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Salvia dorrii

Desert Sage, Great Basin Blue Sage
Lamiaceae (Labiatae)
Evergreen, Shrubs


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 dorrii

Evergreen shrub, native to high deserts from Washington and Idaho south to California and Arizona. May have a rounded habit or form a spreading mat; grows to 1–3 ft. tall and 2–4 ft. wide. Branches are 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 and perfect drainage. Drought-tolerant. Good in dry desert gardens.

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