By now we should all know that there seem to be an infinite number of species of sage at the local garden center. But what exactly are sage plants? Are they all part of the desert landscape or mugwort on the prairie?
Fortunately, there's a lot more to sage than meets the eye. Some of them are tasty additives as fresh or dried herbs. They were used by tribal groups as part of traditional medicines. Many of them make great bait for butterflies or other pollinators, and they are staples in pollinator gardens.
Because of the diversity of this species, there is no way to treat all forms of sage in a single plant. So let's start by narrowing down the category in one botanical way: the Salvias, of which there are many.
What is sage
Many types of sage attract beneficial pollinators. Source: starmist1
The plant genus Salvia is the largest in the Lamiaceae family. Mints and many other forms of culinary herbs also belong to this family of plants, but the Salvia species are above the others.
But before you harvest that wild mugwort brush, you need to know that there are many non-salvias known as sage. Most of them are called mugwort in some way, and most of these species actually belong to the genus Artemesia and are more closely related to wormwood.
What exactly is sage? For most, that's just in the Salvia genus, a collection of more than a thousand annuals and perennials that range from herbaceous and deep-set herbs to large shrubs. Some remain compact and small; other varieties are massive, with a plant reaching eight or nine feet in height.
Not all sage is edible. Some varieties are purely decorative, but are great for pollinator gardens. If you need to trick bees into pollinating other plants, adding one of these inedible sages can do the trick.
Most of us think of roughly oval leaves with a tip that is a bit thick and sometimes looks almost fuzzy. That describes the most common culinary varieties of sage, but these plants offer a lot more. They bloom in a wide variety of colors. Their leaves could be silver gray, deep forest green, or even purple or yellow. They make an excellent addition as both ornamental and kitchen plants, and I can't imagine why people don't always want sage in their gardens!
Culinary sage types
The most famous sage is what is known as common sage. Salvia officinalis makes up most of what the home herb gardener could get started with.
However, we are not limited to just that. Let's go over a collection of culinary delights that will pamper your palate while creating a vibrant and beautiful display in the garden!
Sage, Salvia officinalis. Source: Tgrauros
Imagine what you see in the supermarket in the fresh herb aisle as sage and maybe think about it sage, also called culinary sage or Garden sage. It is usually light green in color, perhaps with the slightest hint of silver when fresh. When cut and dried, it looks practically indistinguishable from other herbs, and the powder form has a faint greenish hue.
But did you know that sage leaves can be bright gold or purple or deep green on white? In addition, their flowers can be edible and make a good side dish or a splash of color in a salad. Of the types of sage we cover, this culinary herb is one of the most diverse in the best way.
There are dozens of varieties of Salvia officinalis. With all of these different varieties of sage, it can be difficult to make a choice, but all of these sage plants are widely used varieties:
- Berggarten: Produces showy swirls of lavender blue flowers in late spring.
- Bicolor Icterina: The leaves are two-colored, with cream-colored edges and silvery-green centers.
- Curly: As the name suggests, this one has distinctive curly, wavy leaves.
- Dwarf green: Tightly compact version of the species, sometimes referred to as "minimus"
- Golden Sage: A golden-leaved variety, also known as "Aurea".
- Breeder's friend: Non-flowering, with red stems and medium green, upright leaves.
- Holt's Mammoth: Very similar to the base Salvia officinalis, but with huge leaves.
- Pink Flower: This variety is also known as "Rosea" and produces pink flowers instead of lavender blue.
- Purpurea: Also known as "Purpurescens" or "Purple Sage", with bright purple leaves.
- Tricolor Sage: The leaves are marbled gray-green, white, and purplish-pink and stunning.
- White margin: A deep green center of the leaf with strong white margins, very pretty.
- Window box: stays under one foot high, but works well as a container plant.
There are also some notable subspecies. Of these, the most important to me is Salvia officinalis ssp. lavandulifolia, commonly called Spanish sage. This subspecies has a much milder taste than most of the above varieties and lacks the camphor-like notes of typical Salvia officinalis.
Learn more: Common sage
Pineapple sage, Salvia elegans. Source: BudOhio
Most people know this as Pineapple sage. Like Officinalis, this species of sage has a number of varieties that have gained popularity. For the most part, these are known for their fruity aroma and a hint of citrus flavor.
