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 sclarea
Biennial or short-lived perennial, from southern Europe and southwestern and central Asia. Foliage clump to 2–3 ft. wide. Oval to lance-shaped, 1–1 1/2-ft.-long, toothed, dull grayish green leaves are wrinkled; unpleasant smelling when bruised. In late spring or early summer, produces much-branched 3–4-ft. flower stalks with 6–12-in. stems bearing whorls of two to six 1 1/4-in. flowers. Blossoms are typically lilac or lavender blue, with an arched upper lip and a cream-colored lower lip; large, aromatic, purplish or lilac-pink bracts remain showy for weeks after the flowers drop.
Native to Texas and New Mexico. Grows to 2–3 ft. tall and 1 1/2 ft. wide. Blooms heavily, bearin...
Gray-green, 2–5-in.-wide rosettes spread quickly to form clumps to 2 ft. or wider. Leaves have r...
Native to the mountains of Europe. Known for their tightly packed rosettes of fleshy, evergreen leaves...