Thought of as drought-tolerant shrubs in much of the West, this huge genus—the largest in the mint family—includes many species of shrubs and perennials that need moderate to regular water. In recent years, scores of new species and selections have appeared in Western nurseries, many tender varieties that are even being offered as annuals in cold-winter climates. 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.
Nurseries in the West offer nearly 100 species as well as dozens of selections and hybrids. Names are often confused; S. x jamensis varieties are often assigned to S. greggii; and S. nemorosa varieties are often interchanged with S. x superba and S. x sylvestris varieties.Salvia blepharophylla
Shrubby perennial, from northeastern Mexico. Grows to 1 1/2–2 ft. tall, spreading 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 the season goes on. Blooms from spring to frost, nearly all year in mild-winter climates. If confined, makes a good groundcover in partial shade.
Shrubby perennial, from northeastern Mexico. Grows to 1 1/2–2 ft. tall, spreading indefinitely b...
Australian native to 15 ft. tall and wide, with dark green, needlelike, 3/4-in.-long leaves. Pale...
Dense, compact habit with mint green evergreen leaves irregularly edged with creamy white. Low mainten...