Some have colorful foliage. Others have distinctive, incredible edible flowers. All of them are stunning and unusual compared to what we can find on the mega mart.
Here are some of the different varieties of sage from the Salvia elegans variety collection:
- Elk Sonoran Red: This has the aroma of pineapple but bright scarlet flowers.
- Frieda Dixon: Salmon pink flowers in late autumn make this variety a popular variety.
- Golden Delicious: purple flowers over light golden foliage, very showy.
- Honeydew melon: tubular scarlet flowers and a sweet tangerine aroma.
- Pineapple: Medium red flowers and a pineapple aroma and taste in the leaves.
- Mandarin: citrus scent with deep red flowers and a very compact size.
The Sage with a grape scent, sometimes called Grape sageis a lesser known tea herb. Both its leaves and flowers are used in teas as a spark of unusual taste. The flowers themselves have a freesia-like aroma and can be used as an edible side dish.
Greek sage, Salvia fruticosa. Source: Scott Zona
If you go to the main aisle of your grocery store and look for sage, most of the time you will spot this. Greek sage is the most common form of dried culinary sage for sale. As you can imagine, this can be confusing to people as their garden sage never tastes the same as it does in the store. But we can calm this confusion now!
The young, tender shoots or leaves are used to add flavor to food and, like its relative Salvia melissordora, it is used to make teas. Greek sage is considered popular abroad Faskomilo tea.
Clary sage, Salvia sclarea. Source: Wallygrom
Clary sage also has edible flowers and leaves, but is probably best known as the sage that your grandmother's blouse smelled like. It has been used for centuries as a dried bundle in dressers or swimming trunks to enhance clothing with its balsamic scent.
Clary sage is not drought tolerant like other forms of sage and likes even and regular watering and cooler conditions. It's usually a biennium but can be a tender perennial in cool climates.
Fruit-scented sage, Salvia dorisiana. Source: KHQ Flower Guide
The Sage with a fruit scent, also just called Fruit sagecomes from Central America. The fragrant pink flowers are show-stoppers and delicious, and the large leaves make it easy to harvest for drying and storage.
Grapefruit sage, Salvia gesneriifolia. Source: Erick Lux
Sure, you could eat the leaves off Grapefruit sage if you want; They are quite similar to other culinary ways. But where it stands out are its flowers. These large, juicy flowers are full of sweet nectar. Not only do they attract pollinators, but they're delicious, plucked straight from the plant and popped in your mouth!
South African sage, Salvia lanceolata. Source: Scott Zona
This is unique South African sage has a taste that is reminiscent of lemon and pepper. It is markedly different from other sorts in this taste and is the perfect free seasoning for fish dishes.
Black currant sage, Salvia microphylla. Source: M. Martin Vicente
In Mexico this is called the way mirto de monteswhich translated means myrtle of the mountains. But everywhere else it says Sage with black currants or Graham's sage. It has a taste similar to black currant when made into a tea. While it can be used for non-tea purposes, it is often used in desserts.
White sage, Salvia apiana. Source: John Rusk
We have looked at growing this tribal favorite extensively in the past. But yes, white sage is in fact edible and is delicious. Its taste is a bit more pine-like than most other culinary sages and can be an incredible addition to your herb and spice collection. I use it more often than common sage, but that's because I really like its taste! Remember to keep it in well-drained soil and full sun for optimal growth.
Learn more: White sage
Salvia hispanica and Salvia columbariae
Golden Chia, Salvia columbariae. Source: Juniperus_scopulorum
Every time you've grown one of those stupid chia heads, you've grown a type of sage. The same applies to the chia seeds, which we like to mix in our oatmeal flour overnight.
Salvia hispanica is known as Mexican chia. It doesn't grow because of its leaves, just because of its hydrophilic seeds. When the seed is exposed to moisture, it forms a gel around itself. This makes it especially popular with overnight oatmeal, smoothies, and so much more!
Salvia columbariae is Chia, golden chia, Chia desert, or Chia sage depending on who you ask. This yearbook is also grown for its seeds and grows in the southwestern deserts of the United States. Chia was an important source of food for Indian tribes in the area, each with their own name. It was called pashiiy among the Tongva (Gabrieleno). The Ventureño Chumash called it Chia it & # 39; epeš. There were many other names for this useful and nutritious seed as well.
