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 patens
Perennial, from central Mexico. Upright to 2–3 ft. or taller and 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 is 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.
Perennial, from central Mexico. Upright to 2–3 ft. or taller and 1–2 ft.wide. Spreads slow...
Hybrids between the P. aequalis and P. capensis. ‘African Queen’ ha...
More open and sprawling than P. aequalis, with loose clusters of orange to red flowers. ...