Sage is a perennial plant and grows about 60 cm (2 feet) tall. The oval leaves are rough or wrinkled and usually downy; the color ranges from gray-green to whitish green, and some varieties are variegated. The flowers are borne in spikes and feature tubular two-lipped corollas that are attractive to a variety of pollinators, including bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. The flowers can be purple, pink, white, or red and produce nutlet fruits.
Sage is native to the Mediterranean region and is used fresh or dried as a flavoring in many foods, particularly in stuffing for poultry and pork and in sausages. Some varieties are also grown as ornamentals for their attractive leaves and flowers.
Sage has a strong flavor with a slightly lemony and camphor-like taste. When heated during cooking, sage’s flavor becomes more pronounced. Used fresh, you can add it to salads, soups, marinades, breads, omelets and as part of a poultry stuffing. If you dry your sage or use dried sage, the flavor will be more pronounced. Because of its strong flavor, sage holds up well to fatty or rich foods such as sausage or meat pies.
Types/Varieties of Sage Plants
1. White Sage (Salvia apiana)
Salvia apiana, the white sage, bee sage, or sacred sage is an evergreen perennial shrub that grows rapidly to 3 or 4 feet tall, with white flower spikes shooting up sometimes 8 feet or more. The leaves (about 1.5-3 inches long) are covered with dense hairs, which give them a white coloring, sometimes with a bluish tint.
Younger leaves tend to be greener, and turn whiter as they get older. Each flower spikes bears ~100 white flowers with tiny lavender spots and streaks. From a few feet away, the white flowers sometimes appear to have a purplish tint. White sage is strongly aromatic, with a powerful and slightly acrid sage smell.
2. Sonoma Sage (Salvia sonomensis)
Sonoma Sage also referred to as Creeping Sage is a mat-forming sub-shrub with stems growing no more about 40 centimeters high. The leaves are about 3-6 centimeters long and.5 to 1.5 centimeters wide; they are hairy, the upper surface with minute hairs, and the lower surface so densely covered with re-curved hairs that it looks white.
The flower clusters are scapose, with clusters 1 to 1.5 centimeter wide. The flowers range in color from white to blue, lilac and purple. It is moderately drought tolerant if given some shade. It is sensitive to heat and direct sun; leaf drop is an indication of too much sun or heat or inadequate moisture. In suitable growing conditions it will form a mat up to 15 ft. wide while remaining about 1 ft. high.
3. Thunder Cloud Sage (Leucophyllum candidum)
This stunning, irregular-shaped shrub grows five feet high and four to five feet wide with small, hairy, silvery white foliage. The stems are twiggy when young and become woodier with age. Small clusters of bluish-violet blooms appear in abundance after the summer monsoon and again in the fall. It may bloom periodically after a hard rain. The plant can be used as a hedge, screen, or backdrop in medians, along roadways, in parking lots, and in masses for color display.
4. Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans)
Pineapple sage earns its common name from the fragrance of its crushed flowers and foliage. The sage has a clumping habit, growing 3 to 4 feet tall and spreading about 2 feet, with green, ovate, hairy-feeling leaves. In summer through fall, long flower spikes form that fill with two-lipped scarlet flowers. The flowers and leaves are edible.
Pineapple sage has a moderate tolerance to drought once established but performs best planted in well-drained fertile soils with regular water applications. Grow pineapple sage as either an annual or grow it in containers and bring it indoors during winter.
5. Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha)
The colorful herbaceous plant grows in a mounded shape to 4 feet tall and wide with willowy, slender, arching stems that have soft, grayish-green to silvery, wrinkled-looking foliage. In late summer through the first frost, it produces elongated, lavender clusters that attract hummingbirds. The purple clusters send out white, tubular flowers that extend beyond the plant to create an amazing landscape accent.
The plant can be used as a summer and early fall color accent plant, and as a border, foundation, or background plant. Also it can be planted around pools, ponds, and water features in English and perennial gardens. In the landscape, it can be planted next to yellow or orange lantana for an interesting contrast.
