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 nemorosa
Perennial, from eastern Europe and eastward to central Asia. Grows to 1 1/2–3 ft. tall, spreading 2–3 ft. wide by rhizomes. Forms a 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 1/4–1/2-in. flowers in violet, purple, pink, or white, with persistent violet, purple, or green bracts. Blooms summer through fall if spent stems are removed.
‘Caradonna’ has violet blossoms. ‘Ostfriesland’ (‘East Friesland’) has intense violet-blue flowers. ‘Rosenwein’ has rose-hued blossoms. There are also several compact selections. ‘Marcus’ has intensely violet flowers on plants 12 in. high and 18 in. wide. Sensation series is about the same size; Sensation Rose is among the most popular, with pink flowers.
These grow to 15–28 in. high and flower with tall beardeds, usualy in May. Their small flowers a...
Native to Texas and New Mexico. Grows to 2–3 ft. tall and 1 1/2 ft. wide. Blooms heavily, bearin...
Vivid magenta-red flowers on fast-growing stems up to 12 ft. long.