There are two subspecies of golden chia, both of which are used similarly to the base variety:
- Salvia columbariae var. Columbariae: This is called Chia or California sage.
- Salvia columbariae var. Ziegleri: Is referred to as Ziegler's sage.
Ornamental sage types
Not all types of sage are edible. And while you're happy to grow a variety of culinary sage plants, there are also many different types with gorgeous flower tips, bright red or pink or blue flowers, and much more. Remember that the Salvia genus contains over a thousand plants and you don't have to limit yourself to the color you find in the edible varieties!
So let's discuss some of the decorative sage plants that will attract all of your beneficial insects, bring your sage garden to life, and make it explode in seasonal colors.
An immense plant that Shrimp sage can reach up to 8 feet high and wide. Its name actually comes from the unusual flowers it produces, as they resemble bright red shrimp heads. The fragrant plant blooms from midsummer to the autumn months.
Salvia haenkei is a drought tolerant species that is somewhat difficult to grow. Provide it with even and regular soil moisture and it will be happier. It's also not cold tolerant and works best in USDA Zones 9-11 in partially shaded locations.
Sonoma sage, Salvia sonomensis. Source: John Rusk
This California perennial is called Sonoma sage is most common in chaparral plant environments. The plant itself rarely grows over a meter tall and is considered a shrub. However, it sets purple or blue flowers on spines proudly above its foliage and is rapidly gaining popularity in areas where it normally performs best.
In the wild, it grows in chaparral environments at the foot of the foothills and is common along the coast from Monterey to San Diego. It can also be found along the California coast from Napa County to Siskyou County, as well as in the Sierra foothills. It is good to grow and a white flowery strain has been developed along with its other blue or purple tones.
Learn more: Sonoma Sage
Fall sage, Salvia greggii. Source: douneika
Fall sage usually likes higher elevations and its natural habitat extends from Texas to Mexico through the Chihuahuan Desert. It lends itself well to growing as a low hedge or shrub, usually no taller than 2 to 3 feet.
The leaves have a minty aroma and flowers of different colors appear, from red and pink to oranges and purples. It's also a low maintenance plant because it's drought tolerant, usually pest or disease free, and doesn't like being fertilized. It prefers well-drained soils and although it can be used culinary, it is mainly grown as an ornamental plant.
Hummingbird sage, Salvia guaranitica. Source: douneika
Full sun to three-quarter sun is ideal for Hummingbird sage, sometimes called Sage with an anise scent due to the aroma of its leaves. This beautiful plant is annual in most areas, but can be a delicate perennial in warmer climates.
It produces beautiful deep blue tubular flowers with purple-blue calyxes that are perfect for drawing in hummingbirds. Dark green leaves extend from square dark green stems that are approximately 3 feet long annually. When grown as a perennial, they can grow up to 5 to 6 feet in length, and the plant can be a key feature of the proper garden.
Mexican bush sage, Salvia leucantha. Source: Eric Hunt
Often referred to as Mexican bush sageThis herbaceous perennial is native to subtropical and tropical parts of Mexico. The medium green leaves and stems are somewhat compact and rarely protrude more than 2 to 3 feet from the base of the plant.
Salvia leucantha is known for its long and curved inflorescences. These flowers have white tips that drop into a tubular lavender calyx, and they produce bright colors that will seduce bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies all late summer. They prefer evenly moist soils and offer a pretty floral show when in bloom!
Salvia van houtteii
Beautiful burgundy or wine red flowers are the norm for this type of garden sage. The plants themselves are adorned with medium green leaves that are deer tolerant and can withstand the occasional nibble. But it is these stunning, vivid color hanging flower tips that are mentioned the most often as they are really gorgeous.
A good plant for a lightly shaded environment that Burgundy scarlet sage can be found in zones 7 and above. It is not a drought tolerant variety and prefers uniform moisture and well-drained soil.
Cleveland sage, Salvia clevelandii. Source: anthony_mendoza
Blue sage, sometimes called Cleveland sage or Jim Sageis a perennial native to Southern California. It's popular throughout the Southwest and has been grown since the 1940s. There are many different types. It can reach 4 to 5 feet in height and width, and its ash-green leaves are distinguished by other darker hues.
These flowers bloom in a vortex on their peduncles, with tubular lavender or amethyst flowers breaking out of the circular shape. These plants are excellent pollinators and prefer well-drained and slightly sandy soils.
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