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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
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.