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Salvia

Sage
Lamiaceae (Labiatae)
Annuals, Deciduous, Evergreen, Ground covers, Perennials, Shrubs

All sages have square stems and whorls of two-lipped flowers, either distinctly spaced along flower stalks or so tightly crowded that they look like one dense spike; some species have branched inflorescences. Flower colors range from white and yellow through salmon and pink to scarlet and pure red, from pale lavender to true blue and darkest purple. A few sages have fragrant blossoms. Many have aromatic foliage. Sages attract hummingbirds, bees, butterflies.

Salvia apiana

From Southern Californiaand Baja California. Coarseplant to 3–5 ft. tall and wide.Aromatic, woolly silvery grayleaves are elliptical, 3–4 in.long. In spring, lavender-tingedwhite flowers appear in whorlsalong unbranched, sometimespinkish stems to 2 ft. long.Attractive at night; reflectsmoon, garden lighting. To keepneat, shear lightly after flowering.Drought-tolerant.

Salvia argentea, photo courtesy of Linda Lamb Peters
Salvia argentea, photo courtesy of Linda Lamb Peters

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Salvia argentea

Biennial or short-lived perennial. From southernEurope, northwestern Africa.Soft, scallop-edged, silky-haired,silvery white leaves grow 6–10 in. long, form a low foliagerosette to 2 ft. wide. In summer,many-branched, 3–4-ft. floweringstems bear 1 1/4-in.-long, hoodedwhite flowers (sometimestinged pink or yellow) with silverycalyxes. Cut to groundwhen flowers fade. Handsomefocal point for front of border.Protect from slugs and snails.‘Hobbit’s Foot’ grows into a 1-ft.mound with furry basal leaves.

Salvia aurea

Dense grower to 3–4 ft. high and wide; becomes sparse and woody with age.Young plants thickly covered with elliptical, woolly gray-green leaves to 1 1/4 in. long. Carried on 2–4-in. stems are whorls of interesting inch-long flowers in bright yellow aging to rusty brown; they emerge from brown, papery calyxes that persist long after blossoms fall. Main bloom in winter, early spring; sporadic through fall. Drought tolerant.

Salvia azurea grandiflora

Slender, vertical, usually unbranched stems to 5 ft. form a 2–3-ft.-wide clump. Plant is lax, needs support. Smooth or hairy, medium green to deep green, narrow leaves to 4 in. long. Pure azure blue flowers with white-blotched lower lip on spikes to 1 ft. long; blooms summer to frost. Not always permanent in wet winters.

Eyelash Sage (Salvia blepharophylla)
Eyelash Sage (Salvia blepharophylla)

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Salvia blepharophylla

To 1-1/2 –2 ft. tall, eyelash sage (Salvia blepharophylla) spreads indefinitely by creeping rhizomes. Thin, hairy, purplish stems; oval, glossy dark green leaves to 1-1/2 in. long, edged with fine hairs resembling eyelashes. Inch-long scarlet flowers on stems that lengthen to about 1 ft. as season goes on. Blooms from spring to frost, nearly all year in mild-winter climates. If confined, makes a good ground cover in partial shade.

Salvia brandegeei

Sprawling plant to 4– 5 ft. high, 5–7 ft.wide. Linear, scalloped, 3–4-in.-long leaves are shiny, rough-textured dark green above, woolly white beneath. Tight, widely spaced whorls of 1/2-in., pale lavender, broad-lipped flowers on stems to 10 in. long; persistent violet-gray calyxes. Early spring bloom. Shorten branches by onethird during or right after bloom. Long-lasting cut flowers. Drought tolerant.

Salvia buchananii

Rounded growth to 1–2 ft. high and wide, with widely spaced, glossy dark green, oval leaves to 2 in. long. Lax, 8–12-in. stems support drooping, 2-in., brilliant magenta flowers. Blooms in summer and fall, and sporadically in other seasons in milder part of range. Sets no seed; propagate from cuttings. Handsome in containers; winter it indoors in cold climates.

Salvia chamaedryoides

Rounded plant to 1–2 ft. tall, spreading 2–3 ft. or more by underground runners. Silvery, 3/4-in.-long leaves; brilliant true blue, 1-in. flowers on stems to 8 in. long. Heaviest bloom comes in late spring and fall, with intermittent flowering during rest of growing season.Deadhead to encourage rebloom. Elegant front-of-border plant. Drought tolerant but blooms longer and better with more water.

