Salvia chamaedryoides, better known as German sage, Mexican blue sage, or blue oak sage, is a versatile ornamental shrub with the most vibrant, true blue flowers that will grab any gardener's attention.
It is native to the Chihuahuan Desert, 7,000 feet above sea level in Mexico's Sierra Madre. It's a pretty extreme environment. How can this perennial salvia grow in our gardens? Don't let its dry origins put you off!
Salvia chamaedryoides has adapted to a wide variety of climates and is native to all of Europe, North America, and California in particular. It's easy to grow and will attract a wide variety of butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds to your yard. What do i dislike
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Brief instructions for care
Salvia Chamaedryoides is a wonderful attractant for butterflies and bees. Source: TJ Gehling
|Common names||German sage, Mexican blue sage, blue oak sage|
|Scientific name||Salvia chamaedryoides|
|Height & Spread||12-18in tall, 3-4ft wide|
|light||Full sun, partial shade|
|ground||Well-drained, calcareous, sandy, loamy|
|water||Low water requirement, drought tolerant|
|Pests & Diseases||Aphids, spider mites, snails, slugs, powdery mildew|
Everything about Germander Sage
German sage can make a lovely border plant for a food garden. Source: kultivar413
The botanical name for Germander Sage is Salvia chamaedryoides. Kind of like a tongue twister. To help you out, we've broken it down for you. SAL-vee-uh, came-ay-dry-OY-deez. Chamae comes from the Greek word chamai and means "dwarf" or "on the ground", which reflects the low growth habit of this shrub.
Salvia is the largest genus in the mint family, Lamiaceae, with nearly 1000 different species of annual and perennial herbs, woody herbs, ornamental shrubs, or sub-shrubs. Salvia chamaedryoides is typical of the genus. It is an evergreen, ornamental woody shrub or ground cover with small, rounded, silver gray / green aromatic foliage half an inch in length.
Both leaves and stems have a silvery, downy appearance and a fuzzy texture. Small showy blue flowers with broad lips appear on terminal spikes and bloom from early summer to mid-autumn in hotter climates and from late summer to early autumn in temperate zones. It grows in compact low mounds 12 to 18 inches high and 3 to 4 feet wide, and branches outward from a spreading rootstock.
Originally from Mexico, it was introduced to Europe in the 19th century and found its way back across the Atlantic to North America in the 1980s. It's popular in drought-resistant Xeriscape gardens in California. The bright blue flowers exude an otherwise dry landscape, the blue flower color is a well-known magnet for native pollinating insects, especially butterflies and hummingbirds.
Lack of space? This plant grows well in pots. Just make sure you recreate the natural conditions with well-drained soil and full sun. Large pots with a size of at least 10 to 20 liters are best for making the most of the natural range of the plant. Terracotta pots particularly complement the striking color of the leaves and flowers.
Salvia chamaedryoides makes great ground cover and while it is spreading, its growth is non-invasive. As with pots, the location and soil are crucial. So grow in well-drained soil in full sun and you'll get an abundance of blooming inflorescences all summer.
Here's a great gardening tip if your home is on the coast or you live in a hot and dry place like California! Look for garden plants with silver gray / green foliage. These plants are often drought and salt tolerant, small, and do well as low ground cover. So they are perfect for hot California or windy coastal gardens in the UK.
Close up of the germander sage flowers. Source: Dick Culbert
When growing Salvia chamaedryoides, keep in mind where the plant came from: a high-altitude desert in its native Mexico. Once you find the right conditions, aftercare is pretty easy. Just add a little water and a haircut if needed and enjoy.
Light & temperature
This plant should get long hours of full sun but can tolerate some light shade. Salvia chamaedryoides is hardy up to USDA hardiness zones 8 and possibly 7 (5 to 15ºF, -9 to -12ºC) when conditions are favorable. In warmer USDA hardiness zones such as zone 9 or 10, the plant can be semi-evergreen and lose some leaves in winter. It is known to die back to ground level after severe frosts and grow back from the roots in the spring, but this is not guaranteed.
In Northern Europe, Salvia chamaedryoides is classified as deciduous and is hardy to USDA Zone 8 or the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) equivalent, H4. In cold, damp areas, plants need winter protection made of fleece or are brought into the house in pots.
Water & moisture
Salvia chamaedryoides is exposed to extreme temperatures and long summer droughts in its natural habitat. We can try to replicate these conditions in our gardens by following a strict low water regime of about 1 inch per month. Do not water in autumn / winter when the plants are naturally watered from seasonal rainfall.
If your plant looks stressed from prolonged periods of drought, additional water is of course recommended. Water the bottom of the plant early in the morning or in the evening with a watering can in a pot or with a watering hose if you are watering several plants with the same environmental requirements. Like most Salvias, this plant doesn't like it when its feet are in cold, wet soil. This can cause several problems that lead to withering and death of the plant.
Well-drained soil is a must for growing Germander Sage. The soil should be moderately fertile, freely draining, calcareous, sandy or loamy and have a pH value between 6.1 (slightly acidic) and 7.8 (slightly alkaline). If you are growing in pots, add plenty of horticultural grain or perlite to the compost to aid drainage.
Apply a balanced liquid fertilizer once a month in spring / summer and none at all in winter. In late autumn, a mulch of compost can be applied to protect the roots from frost.
