In preschool, children learn that plants have green leaves unless local weather causes foliage to change color in autumn. Yet foliage comes in many colors, including a variety of cool grays, shimmering silvers and greens so pale that they almost look white. This is true for many drought-resistant Salvias (true sages) and companion plants covered with fine white hairs that help them to conserve moisture. Some are so dense with hairs that they feel velvety.
Foliage shapes and sizes of these waterwise plants vary from inch-long ellipses to 4-foot-long, saber-like blades. Geographical diversity is characteristic of both the Salvias and their companion plants. They come from islands and inland deserts, from lowlands and high mountains, and from many regions around the world, such as:
Gray and silver foliage -- in all its many varieties -- brighten shady gardens, cool down hot reds and oranges, harmonize with pastels, add shimmer to darker green foliage and reflect moonlight beautifully. At Flowers by the Sea, we offer many choices to shine in your garden.
(Paula Flynn Sage) Floral spikes with whorls of bluish-purple flowers rise up amid the slightly relaxed, upright foliage of the mystery plant Salvia ‘Paula Flynn’. It features pebbly, deep green leaves with white, fuzzy undersides.
(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.
(Sacred White Sage) Bees, hummingbirds and spiritual blessings are all connected to Salvia apiana, an elegant shrubby sage that is an important herb to indigenous Californians. It deserves a place in salvia gardens that can meet its demands. Stiff and almost fleshy, its leaves are tight rosettes of brilliant, silvery green that is almost white.
(Compact Sacred White Sage) Salvia apiana var. compacta is significantly shorter than the common species of Sacred White Sage and somewhat more cold tolerant. Its smaller leaves and compact form make it a tidier choice for home gardens with the right kind of growing conditions.
(Anatolian Cushion Sage) Rising up only 6 to 8 inches, this is a pixie-sized sage that loves gritty soils. It is perfect for dry gardens with gritty soils in USDA Zones 5 to 9. In fact, it seems to love the colder zones best. We think it is particularly fond of frozen ground in winter, because that helps keep its roots from getting too damp.
(Wooly Canary Island Sage) The pale magenta, parrot-beak flowers of this sage, supported by deeper magenta bracts, heat up the landscape. But when you get close, it may be the velvety texture of the foliage that makes you sigh.
(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 drought-resistant native of Spain will awe every visitor to your garden.
(Woolly White Sage) Salvia candidissima has tidy, upright stems covered with whorls of creamy white blossoms shaped like tiny parrot beaks. They rise from a mid-green rosette of leaves that become fuzzier and whiter as summer heat increases.
(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.
(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 downy, short, white hairs providing moisture retention.
(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.
(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 chamaedryoides var.isochroma. It is one of the prettiest, strongest sages we grow.
(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.
(Golden Leaf Sage) A tinge of gold in its fuzzy, pebbled foliage gives Salvia chrysophylla its common name. Abundant lavender flowers with pale cream lower lips make it stand out in the landscape.
(Blue Turkish Sage) Large velvety gray-green to white leaves in loose rosettes give this sage a distinctive look as does the celestial violet-blue of its flowers. The blossoms seem much too large for this short sage and its thin, candelabra-branched flower spikes.
(Purple Bract Peruvian Sage or Concolor Sage) Similar to its wild relative, Peruvian Sage, which is also known as Concolor Sage, this cultivar has foliage that is smooth, apple green on top and fuzzy with silver hairs on the bottom. Major differences appear in the dramatic bracts.
(Pilgram's Rest Pink Sage) Spring into summer, this heat-tolerant sage from South Africa produces lilac and white blossoms with profuse, fragrant, gray foliage. It's the burgundy calyxes, which turn a rusty pink after the flowers blossom, that give this sage part of its common name.
(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.
(Blue Ecuadorian Sage) A densely branched shrub with silvery leaves and dusky blue flowers, this rare species was once thought to be Salvia cruickshanksii. In the nursery trade, it sometimes is called Salvia 'Equador'.
(Greek Sage) Most of the dried culinary sage sold in the United States is Greek Sage. Frescoes on the island of Crete dated to 1400 BC depict this plant, which was used by the Phoenicians and Greeks for cooking and medicine. It is an ancient and beloved friend of mankind.
(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.
(Wooly Arabian Sage) "Radiant" is the word that garden writer and Salvia specialist Betsy Clebsch uses to describe the halo of white hairs covering the foliage and calyxes of Salvia lanigera.
(Pink Mexican Bush Sage) Although native to Mexico and Central America, this elegant variety of Salvia leucantha was hybridized in South Africa. It is compact, long blooming and profusely covered by soft pink flowers surrounded by velvety white bracts.