Chiapas Sage (S. chiapensis)
Chiapas Sage (S. chiapensis)

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Salvia chiapensis

Many 1-1/2 –2-ft. stems form a relaxed clump 3–4 ft. or more wide; growth is taller and laxer in shade. Evergreen, elliptical, glossy dark green leaves up to 3 in. long. Deep hot pink, 3/4-in. flowers in widely spaced whorls on stems to 1 ft. long; blooms from early summer through winter in frost-free area or greenhouse. Reseeds freely. Succeeds with moderate water but appreciates frequent wetting of leaves. Good ground cover for dryish shade; good in containers.

Cleveland sage (Salvia clevelandii)
Cleveland sage (Salvia clevelandii)

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Salvia clevelandii

Rounded, arching growth to 3–5 ft. high, 5–8 ft. wide. Wrinkled, toothed gray-green leaves to 2 in. long are elliptical or lance-shaped, deliciously fragrant. Foliage makes a refreshing tea and is also used as a preservative in potpourri. Fragrant, inch-long, pale lavender to violet-blue flowers in widely spaced whorls along 1/2 –2-ft. stems. Blooms in early summer; remove faded spikes to encourage rebloom. Drought tolerant.

Salvia coahuilensis, photo courtesy of Jennifer Cheung
Salvia coahuilensis, photo courtesy of Jennifer Cheung

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Salvia coahuilensis

Shrubby perennial. From the mountainsof Coahuila, Mexico. To2 1/2 ft. high and wide. Manyslender, upward-sweeping woodybranches, sparsely clothed withevergreen, 1-in., linear olivegreen leaves. Deep violet, 1-in.flowers appear on 3–5-in. stemsfrom early summer to frost, allyear in mild-winter climates;heaviest bloom in early summerand fall. Cut back to about 8 in.from ground in late winter. Moderatewater.

Salvia coccinea

Usually grown as an annual. Bushy, upright; to 2–3 ft. tall, 2 1/2 ft.wide. Dark green, hairy, oval to heartshaped leaves to 2 1/2 in. long. In summer, slender stems to 1 ft. long carry many 3/4–1-in. flowers with broad lower lip. Colors range from bright red through orange red to pink and white, including many bicolors. Widely used as bedding plant, border filler. Stems are brittle; shelter from wind. Deadhead to encourage rebloom. Naturalized and weedy in Hawaii.

Salvia dorrii

May have a rounded habit or form a spreading mat; grows 1–3 ft. high, 2–4 ft. wide. Branches densely clothed in gray, linear or spoon-shaped, 1/4–1 1/4-in. leaves. Blooms in late spring; each 1–2-ft.-long stem bears three to five widely spaced whorls of light to deep blue, 1-in. flowers with deep blue bracts and calyxes. Needs sandy soil, perfect drainage. Drought tolerant. Good in dry desert garden.

Salvia elegans

In the wild, this species is variable in habit, bloom time, leaf fragrance. The most commonly grown form, ‘Scarlet Pineapple’ (S. rutilans), grows upright to 3–4 ft. high and wide, with branching, brittle stems; in part shade, growth is lush and needs support. Densely hairy, bright green leaves to 4 in. long, broadly oval with pointed tip. Foliage has a strong aroma of ripe pineapple; used in cool drinks, fruit salads. Slender, 1/2 in., bright red flowers in loose clusters of 8–12 are carried on 6–8-in. stems. In mild-winter areas or indoors, blooms from late fall through spring; elsewhere, it is cut off by frost

Salvia farinacea 'Evolution'
Salvia farinacea 'Evolution'

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Salvia farinacea

Usually grown as annuals. Upright growth to 3–4 ft. tall, half as wide. Narrowly lance-shaped leaves to 3 in. long are smooth above, woolly white below. Tall, densely packed spikes of 3/4–1-in. flowers on stems 6– 12 in. long, late spring to frost. Blossom color varies from deep violet blue to white; cuplike calyxes are covered with white hairs, often have a blue or violet tinge. Many strains are sold for bedding and container use; typically have heavier bloom, better branching,more compact habit.

