Photos courtesy of Frank Sovich
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.
(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.
(Cleveland Sage or California Blue Sage) A California native plant garden is not complete without a Cleveland Sage. This particular cultivar has deeper blue flowers with a purple overlay as well as deep purple calyxes. Due to its height and drought resistance, it is ideal for back of border in a dry garden.
At 5 feet tall and wide, this plant is also a good xeric screen for fences, boundary lines and separations in your yard. Its tidy dome of fragrant leaves and flowers is rarely without honeybees, butterflies or hummingbirds.
There is much confusion in the naming and identification of Salvias native to California, especially Cleveland Sage. However, we have done our due diligence and believe that the plant we offer under this name is the one first grown by the Saratoga Horticultural Research Foundation in 1990.
(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.
(Black Sage or Honey Sage) One of the most common and fragrant native shrubs in Central California's Coast Ranges, Black Sage is ideal for dry gardens. Admirably adaptable, it tolerates soils ranging from the most marginal to ones that are loamy and provide excellent drainage. It is a survivor.
The elegant long wrinkled leaves are powerfully aromatic. Its small white-to-lavender whorls of flowers, which bloom from summer into fall, are vital sources of nectar and pollen for honeybees and hummingbirds.
Use this garden workhorse for a large scale groundcover, as a background planting for other more dramatic Salvias or as a vital plant in a wildlife garden. It likes full sun and is heat tolerant.
Our strain is originally from seed collected at the far northern edge of its range, and is hardy to at least 20 degrees F.
(Apricot Hummingbird Sage or Cerro Alto Pitcher Sage) Large clusters of warm, apricot-colored blossoms top the tall, thick flower spikes of this sage. It is named after a peak in the mountains behind the crashing waters of Big Sur on California's Central Coast.
The flowers darken as they age atop mid-green bracts. Cerro Alto's basal foliage mounds and spreads by underground runners. In favorable conditions, it can spread 3 feet across. The leaves are less lobed than those of the species, but are still sticky and richly scented.
This drought-tolerant, heat-resistant sage is adaptable to light conditions ranging from full sun to partial shade and grows particularly well in morning sun and afternoon shade. It blooms from winter into spring. As with other types of Salvia spathacea it likes the temperatures of USDA Zones 8 to 11.
This is the strongest growing, most vigorous clone of Hummingbird Sage we have seen. It makes a fine groundcover in woodland, native and dry gardens where it also works well in perennial borders and containers. Plant it in rich, well-drained soil and provide average watering based on local conditions.
(Bee's Bliss Sage) If you are looking for a California native sage to use as a groundcover, Bee's Bliss is a fine choice. Low-growing, widespreading and colorful, it is ideal for choking weeds.
Long-blooming spikes of lavender-colored flowers rise a foot above the mat of fine, fragrant, gray-green foliage that is perennial in warm-winter areas.
Honeybees and hummingbirds love this hybrid, which was selected in 1989 at the University of California Botanic Garden by California native plant specialist Roger Raiche. Berkeley artist and gardener Marcia Donahue named it.
Bee's Bliss is likely a cross of California Purple Sage (Salvia leucophylla), which is also called California Gray Sage, with either Creeping Sage (Salvia sonomensis ) or Cleveland Sage (Salvia clevelandii).
This is a superior, drought-resistant groundcover requiring full sun, good drainage and little-to-no water other than what it receives from nature. It's ideal for slopes and native-plant gardens. Claims of cold hardiness vary, but 18 degrees F is a safe bet even though lower temperatures have been reported.
(Celestial Blue Sage) Fast growing and adaptable, this sage is a chance hybrid between Cleveland Sage (Salvia clevelandii) -- also called California Blue Sage -- and California Rose Sage (Salvia pachyphylla). It may also be related to California Purple Sage (Salvia leucophylla).
Celestial Blue has lovely royal blue flowers and purple bracts. Sun-loving, heat tolerant and drought resistant, it was discovered at Las Pilitas Native Plant Nursery in Southern California.
This fragrant sage blooms and blooms throughout the heat of summer. Tolerant of everything but wet feet during summer, it withstands winter temperatures as low as 10 degrees F for a short time as well as lows in the 20-degree range for days.
Use this pretty plant in tough soils, on banks and in areas where watering is difficult or undesirable. Butterflies, honeybees and hummingbirds love it, but deer leave it alone. This cultivar is one of the best Salvias for cut-flower arrangements.
(Starlight Sage) This is a white-flowering hybrid of White Sage (Salvia apiana) and Black Sage (Salvia mellifera), two California natives often seen growing together in the wild. Similar to Black Sage, it blooms from spring into summer, attracting honeybees. In contrast, White Sage is a winter-to-spring bloomer.
The foliage of Starlight Sage closely resembles the silvery whitish green of White Sage, but it doesn't have that plant's typical pink or lavender flowers. But similar to its parents, it is powerfully fragrant, drought tolerant and heat resistant.
This compact, tough sage comes from the world famous Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in Southern California, which is renowned for its collection of California native plants.
Highly recommended. Limited availability.
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.
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.