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.
(Summer Skies West Texas Grass Sage) Butterflies and honeybees particularly favor this West Texas mountain native. In contrast to the true blue flowers of regular Salvia reptans, this cultivar has purple blossoms with cloud-like, lavender-to-white throats.
(Confused Argentine Sage) Similar in many ways to the indispensable garden favorites of the Anise Scented Sage (Salvia guaranitica spp.) group, this plant is a perfect companion for its better known cousin.
(Mount Olympus Sage) The deep violet and white flowers of Salvia ringens are eyecatching. Their wiry, branched spikes rise up to 5 feet tall from a dark green basal rosette.
(Cedar Sage) Scarlet flowers abound on this small, mounding, woodland sage that is native to Texas, Arizona and Northern Mexico. Grow it as a small scale groundcover or mix it with other shade-loving sages in a perennial border or along a path.
(River Sage) Native to partially shaded streamsides in Argentina and Bolivia, this is one of the few Salvia species that can tolerate wet soil. It makes a fine filler plant in a group of other partial shade growers, its wirey thin stems sending up floral displays here and there, much to the gardener's delight.
(Hybrid River Sage) This beautiful new plant is a FBTS hybrid between to rare South American species. In growth and flower it is intermediate between the parents, and fast growing because of it's hybrid vigor.
(Xobo Valley Sage) Although petite, the rare Xobo Valley Sage is eyecatching due to its lacy, bright green foliage and powder blue flowers. It's even possible that this long-blooming sage may have caught Nelson Mandela's eye as he grew up in the Wild Coast area of South Africa's Eastern Cape.
(Italian Clary Sage) Clary Sages are well known for their use in folk remedies, aromatherapy and cosmetics. Glowing purple bracts frame the spectacular white blooms of this cultivar on 5-foot-tall spikes. It is a delight for honeybees, hummingbirds and butterflies.
(Sinaloan Blue Sage) It's difficult to say which trait is more attractive about this sage -- the airy spikes of deep, true blue flowers or the fascinating spear-shaped foliage that varies from deep green to purple, forming a tidy mat.
(Mystery Yunnan Sage) Sometimes we come across a beauty that has no name. This lovely species from China's Yunnan province is an excellent example. Aside from lacking scientific and common names, it arrived here as an imported seed with little information about how the plant was discovered.
(Hummingbird Sage or Pitcher Sage) No sage we grow is more attractive to hummingbirds than this one. Spectacular in all ways, it is one of our favorite Salvias with its fragrant, evergreen foliage and jewel-like flowers and bracts.
(Yellow Hummingbird Sage or Yellow Pitcher Sage) The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden introduced this rare yellow variety of fragrant Hummingbird Sage. Similar to other varieties of this species, Avis Keedy is alluring to butterflies, honeybees and hummingbirds.
(Iranian Sage) Mixed in with short perennials that bloom over a wide range of seasons, Salvia staminea makes an attractive contribution to short borders during its summer bloom time. Our strain has dark bracts surrounding pastel white-to-blue-to-lavender flowers. The dark green, branching foliage has oblong to oval-shaped leaves.
(Siberian Sage) Deep violet flowers surrounded by burgundy bracts form a handsome contrast with the pebbly, mint green foliage of this drought-resistant sage. It comes from the Central Asian steppe, which is similar in climate and geography to America’s high plains.
(Supreme Sage) Neon pink flowers abound from spring through summer on this small, mounding, rock loving sage that is native to partially shaded limestone cliffs in parts of Texas and New Mexico. Grow it as a speciman plant in the rock garden, or with along with other native Southwestern species with similar cultural requirements.
(Texas Blue Sage) This is a cutie and a tough customer once established. It even grows well in caliche soils. Although Salvia texana typically blooms only during spring in Texas, it has a longer season stretching into fall up north.
(Mauretania Tingitana Sage) Native to Northern Africa and Saudi Arabia, this sage gets by on little water. and has a long history of cultivation going back 400 years. It wove throughout various countries in the Middle East and North Africa before arriving in Europe in the 1700s and was first described scientifically in 1777.
(Romanian Sage) Here's a great selection for mixed Salvia borders in zones with colder winters. This herbaceous perennial features deep violet flowers in large whorls atop tall, branched spikes.
(san ye shu wei cao) So what do all those Pinyin words mean in this sage’s common name? We’ll give you an answer to the best of our ability in a minute. Meanwhile, we need to note that this medicinal Asian sage has handsome foliage and deep violet flowers.
(Bog Sage) Highly adaptable, Salvia uliginosa is ideal for the beginning sage gardener. It isn't fussy about soil type, sun exposure, drainage or frequency of watering.