(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.
These are species that produce woody stems, but die back to the ground in the winter in all but the warmest climates. In warm winter areas these can become woody shrubs, but they generally benefit from the following pruning methods.
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.
(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.
(Candelabra Spanish Sage) Tall, well-branched spikes display large two-tone blue flowers above a compact shrubby mass of attractive, furry white leaves. When in bloom, this compact, drought-resistant native of Spain will awe every visitor to your garden.
Candelabra Spanish Sage is a rare beauty that does well in warm, dry locations and blooms abundantly from mid-summer through fall. It does well as a compact container plant or can grow up to 6 feet tall in the ground. We also highly recommend it as a border plant and for cut-flower gardens.
(Caucasus Sage) This hardy ground cover sage grows 4 to 12 inches tall and 12 inches wide. The velvety white fur of its foliage aids moisture retention. Its soft, royal purple flowers make it stand out. We think this Salvia deserves to spread far and wide.
A tough native of the Caucasus Mountains of central Asia, it survives the freezing temperatures of Zone 5, forming a tight mat that withstands light traffic. It blooms in early summer and again in fall. Plant this beauty in well-drained soil, but don't pamper it; Caucasus Sage grows well in harsh environments.
This is one of the shortest Salvias we grow and makes a fine border edging or rock garden plant. We highly recommend its use as a ground cover, so we offer a discount for larger orders.
Here is a great blog article about this plant.
(Cedros Island Sage) From the Island of Cedars off the coast of Baja California Sur comes this delightful xeric sage with deep violet-blue flowers and silvery foliage. The square-shaped, 1-inch-long leaves are densely covered with short white hairs providing moisture retention and a velvety texture.
This is a gem for xeric, full-sun gardens. It is easy to grow if you understand the conditions on Cedros Island, which are dry, hot and generally sunny. In their mountain-forest ecosystem, the minimal water that these plants receive is largely from occasional fog. So keep this plant mostly dry, give it perfect drainage and don't shade it if possible. Your reward will be a lovely edging plant, small-scale ground cover or a short but dramatic container plant.
This Salvia is rare to find in cultivation; we are very happy to be able to supply this lovely plant.
(Silver Germander Sage) With its compact habit, brilliant silver-white leaves and large, sky blue flowers, this is an outstanding heat-tolerant choice for dry, sunny gardens. We consider this to be one of the finest short ground covers for these conditions.
Grow Silver Germander Sage in full sun and well-drained, loamy soil where you can see it up close. Expect explosive blooming in the summer and fall when the weather warms and settles.
We highly recommend this rarely seen variety of the green-leafed Germander Sage.
(Big Grape Sage) This lavender-flowered native of Northern Mexico resembles Salvia melissodora (Grape Scented Sage), but is bigger and also has larger leaves and flowers. It's a great companion plant for its little brother, which shares the same cultural needs and affinity for Zones 8 to 10. Both bloom from summer into fall.
Similar to Salvia melissodora, this sage is used by the indigenous Tarahumara people of Chihuahua, Mexico, as a medicinal herb. Another commonality is that the flowers smell like ripe grapes, a fact that young children enjoy confirming. In addition to the fragrance of its flowers, Big Grape Sage has appealing leaves with furry, white undersides.
Give this heat-tolerant Salvia a sunny, warm spot in well-drained soil. Then watch it grow without fuss. Although drought tolerant, it enjoys regular watering. Big Grape Sage is a good choice as a mid-height groundcover or in shrubby and herbaceous perennial borders.
Butterflies, honeybees and hummingbirds highly recommend this sage, but deer avoid it.
(Grape Scented Sage) With the grape scent of its pale lavender blossoms and its long history of medicinal use, it is no surprise that this sage is so widely distributed.
The indigenous Tarahumara people of Northern Mexico have used this sage for centuries to treat a variety of infirmities. For the gardener today, it offers drought resistance and heat tolerance along with fragrance and color.
Although it can grow up to 6 feet tall in its native habitat, Grape Scented Sage generally averages growth of 3 feet tall and wide in home gardens. Nevertheless, it is mighty in its ability to ensure pollination in your garden because...