6. Hummingbird Sage (Salvia spathacea)
The Hummingbird sage is a small ground hugging perennial typically growing 12-18 inch tall and can form small groups and spread many feet across. Large textured leaves grow 4-6 inch long; vigorous spikes with colorful deep magenta-red flowers occur in early spring.
When not flowering, plants grow less than 12 inch tall forming clumps of sprawling foliage. Unlike most sages, the flowering stems are produced singularly from each plant and only rarely branch. It commonly grows on shady slopes in oak woodland, chaparral, and coastal sage scrub.
It spreads by rhizomes and can form colonies up to 1.2 meters in diameter. The entire plant is covered with wavy glandular hairs. Its bright green leaves are highly aromatic when crushed or touched. They are oblong to almost arrowhead-shaped at the base, and can be puckered with wrinkles, and have rounded teeth at the leaf edges. The leaves are also covered with hairs which make the plant soft to the touch. The hairs tend to be denser on the bottom surface of the leaves.
7. Canary Island sage (Salvia canariensis)
The Canary Island sage is large and robust mounding shrub that quickly reaches 6-8 ft. tall and up to 10 ft. wide. Distinctive arrowhead shape leaves are pale green; dense hairs occur on the underside of leaves and on stems. Colorful purple flowers and deep magenta calyces develop on tall panicles for a bold display in early to mid spring.
Canary Island sage is both a large and colorful plant. The combination of purple flowers and magenta calyces produce a bold display of color; foliage is a striking silvery-white that provides year round interest. This is a fast growing and short-lived species that is best suited to background and border areas and as a temporary color accent plant as other parts of the garden mature.
8. Jerusalem Sage (Phlomis fruticosa)
Jerusalem sage is a fast-growing, warm-season plant that reaches 3-4 feet tall with an equal spread. The semi-woody evergreen plant has fuzzy, grayish-green, textured leaves and bright yellow, wooly blossoms in late spring through early summer.
The blooms form a cluster of rings around the stems on a vertical stalk arranged with one flower on top of another, producing an interesting effect. Its flowers attract butterflies and hummingbirds. The plant can be used in a herb garden as an accent, in raised planters or containers, or in vegetable gardens.
9. Greek Sage (Salvia fruticosa)
Greek sage grows between 2-3 feet high and wide, with the flower stalks rising 1 feet or more above the foliage. The entire plant is covered with hairs, with numerous leaves of various sizes growing in clusters, giving it a silvery and bushy appearance. The flowers are pinkish-lavender, about 5 inches long, growing in whorls along the inflorescence, and held in a small oxblood-red five-pointed hairy calyx.
10. Grape-Scented Sage (Salvia melissodora)
Salvia melissodora (Grape-scented sage) is a woody shrub that grows up to 6 feet high and 4 feet wide, with a graceful and upright habit. Its ovate leaves are mid-green on the upper side, with prominent veins on the lower surface that stand out due to the chamois-colored hairs that cover them. The partially dry leaves give off a pleasant fragrance, while the flowers are frequently described as grape-scented.
The short inflorescences have several whorls each, with flowers that are violet-lavender on the upper lip and pale lavender on the lower lip and back of the upper lip. The flowers are full of nectar, and attract bees, butterflies, insects, and hummingbirds from late spring until frost.
11. Cleveland Sage (Salvia clevelandii)
Cleveland Sage also referred to as Blue sage or Fragrant sage is a small, beautiful, fast growing and highly aromatic species. The entire plant is grey-green in color and covered with wavy glandular hairs. It has wrinkly leather-textured leaves with tiny ridged teeth along the edges and it bears plentiful rounded flower clusters of tubular lavender to dark purple flowers with long stamens.
Cultivars and hybrids include: ‘Winnifred Gilman’, a popular cultivar with intense violet-blue flowers. ‘Betsy Clebsch’, a shorter cultivar with wide variation in flower color. ‘Allen Chickering’, ‘Aromas’, ‘Pozo Blue’, ‘Santa Cruz Dark’, and ‘Whirly Blue’ are hybrids with similar appearance.
12. Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea)
Salvia sclarea, the clary or clary sage, is a biennial or short-lived herbaceous perennial rows 3 to 4 feet in height, with thick square stems that are covered in hairs. The leaves are approximately 1 feet long at the base, 5 feet long higher on the plant. The upper leaf surface is rugose, and covered with glandular hairs.
The flowers are in verticils, with 2-6 flowers in each verticil, and are held in large colorful bracts that range in color from pale mauve to lilac or white to pink with a pink mark on the edge. The lilac or pale blue corolla is approximately 1 inch, with the lips held wide open. Its cultivar S. sclarea ‘Turkestanica’ bears pink stems, petiolate leaves, and white, pink-flecked blossoms on spikes to 30 inches tall.
13. Black Sage (Salvia mellifera)
Black sage also referred to as Blackcurrant Sage grows quickly up to 3 feet in height, but mature specimens can reach up to 6 feet in height and 10 feet in width. The plant has attractive dark green leaves, with raised texture that looks somewhat like a fingerprint pattern when viewed closely. The leaves are 1-3 inches long. The upper surface of the leaf is somewhat smooth, while the lower surface of the leaf is hairy.
It is semi-deciduous, depending on the location and severity of drought. Leaves curl during the summer drought instead of dropping off. The plant is highly aromatic. Flower occurs in 1.5-5 inch wide clusters. Flower colors vary from white, to pale blue, to lavender, or rarely to pale rose color. The plant flowers are an important food source for butterflies and hummingbirds. The seeds are an important food for quail and other birds. Black sage is able to grow on a variety of different soils, including sandstone, shale, granite, serpentinite, and gabbro or basalt.
14. Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii)
Autumn Sage is a small, evergreen shrub that grows to about 3 feet tall and wide. Its small, dark green leaves have a slightly sticky coating. Showy, 1 inch long flowers appear on 6-10 inch long spikes in the spring, summer and fall. The flowers are borne on racemes from spring to frost and can be red, pink, purple, orange, or white.
The color of its blossoms in the wild is usually red but varies from area to area, with some regions dominated by red-blooming plants, others pink, others orange, others purple, and others white, plus many shades in between. The color range has been further enhanced by breeding, resulting in many cultivars over the years. It is disease and insect free and drought tolerant, and once established, should not be fertilized.
The hot pink and the fuschia flowering varieties are the most heat tolerant. Its compact size, rich green leaves, long bloom period and profusion of hummingbird attracting flowers have made this little shrub a mainstay in many gardens. Autumn Sage can be used in container gardens, planters or as a border for landscape color.
15. Anise-Scented Sage (Salvia guaranitica)
Salvia guaranitica, the anise-scented sage also referred to as Brazilian sage is a perennial sub-shrub growing 4 to 5 feet tall, spreading into a large patch through its spreading roots. The leaves are ovate with a fresh mint green color, and an anise scent when crushed.
The inflorescences are up to 9.8 in long with flowers in various shades of blue, including an uncommonly true blue. In cold regions, flowering begins in mid summer and continues until frost. This perennial plant is ideal at the back of the border and mixes wonderfully with the vibrant, hot colors of other perennials such as Crocosmia and Redbeckia or annuals (Zinnia).
16. Common Garden Sage (Salvia officinalis)
The common sage also referred to as golden sage, kitchen sage, true sage, culinary sage is a bushy, shrublike plant that reaches a mature height of about 3 feet if left untrimmed. It has simple, slightly hairy, silvery green leaves on short stalks and generally blooms from April to July. Its flowers are small, whitish-lavender, with long, distinctive stamens. Seeds that follow the flowers are edible and traditionally toasted, then ground to make a mush or added to cereals or soaked overnight and added to juices.
The plant’s aromatic leaves can be chopped and added to cooked dishes as a flavoring. This particular sage has soft leaves that can be used fresh or dried. It is also known to attract beneficial insects, which are attracted to its purple-blue or whitish lavender flowers.
