, Autumn Purple tolerates shade better than Scandent Mexican Sage .
This fragrant, heat-tolerant shrub grows well in USDA Zones 9 to 11. It blooms from summer into fall, attracting butterflies and hummingbirds.
Give this sage rich, well drained soil. It thrives with average watering based on local conditions, but is a water lover. Try it in damp parts of the yard or moist woodland gardens. It works well as a screen, background planting or part of a shrub border and looks lovely in flower arrangements.
This rare, colorful Salvia should be in wider use.
(Margie Griffith Sage) Salvia x 'Margie Griffith' is a big, purple-flowered beauty with glossy green, ribbed foliage. It feeds hummingbirds year round down South and on our coastal, Northern California farm where winter temperatures are moderate.
Donna L. Dittmann, collections manager at Louisiana State University's Museum of Natural Science created this sturdy hybrid, which is said to have Salvia mexicana (Mexican Sage) and Salvia involucrata (Roseleaf Sage) parentage. Perhaps it's the Roseleaf influence that gives it a touch of shade tolerance.
Dittmann shared her plant with hummingbird expert Nancy L. Newfield, who shared it with us. The sage is named for their late friend Margie Griffith. The three of them became deeply connected through the Louisiana Ornithological Society and wildlife gardening.
Salvia x 'Margie Griffith' is a perennial at the cooler end of its rage and a shrub in warmer zones. Hummingbirds find it tasty, but deer avoid it. Give it average watering and rich, well-drained soil.
(Hidalgo or 7-UP Plant) I love to ask people what the smell of these leaves remind them of. Almost no one gets it on the first try, but when I say, "7 UP", their eyes light up, heads nod and the resounding answer is, "Yes!"
This mounding small perennial is native to shady mountain canyons in Arizona and Texas. The flowers glow on tall spikes above the furry, light green above, silvery underneath leaves. This is an outstanding perennial for shady spots. It can stand drought when established, but does very well with regular garden water. The apricot-coral flowers age to a reddish tint, and are quite long lasting. This plant blooms for us April - October!
This is another Salvia-like perennial that deserves much greater prominence in our gardens.
(Chiapas Sage) This partial-shade Salvia produces magenta flowers year round for us on the Mendocino Coast. It's compact, free flowering and not bothered by pests whether large or small. It is native to Mexico's coastal mountains at an elevation of 7,000 to 9,500 feet.
Chiapas Sage forms a neat mound of glossy, ribbed leaf-foliage with large flower spikes throughout. We grow it in mixed borders, containers and combination planters where it really stands out. Winter mulching it is essential in Zone 8 and below where you can treat this drought-resistant plant as a perennial.
(Mulberry Jam Roseleaf Sage) Magenta flower buds burst into fuzzy, hot pink blossoms in this hybrid sage from the gardens of Betsy Clebsch, author of The New Book of Salvias.
This full-sun Salvia is thought to be a hybrid of the Mexican native Roseleaf Sage (S. involucrata). The other parent is unknown, but may be Chiapas Sage (S. chiapensis).
Deep purple calyxes soften the brightness of the flower clusters. The glossy, mid- to dark-green leaves are oval-to-heart shaped and small. They turn reddish-purple as the weather cools in autumn.
The flowers of this long-blooming, perennial sage look pretty in bouquets and are attractive to hummingbirds.
(Pink & White Wagner's Sage) Instead of pink, leaf-life bracts, this variety of Wagner's Sage has white bracts surrounding the hot pink flowers. It blooms from November to March on our coastal Northern California farm where it feeds Anna's hummingbirds all winter long.
Come snow, ice or temperatures as low as 20 degrees, it keeps on blooming.
This tall Salvia is a sub-shrub, which means that it has both woody and soft herbaceous perennial growth. It comes from the cloud forests of Southern Mexico and Central America where it grows at elevations of up to 6,500 feet.
Averaging about 6 feet tall and wide, Wagner's Sage can easily grow 10 feet tall and wide if conditions are right. You can keep it more compact by pruning in mid to late summer before the large, prolific blossoms emerge on foot-long flower spikes. They rise up amid equally dramatic, bright green leaves that are triangular and soft as felt.
Give it space, rich, well-drained soil and average to ample watering in full sun to partial shade. Plant it at the back of shrub borders and cut-flower gardens. This is an ideal plant for moist woodland gardens in USDA Zones 8 to 11.
The species was named by 19th century plant explorer Helmuth Polakowsky (1847-1917) of Germany, who specialized in Central American flora. Although we aren't certain, it is likely that he named it for his somewhat older contemporary Moritz Wagner (1813-1887), a friend of Charles Darwin and a botanist who is especially well known for his exploraration of Costa Rica.
PLEASE NOTE: Our best picture of this plant in bloom disappeared during a computer snafu. This picture doesn't do justice to the contrast between the flowers and their ethereal white bracts. So here is a link to a picture in the Cabrillo College Salvia collection.
Highly recommended by honeybees!
Ask Mr. Sage is our blog's new question-and-answer feature, based on calls and emails received at Flowers by the Sea. This question concerns dark spotting on foliage that may be caused by fertilizer burn.
Hummingbirds love Salvia (sage) nectar and are attracted to it by the bright colors of tubular sage blossoms. In particular, these little whirlybirds can easily spot flowers in the red spectrum, which is prevalent among sages. Here are some hummingbird gardening tips.
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.