Sometimes, when defining a plant, it is helpful not only to say what it is but also what it is not. Herbaceous perennials are not woody. They have soft stems and die to the ground annually, sending up shoots again in the new growing season.
Although perennial generally refers to any plant that returns for more than two growing seasons, it is a term that the horticulture industry -- and our catalog -- primarily applies to herbaceous species even though the deciduous, woody Salvias also refresh annually.
In contrast to herbaceous perennial Salvias, the woody kinds of sage are referred to as shrubs and subshrubs. Shrubs are plants with stems that are woody overall. Sub-shrub Salvias combine woody and tender herbaceous stems.
Some Salvia species, such as Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii), are evergreen shrubs -- the kind that are in a constant state of foliage loss and renewal -- in warmer USDA zones and subshrubs in cooler parts of their range. But true herbaceous perennial Salvias almost always die to ground at the end of their growing season. End of season depends on whether an herbaceous perennial is dormant in winter or dormant in summer as with winter-growing species originating in Mediterranean climates.
Flowers by the Sea grows many herbaceous Salvias in a rainbow of flower colors and a wide variety of bloom times, including cold-hardy species from America, Asia and Europe. Others come from warmer climates, such as Africa, the American South, Central and South America, Mexico, the Mediterranean and South Africa.
One major way in which care of herbaceous species differs from that of woody sages concerns clean up. Whereas woody sages are hard pruned at the beginning of their growing season, the spent foliage of herbaceous species is removed at the end of their season. Also, many herbaceous species can be encouraged to bloom twice if pruned mid-season.
(Makino) We would grow this rare clone of the woodland Japanese native Salvia glabrescens even if it never flowered, because the arrow-shaped foliage is so lush, toothed and colorful. As they age, the arrow-shaped leaves transform from yellowish green to dark green.
(Ground Ivy Sage) Native to Central Mexico's highlands, this creeping perennial grows at a altitudes of more than 10,000 feet and can handle some chill. Its common name comes from its scalloped yellow-green leaves, which resemble Ground Ivy or Glechoma.
(Jupiter's Distaff) Easy to grow and adaptable to a wide range of conditions, this native of Europe and Asia is our best tall, yellow-flowering perennial. Although its common name compares the flower spikes to wool spindles, they look more like glowing sceptres.
(Elk Pomegranate Autumn Sage) We're proud to say that this is an FBTS cultivar. It is one of the finest dark flowered, compact Autumn Sage varieties we have seen. Its extraordinarily large, raspberry blossoms bloom from spring into fall.
(Furman's Red Autumn Sage) Selected by noted Texas plantsman W.A. Furman in the 1970s, this hardy Texas native is beautiful and tough withstanding heat, drought and freezing winters. Its flowers, which bloom spring through fall, are a rich, saturated red bordering on magenta.
(Grace Pink Autumn Sage) Dark hot pink flowers and contrasting, dark bracts make this Autumn Sage stand out. Originally fom the JC Raulston Arboretum in North Carolina. This variety is large but compact, rugged, heat tolerant and capable of handling Zone 6 chill.
(Lipstick Autumn Sage) Similar to a little bit of lipstick on a pretty face, the rosy flowers of this hardy, heat-tolerant sage add a finishing touch to a perennial Salvia border. The creamy pinkish-red blossoms have a contrasting white throat and are cupped by rosy brown calexes on long spikes.
(Navajo Autumn Sage) Even a hint of blue is unusual among Autumn Sage flowers. Salvia greggii 'Navajo Purple' is a rarity due to its magenta-purple blossoms, which hint at natural hybridization including a mystery parent in the blue range, such as Salvia lycioides.
(Big Orange Autumn Sage) Standout color is the big draw for this large growing Autumn Sage. Collected in the mountains of Northern Mexico, it grows well in a wide range of climates, including the hot dry Southwest and the cool moist Pacific Northwest. A difficult color to capture in a photo, it is well described as a warm orange with a scarlet overlay.
(Pink Preference Autumn Sage) Two-tone, hot pink flowers and contrasting, nearly black bracts make this Autumn Sage stand out. This drought tolerant Autumn Sage from Central Texas is also compact, rugged, heat tolerant and capable of handling Zone 6 chill.
(Pink Beach Autumn Sage) When it blooms from spring into fall, this heat- and chill-tolerant sage is covered with large, two-tone pink flowers that attract butterflies, honeybees and hummingbirds. This compact, drought-tolerant beauty also features small, shiny, bright green leaves.
(Radio Red Autumn Sage) Dark calyxes support true red blossoms in Salvia greggii 'Radio Red', a 2015 introduction from the Darwin Perennials division of Ball Seed. Its tiny, smooth, elliptical leaves form a light, airy backdrop for the dramatic flowers.
(Salmon Autumn Sage) Creamy salmon-colored flowers with white throats make this elegant Autumn Sage perfect for a pastel garden or as a cooling color in a mixed sage border. Bloom time is spring into fall for this petite Salvia greggii native to the American Southwest and Mexico.
(Stormy Pink Autumn Sage) The dramatic name of this floriferous Autumn Sage is due to the calyxes cupping its smoky apricot-pink blossoms. Some gardeners report gray calyxes and others say dark plum. But for whatever reason, the Stormy Pink that we grow on our Northern California coastal farm has green calyxes with dark stripes.
(Texas Wedding White Autumn Sage) This is our best white-flowered Autumn Sage. It is compact, hardy and blooms abundantly. We love it as a contrast to the generally bright colors of its group. Texas Wedding seems to always be blooming, with massive displays in spring and fall.
(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.
(Black & Blue Anise-Scented Sage) Hummingbirds go crazy for this variety of Salvia guaranitica. The black calyxes contrast handsomely with the rich, royal blue flowers. We highly recommend the much improved Salvia BODACIOUS 'Rhythm and Blues' as an alternative to this older variety.
(Elk Argentina Skies Anise-Scented Sage) Developed at FBTS, this new introduction is superior to the old standby, 'Argentina Skies'. Superior growth and earlier flowering make it a must-have choice for hummingbird gardeners.
(Sapphire Blue Anise-Scented Sage) The large, sapphire blue flowers of this Anise-Scented Sage glow in the full-sun or partial-shade garden from summer into fall. Similar to Salvia guaranitica 'Blue Ensign', this is a somewhat taller variety of the water-loving species.
(Van Remsen's Anise-Scented Sage) Big and beautiful, this Anise-Scented Sage grows up to 7 feet tall in rich soil and has lavender-to-purple flowers. In our garden, it blossoms from late spring to fall, attracting both honeybees and hummingbirds.