Salvia greggii

Rounded plant, branching from base; typically grows 1–4 ft. high and wide. Slender, hairy stems are closely set with glossy green, 3/4–1 1/4-in.-long leaves that vary in shape from rounded to linear. Blooms throughout summer and fall, bearing 1/4– 1-in. flowers on 3–6-in. stems, in colors ranging from deep purplish red through true red to various rose and pink shades to white. To keep plants tidy and free blooming, prune and remove dead flower stems frequently. Before new spring growth begins, shorten and shape plants, removing dead wood. Good low hedge. Be sure to give some shade in hottest areas.

Salvia guaranitica

Upright, branching plant to 4–5 ft. high and nearly as wide. Spreads by short underground runners; roots form tubers resembling small sausages. Narrowly heart-shaped, sparsely hairy, mint green leaves to 5 in. long. Blooms from early summer to frost. Most common form bears 2-in. cobalt blue blossoms, carried several to each foot-long stem; calyxes are bright green, turning purplish on sunny side. Needs support.Where it grows as a perennial, it gets woody by season’s end—but that wood dies during winter and must be cut back to ground. Elegant container plant.

Salvia involucrata

To 5–6 ft. high and wide, often in one season. Oval, minutely toothed, 5–6-in.-long, rich green leaves with purple undersides and midribs. Foot-long stems hold numerous clusters of three purplish red, 2-in. flowers enclosed by a pair of bright purplish rose bracts that fall just as flowers open. Blooms from mid- or late summer to midautumn. Good cut flowers. Usually evergreen in mild-winter climates. Does best with afternoon shade.

Salvia leucantha

Vigorous, upright, velvety plant to 3–4 ft. tall, 3–6 ft. or more wide; sprawls in bloom. Lance-shaped to linear, 5–6-in.-long leaves are dark grayish green above, whitish below. Stems to 1 ft. long bear whorls of 3/4–1 1/4-in. white flowers with purple calyxes. Bloom period runs from fall through spring in mildwinter areas, stops with frost in colder climates.

Salvia leucophylla

Graceful plant to 3–5 ft. high with equal or greater width; arching branches have upturned tips, root where they touch soil. Stems and foliage thickly covered with fine white hairs. Wrinkled, oblong to lanceshaped leaves to 3 in. long are apple green when they emerge, turn whiter as days get hotter. In spring, each 6–8-in. stem carries three to five tightly packed whorls of 1-in., pinkish purple flowers with gray calyxes.

Mexican sage (Salvia mexicana)
Mexican sage (Salvia mexicana)

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Salvia mexicana

Robust, erect growth to 10 ft. or taller, 3–5 ft. wide. Leaves to 6 in. long, typically elongated oval or heart shaped; they may be medium green and smooth above, fuzzy beneath, or gray to gray green and densely hairy on both sides. Pleasant pine fragrance. Tightly spaced whorls of 1–2 1/2 -in. flowers on 12–20-in.-long stems; blossoms are dark blue or violet with green or reddish purple calyxes. Blooms from early fall through spring in mild-winter climates; stops with hard frost elsewhere.

Salvia microphylla

Evergreen shrub. From southeastern Arizona through southern Mexico, with many local variant forms. Ranges from  at least 2 to 6 ft. high and almost twice as wide.

Salvia nemorosa
Salvia nemorosa

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Salvia nemorosa

To 1 1/2 – 3 ft. tall, spreading 2–3 ft.wide by rhizomes. Forms tight foliage rosette from which rise erect, branching flower stems. Wrinkled, dull green, finely toothed leaves are oval or lance-shaped. Lower leaves are stalked, to 4 in. long; upper ones are smaller, virtually stalkless, clasping flower stem. Sprawls if not supported. Stems 3–6 in. long hold 1/4 -in. flowers in violet, purple, pink, or white, with persistent violet, purple, or green bracts. Blooms summer through fall if spent stems are removed.

Salvia officinalis
Salvia officinalis

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Salvia officinalis

Traditional culinary and medicinal sage. To 1–3 ft. tall, 1–2 1/2 ft. wide; stems often root where they touch soil. Aromatic, oval to oblong,wrinkled, 2–3-in. leaves are gray green above, white and hairy beneath. Branching, 8–12- in. stems bear loose, spikelike clusters of 1-in. flowers in late spring, summer. Usual color is lavender blue, but violet, red violet, pink, and white forms exist. Delay pruning until new leaves begin to unfurl, then cut just above fresh growth; cutting into bare wood usually causes dieback.

