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Salvia mellifera

Black Sage, Honey Sage

Evergreen, Shrubs, Flowers


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 mellifera

Evergreen shrub, native to coastal California and Baja California. Grows to 3–6 ft. tall and 3–5 ft. or more wide; upright to spreading. Oblong to lance-shaped, deeply veined, aromatic leaves; olive-tinged dark green above, woolly gray beneath. In late spring, bears tightly packed whorls of whitish or lavender-tinged flowers less than 1/2 in. long on 8–16-in.-long stems. Not spectacular-looking, but butterflies and bees love it. Good cover for dry banks. Drought-tolerant. Will stand some shade.

‘Green Carpet’ grows to 30 in. high and 6 ft. wide, with blue flowers. ‘Terra Seca’ is an extra-tough variety that grows to 2 ft. high and more than 6 ft. wide.

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