Another benefit is that although humans and small wildlife find it intoxicating, deer don't.
For a lovely combination, group the lavender and green of Grape Scented Sage with other plants that have strong blue or yellow flowers and which bloom from summer into fall. Give it full sun and well drained soil.
In the home garden, it makes a fine screen, border or background planting. It also does well in containers and cut-flower gardens. Despite its ability to get by on little water, it is adaptable to average water areas of the yard in very well drained soil. It's a winner.
(Royal Purple Autumn Sage) Salvia muelleri is related both to Autumn Sage (S. greggii) and Mountain Sage (S. microphylla), which are closely related species.
This tough plant is a hybrid that occurred in the wild. Similar to both parent species, it is at its best in fall when it bursts with intensely purple flowers.
Royal Purple Autumn Sage is small leafed and densely branched. It is a small shrub in USDA Zones 8 and 9, but an herbaceous perennial in Zone 7. The soft look of this sage's foliage looks pretty at the edge of pathways, in mixed borders or in containers where it can be enjoyed close up.
Native to the mountains of Monterrey, Mexico, this sage is well adapted to dry conditions. However, it also responds well to regular watering. While not picky about type of soil, it needs good drainage.
Full sun or partial shade both work for Royal Purple, but remember to restrict watering in shady locations. Otherwise lots of growth and few flowers will be the rule. Peak bloom is in the fall, but flowering occurs on and off beginning in spring.
Try this plant with Salvia x jamensis 'Golden Elk' for an amazing color combo.
(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.
(The Queen's Sage) Regal spikes of lavender-to-purple flowers give weight to this sage's common name. It provides an abundance of blossoms during summer in USDA Zones 6 to 10. Cold hardy and heat tolerant, this impressive perennial comes from the mountains of Turkey.
Queen's Sage grows quickly into a large clump with tall, branched flower spikes. The fragrant foliage is an attractive gray-green. Although it is also known as Salvia verticillata subsp. verticillata, this seems inaccurate from a gardener's perspective. Queen's Sage tends to be taller and more stately than Lilac Sage.
This is an attractive plant for perennial borders, large container plantings or path edging. Give it full sun, well-drained soil and average watering based on local conditions. Butterflies love it. Hummingbirds also visit, which can't be said for all Old World Salvias.
(Clary or Clear Eye Sage or Eyebright) Pink-purple bracts and violet-purple flowers form a pastel cloud over the large, rumpled leaves of Clary Sage in summer. It is a towering beauty growing up to 5 feet tall. Sacred to some due to age-old use in herbal remedies, it is heavenly to look at.
Depending on the nose of the gardener, its fragrance is either equally heavenly or hellishly rank like dirty socks. Personally, we enjoy Clary's musky aroma.
Native to the Mediterranean, Clary loves full sun and works well in dry gardens as a background planting. It's also a good choice for a kitchen garden, because it also has a long history of culinary use. If you enjoy its fragrance, it is a fine choice for borders, cut flower gardens and containers.
Clary is a biennial that blooms and dies the second year after it is planted. If you can tolerate snipping the lovely flower stalks before they wither, you can increase the plant's bloom. It reseeds, which means that you can expect new plants even though it isn't a perennial. Butterflies and honeybees love it, but deer leave it alone.
This is seed wild collected in Turkey, and is the most vigerous form we have encountered.
(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.
(Pine Mountain Sage) Small but numerous, violet and deep purple flowers surrounded by pink bracts are sprinkled throughout this well-branched,shrubby sage like confections. This is one of the showiest Salvias we grow.
Pine Mountain Sage blooms from summer into fall and is a treat for honeybees and hummingbirds. It's native to Chiapas, Mexico, where it grows on the edge of pine forests in rocky soil. In the U.S., it is hardy to USDA Zones 8 with protection into 11 and blooms from summer into fall.
As with most Salvias, this one requires well-drained soil and likes it rich. Although drought tolerant, it appreciates average watering based on local conditions. Full sun is another necessity for maximum development. Average growth is 3 to 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide. Yet when conditions are perfect, it can grow into a 6-foot mound.