Salvia patens

Upright to 2–3 ft. or taller, 1–2 ft.wide. Spreads slowly by tuberous roots. Arrow-shaped, toothed, softly hairy leaves are bright green, 2–4 in. long. Pairs of brilliant blue, 2-in. blossoms on 6– 15-in.-long stems; upper lip is hooded, lower one flared and ruffled. Bloom peaks in early summer but repeats through fall if plant is fertilized and deadheaded. Best in mixed plantings; not showy enough for bedding.

Salvia sclarea
Salvia sclarea

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Salvia sclarea

Foliage clump to 2–3 ft. wide. Oval to lance-shaped, 1– 1/2 -ft.-long, toothed, dull grayish green leaves are wrinkled, unpleasant smelling when bruised. In late spring or early summer, produces muchbranched 3–4-ft. flower stalks with 6–12-in. stems bearing whorls of two to six 1 1/4-in. flowers. Blossoms are typically lilac or lavender blue, with arched upper lip and creamcolored lower lip; large, aromatic, purplish or lilac-pink bracts remain showy for weeks after the flowers drop.

Salvia splendens
Salvia splendens

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Salvia splendens

Usually grown as an annual, the traditional bright scarlet bedding sage now comes in a range of colors, from vivid true red through salmon and pink to purple shades. White forms are also available. Plants vary in size from compact 1-ft. dwarfs to 3–4-ft. kinds. Leaves are bright green, heart shaped, 2–4 in. long. Blooms late spring or summer through fall (all year in mild-winter areas); 4–12-in. stems bear 2-in. flowers from 1-in. calyxes of same color. Can be ravaged by Mexican giant whitefly. Give afternoon shade in hottest climates.

Jamé Sage (Salvia x jamensis)
Jamé Sage (Salvia x jamensis)

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Salvia x jamensis

Plants sold under this name are hybrids involving S. greggii, S. microphylla, an unknown yellow- flowered species, and possibly other sages; they are found wild in Mexico. Habit varies from upright to horizontal, but plants are usually under 3 ft. tall, with fairly open branching; stems often root where they touch soil. Glossy green, oval to elliptical, toothed leaves 3/4–1 1/4 in. long. Stems 3–6 in. long bear 1– 3/4-in. flowers in many colors: violet, wine red, orange red, hot pink, coral, salmon, yellow, white, and bicolors. Best in moderate climates without extreme temperature swings. Drought tolerant but perform best with moderate water. Good houseplants for sunny spot.

Salvia x sylvestris

Like its parent S. nemorosa but more compact, with stems that are less leafy. Oblong to lance-shaped, medium green, scalloped leaves are wrinkled, softly hairy, to 3 in. long. Typically unbranched or fewbranched flowering stems to 6– 8 in. long, set with pinkish violet, 1-in. blossoms. White forms are also available. Blooms summer through fall if faded flowers are removed.

'Bee's Bliss'

Drought-tolerant hybrid between S. leucophylla and S. sonomensis. Grows 1– 1 1/2 ft. tall and spreads 4–6 ft. wide, with narrow, soft-looking, gray-green leaves. Whorled spikes of lavender-blue flowers are held above the foliage from spring into summer. Good on slopes, spilling over rock wall. Little to moderate water; avoid overhead irrigation, which encourages powdery mildew.

'Indigo Spires'

Can build up to a sprawling 6–7 ft. by 10 ft. but is easily kept to 3–4 ft. high, 2–3 ft. wide with support and selective pruning. Soft, silky, oval to oblong leaves (to 6 in. long near base of plant, shorter higher up) have a grayish sheen above, are white and woolly beneath. Narrow, twisted spikes of closely spaced, Í-in., violet-blue flowers can reach 3 ft. or longer. Blooms from early summer to frost (almost all year in mildest climates). Indigo calyxes are colorful long after blossoms fall. Excellent cut flowers. Top growth damaged by frost.

'Purple Majesty'

To 3 ft. tall, 4 ft.wide. Hybrid of Salvia guaranitica, with leaves of a yellower green; brilliant royal purple flowers with violet-black calyxes.Blooms from summer until frost in colder climates, nearly all year in mild-winter regions (where it is evergreen).

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