Salvia chamaedryoides has silvery green foliage with distinctive blue flowers. Source: Peganum
Plants can be root bound when growing Salvia chamaedryoides in a pot, with the growth spreading out over the edges. In this case, it's time to either increase the pot size or divide the plant into smaller sections. Repotting is best done in autumn after flowering.
Below is a list of ways you can propagate new plants from German sage in the garden.
Mature garden plants aged 3-4 years are perfect for sharing. Divide plants in autumn after flowering. Carefully dig around the plant and lift the plant out of the ground without damaging the root ball. Gently shake off some of the soil to see where and how many subdivisions can be made. Divide the plant, making sure that each section has adequate roots. Plant and water each section in pots or in their new houses in the garden.
You can also take softwood cuttings in spring / early summer or semi-ripe cuttings in late summer and early fall. Use clean secateurs to cut stems 5 to 8 inches long and remove the bottom leaves 2 to 3 inches long. Prepare small pots with a 50:50 mixture of compost and perlite or horticultural grain to aid in drainage. Insert the cuttings evenly around the edge of the pots down to the leaves and firmly to ensure good contact with the compost. Stems can be dipped in root hormone if desired, but this is not strictly necessary. Water the cuttings and keep moist until roots have formed and store in the dappled shade. Semi-ripe cuttings benefit from some warmth in the soil to stimulate root development. When you're done, separate the cuttings and plant one root cut per pot to be planted in the garden when they're a little more established.
Sow from seeds directly into the ground outside after the last frost or sow indoors in pots in spring to be planted out later. Keep the compost moist until the seedlings have a good root system and place it in a place with lots of sun. Seeds can be collected from dried flower heads that are left on the plant. Harvest and store in a cool, dry environment until spring. Plants can also self-sow under the right conditions.
Sage germander is grown as an ornamental plant and therefore does not benefit from a regular harvest like wise men from the kitchen herb garden. To preserve the flowers for a longer period of time, regularly let used flowers die off and cut back long-legged flower stalks. In frost-free areas, cut back the entire plant by almost half after the last flowers in autumn. This encourages fuller growth the following spring and keeps the plant looking neat in the winter. In cooler regions where the plants may be semi-evergreen or deciduous, you should prune lightly in early fall, well before the first frost. Repeat this process in spring when new shoots appear from the base and the danger of frost is over. A common belief is that short stems left behind provide some frost protection.
If you feel like the plant is spreading too much, fall is the perfect time to split.
German sage in a garden bed. Source: Peganum
"Right plant, right place" is the best way to describe troubleshooting this type of plant. If something goes wrong, the plant is almost guaranteed to be in the wrong place in the garden. Even the list of pests and diseases is short.
Common growth problems for these plants are usually due to Overwatering, too much shade, or not enough drainage. All problems can easily be solved by placing the plants in well-drained soil or pots in full sun and watering them only when the plant needs it.
Aphids (Aphidoidea) infest the young new growth of plants, feed on the phloem sap and dehydrate the plant. The resulting damage is distorted leaves and stems. Aphids also carry a variety of other plant diseases. Use beneficial insects like ladybug larvae to treat them biologically. Or spray with a good organic insecticidal soap or neem oil.
With Spider mites (Tetranychidae), the adults are reddish brown, live in large colonies on the underside of the leaves, and thrive in hot, dry environments. The detection of spider mites on plants can be viewed as a fine web of webbing between stems and plants that quickly shows signs of decline. Similar to aphids, they feed on sap, causing the leaves to turn yellow and fall off. Avoid spraying pesticides as spider mites have built up resistance to many products on the market. Chemicals can also kill natural predators such as lacewing and ladybugs. Remove and destroy the worst affected stems and whole plants if necessary to prevent spreading to unaffected areas of the garden.
Snails and Snails In cooler climates, they feed on young shoots, which they consume completely. They thrive in moist locations. Therefore, keep areas around plants free of debris, which can offer protection during the day. Nematodes can be used when the soil temperatures and conditions are right. Alternatively, use a flashlight and find and remove snails at night. A good organic snail and slug bait can also come in handy!
mildew Plants in the garden are particularly effective in hot, humid weather. This fungal disease spreads through spores and covers the leaves with a white growth resembling flour dust, which inhibits optimal photosynthesis. The leaves turn yellow, dry out and die. Good yard hygiene is important to avoid this disease. Remove infected foliage and place plants in full sun. Use a fungicidal spray like sulfur, neem oil, or potassium bicarbonate before or at first sight.
frequently asked Questions
A piece of Salvia Chamaedryoides. Source: FarOutFlora
Q: What beneficial species does sage attract?
A: Gardening with German sage will attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds to your garden throughout the flowering period, attracted by their favorite blue flower.
Q: Which plants go well with Salvia chamaedryoides?
A: Planted en masse, it displays a striking display of blue flowers in the garden. This sage also works well against contrasting gray / green deciduous plants like prickly agave and aloe, or in a colorful border with other drought tolerant flowering perennials like achillea and marigold.
About the writer Ann McCarron:
Hi, my name is Ann, also known as Mrs. Bloom!
I am Irish, live and work in Belfast, Northern Ireland. I switched careers in 2010 and left Public Affairs to study my longstanding passion, horticulture. I love working outdoors with people and plants, so doing freelance collaborative and therapeutic horticulture is a dream.
I've gardened in one form or another my entire life, but my obsession with growing really made itself felt when I got my first assignment. I love growing fruits and vegetables, but cut flowers are what the garden is all about. It's the best feeling to be able to pick your own bouquet whenever you want.
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