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 involucrata
Grows to 5–6 ft. tall 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.
Native to China and northern India. Grows to 30–50 ft. tall and wide, with an irregular habit. R...
Grows to 5 ft. tall and wide, with small, silvery leaves and deep purple flowers. ‘Silver Cloud&...
Grows to 3 ft. high and wide, with gray-green, slightly cupped leaves and light blue flowers. ‘C...