Small, triangle-shaped, gray-green leaves make this shrub attractive even when not in flower. Spring pruning of its woody branches keeps it compact and floriferous.
Grow Pine Mountain Sage as a large scale groundcover, border, screen or container plant. It excels in dry gardens, and is worth growing as a summer annual in zones outside its temperature range. No need to worry about deer; they avoid it.
In Spanish, Mejorana means "marjoram”. Similar to oregano-type Marjoram – another Mint family member -- this sage is used to flavor meat dishes. Our cultivar, which is native to Texas and Mexico, has lovely bluish-purple flowers that bloom summer to fall amid fragrant, fine, furry green foliage.
Don’t give this tough sage fertilizer or too much water. It is adjusted to rocky, gravely limestone soils such as those of the Edward’s Plateau in South Central Texas. However, it can handle a medium loamy soil. In nature, it grows on brushlands, including hillsides and thickets.
At 72 inches tall and wide, this heat-tolerant, drought-resistant plant makes a fine screen or border in a dry garden or a woodland setting with dry shade. It also does well in full sun. Butterflies, hummingbirds and honeybees love its nectar. Although deer have been known to nibble on Mejorana, it is not one of their favorite foods.
One of Mejorana’s other common names is Shrubby Blue Sage, but there are also white- and purple-flowering varieties. Salvia ballotaeflora is also known botanically as S. ballotiflora . Rock Sage (S. pinguifolia) is a purple-flowering relative that is native from Arizona into Texas and is sometimes referred to as S. ballotaeflora or S. ballotiflora .
(Dominican Sage) Native to Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, this candelabra-shaped, perennial sage may have inspired the design of the menorah, (Exodus 37:17). It is a tough, drought-resistant plant with silver-haired foliage and bright white flowers that seem to blaze.
The specific epitaph dominica means "belonging to the Lord." This medicinal sage has a heavenly fragrance and is used in perfumery, cosmetics and the production of a rare essential oil. Plant it in full sun as a compact border or in a dry garden. It makes a fine groundcover.
Dominican Sage thrives in poor yet well-drained soil and doesn't require much water. We have found it to be durable, but it does not tolerate wet, cold winters. However, the fragrance of this plant on a warm day makes it worth growing as an annual.
(Wooly Multicolor Sage) In Greek, "lasiantha" means "wooly flower." The flowers of Salvia lasiantha are surrounded by wooly bracts, but are even more notable for transforming from apricot-orange in the morning to reddish-purple later in the day.
The bracts are also dramatic -- a fuzzy white overlaid with pink, orange, violet and cream. The large flower clusters bloom from mid-summer until the onset of cold weather. Large wrinkled foliage and white wooly stems are other distinctive features of this large, shrubby sage. All that wooliness helps this native of Mexico and Costa Rica to conserve moisture during drought and extreme heat.
At 5 feet tall and wide, this fragrant butterfly magnet makes a good screen, background planting or addition to a shrubby border. It can even be grown in a large patio container.
(Marine Blue Sage) The name and origin of this fine cultivar has long been in dispute. It may be a clone or hybrid of the Mexican plant Salvia chamaedryoidesvar.isochroma. It is one of the prettiest, strongest sages we grow.
Our Marine Blue Sage blooms almost nonstop, producing long spikes of small dark blue flowers marked with bee lines that help lead pollinators into the blossoms. The leaves are small, wrinkled and wooly with silver-white tops and greenish undersides. In a sunny spot, the plant forms a tidy mat of ground cover 18 inches tall and 36 inches wide.
Grow Marine Blue Sage in hot, somewhat dry locations where you can see it up close. It's guaranteed to attract the eye. We predict that the popularity of this drought-resistant sage will increase as it becomes more widely known.
Depending on where you live, September may be a time to keep busy planting perennial Salvias or to hunker-down and plan garden recovery following storm damage. Each month, FBTS publishes a list of tips suggesting ways to maintain and beautify your Salvia garden. New plantings and transplanting of sages in autumn works well; dividing or pruning them doesn't.
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.
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.