Cultivars are quite variable in size, leaf and flower color, and foliage pattern, with many variegated leaf types. Modern cultivars include leaves with purple, rose, cream, and yellow in many variegated combinations.
17. Woodland Sage (Salvia nemorosa)
Salvia nemorosa, the woodland sage, Balkan clary, or wild sage is a clump-forming deciduous perennial . The violet-blue flowers appear on dense spike-like racemes from June to September. Flowers are attractive to bees and butterflies. It is useful in a pollinator garden, cottage garden or along walkways and small spaces.
This is an easy plant to grow in full sun to partial shade in average, moist, well-drained soil. It prefers sandy or gravelly soil but tolerates most well-drained soils.
18. Fragrant Pitcher Sage (Lepechinia fragrans)
Fragrant Pitcher Sage is a flowering herbaceous shrub also referred to as island pitchersage and fragrant pitchersage. It grows up to 3-5 feet tall and 3-6 feet wide; and is covered with fine hairs for a fuzzy character, and produces colorful dark to light purple flowers in the spring. Its flowers are borne in racemes instead of in mintlike whorls. Crushed foliage releases a pleasing fragrant scent.
It is a good understory companion plant among Western sycamore and Western redbud trees, ribes, coral bells and Douglas iris. Its fast growth and attractiveness to hummingbirds make it key part of this woodland style landscape. It is commonly found in open areas in chaparral, in dry ravines, on rocky slopes and ridgetops, between 60 and 1100 meters.
19. Mealy Cup Sage (Salvia farinacea)
Mealycup sage, also commonly known as Victoria blue salvia, is a perennial plant valued for the deep blue flowers that run up and down its showy spikes. Mealy cup sage gets its common name from the powdery meal, or dust, that covers the cup-shaped flowers.
Like other salvias, mealycup sage has the familiar fragrant, lance-shaped leaves and spikes of colorful lobed flowers. However, the leaves of mealycup sage are not fuzzy or thick like many other sage plants—instead; they are shiny, elongated, and slightly serrated with a hint of gray on the underside.
Mealycup sage is normally planted in spring and will grow quickly, flowering within about four months. As a perennial, it lasts about five years before it dies back and needs to be re-propagated.
20. Scarlet Sage (Salvia splendens)
A familiar plant, scarlet sage, also known simply as red salvia, is technically a tropical perennial, but it’s more commonly grown as an annual. The species has bright scarlet flowers, but there are also cultivars that offer white, salmon, pink, lavender, burgundy, and orange blossoms. This sage plant blooms from June all the way to frost.
Native to Brazil, stunning red salvia flowers form a striking accent when massed together as bedding plants or lined up in a row as edging plants. They are also popular in container gardens, where they can serve as a vertical accent. Best planted in mid-spring, red salvia will grow quickly, eventually reaching heights of 18 to 30 inches at maturity.
21. Diviner’s Sage (Salvia divinorum)
Diviner’s sage, known among its enthusiasts simply as “salvia,” is rarely grown as an ornamental. While it has attractive purple flowers, the plants don’t bloom readily, and the stalks are prone to breaking. But this salvia is nonetheless very popular among certain individuals, thanks to a substance contained in the leaves that produces hallucinations.
The plant has a long history of use by shamans of the Mazatec tribes of southern Mexico, who used the leaves to produce a potion used in divination ceremonies. Salvia divinorum has been made illegal or its sale/distribution restricted in many countries around the world. It has also been placed amongst the most serious narcotics category, alongside heroin and cocaine.
22. Texas Sage (Salvia coccinea)
Texas sage is a red-flowered salvia. It’s most commonly grown as a perennial in warm climates but can also be used as an annual if seeds are started indoors six to eight weeks before the last frost. This plant can eventually grow to around 6 feet tall. The older it gets, the more intensely it blooms.
Salvia coccinea and its hybrids are the mainstays of bedding salvias. They are especially valuable in summer and autumn gardens for their heat-resistance, and their ability to grow in full sun or partial shade. New shades of cream, salmon, pink, wine, lavender and purple are often easier to place among other flowers than the fire-engine red hybrid.