Sage is a very popular herb. It’s a plant that’s very easy to grow and has lots of ornamental, culinary, and medicinal uses. In the article, you will learn about the 16 types of sage plants.
Botanical name: Salvia Officinalis
Common names: Culinary sage, Common garden sage, Garden sage
It may sound unbelievable that you can use the same plant as a medicine, as a spice, and as a decoration in the garden. And yet garden sage plants with the Latin name Salvia Officinalis are just such plants! Therefore, let’s have a closer look at an amazing and diverse sage world!
What is a Sage plant?
Salvia Officinalis, or garden sage, is a flowering evergreen, up to two and a half feet high semi-shrub hardy perennial plant. It belongs to the mint family
(Lamiaceae) from the Salvia genus, which numbers nearly 1000 different species with bent branched stems that, over time, become woody in the lower part.
This species is native to the Mediterranean, where wild sage bushes grow on sparse, rocky, and sandy soils of coastal parts of southern Europe and Mediterranean Asia.
Sage botanical name meaning
Known as a plant with pronounced medicinal and culinary purposes since ancient times, the sage bears the botanical name Salvia. The word comes from the Latin verb ‘salvare,’ which means to save, confirming its healing properties, recognized long before the modern classification of plants.
The leaves of the sage plant are simple, entire-edged, wrinkled grayish-green in color, oblong to narrowly elliptical, up to three inches long, about half to one and a half inches wide, and covered with fine hairs. Sage leaves grow on one-inch-long stalks, oppositely arranged on branched stems.
The purple or blue flowers are bisexual, one and a half-inch monoecious, clustered in 5 to 19 vertebrate inflorescences at the top of the stem. The flower’s calyx is tubular and lip-shaped, overgrown with adjacent hairs.
The garden sage blooms from May to July, depending on growing conditions, and the flower show lasts about three weeks.
One of the flower’s characteristics is that it has only two anthers, so it is pollinated only by large insects, most often bees.
Common sage growing conditions
As an indigenous coastal plant, sage Salvia is a drought-tolerant and sun-loving plant. They grow best if you place them in a full sun position, but they also tolerate partial shade.
However, they might give fewer buds due to lack of light and form a less compact shrub.
Although it comes from warmer regions, Salvia is resistant to frost and successfully overwinters in the soil in the continental areas.
Its root will not freeze at a temperature of 15 F or even lower, especially if you protect it with a layer of mulch from dry leaves.
Soil for garden sage
Sage requires sandy, loamy soil that drains quickly and does not retain moisture. Optimal pH values range between 6 and 7. It can also grow in ordinary garden soil if it is not too clayey, compacted, or wet.
Watering garden sage
You should water young plants once a week until they are well-rooted. Then, later, water the plant only every other week when there is not much natural precipitation. Adult sage plants are drought-tolerant, and they more easily deal with a shortage than with an excess of water. So do not over-water them!
Use of common sage plants
Salvia Officinalis is a welcome plant in every garden because it is undemanding to grow and useful in many ways. This small shrub of blue-green textured leaves that release an intense aroma to the touch looks very decorative, especially in the flowering stage.
The sage plant has a rich and long tradition, and its healing and culinary properties have been known for 4,000 years.
So, when you plant sage in the garden or a pot with decoration, you get spice and medicine that helps treat a wide range of diseases and ailments.
Culinary purposes of common sage
Fresh sage has an intense flavor that is often used to add flavor to sauces, stuffings, bread, poultry, or cheese. Some of the simpler and tastier pasta sauces are made from sage fried in butter.
Although sage is not a common choice in cosmetics, it is often added to shampoos to strengthen hair. Regular application of sage shampoo maintains hair ends and makes them shinier. It is also added to balms to massage tired muscles.
Unsweetened and cooled tea from fresh or dried sage leaves can help with:
- Sore throats or canker sores.
- It cleanses the tonsils and helps with airway inflammation when its vapors can be inhaled.
- Strong tea helps regulate sweating.
- Gargling tea helps preserve gums and improves bad breath, and the bactericidal action protects teeth from decay. Drinking sage tea also has a good effect on internal organs, especially the liver.
- It also helps with shivering and stomach and intestinal problems.
Sage plant Honey
Common sage flowers have a pleasant scent and attract bees that make honey from them. Honey is used to treat coughs or respiratory problems and is a specific dark yellow or greenish color. Due to the strength of the taste, it is often eaten alone and not put in cakes or tea.
Before finding out all the different types of sage plants we have prepared for you, take a look at the video that explains its many applications:
Different sage plants
The most famous representative of the salvia genus is the perennial garden sage or Salvia Officinalis described above. Yet this diverse and widespread genus includes the plants from the Mediterranean basin and native plants from North, Central, and South America and Central and East Asia.
Greek Sage (Salvia Fruticosa)
Common names: Greek sage, Greek Oregano, Salvia Griega, Salvia Triloba
This typically gray-green plant with hairy leaves is native to the Mediterranean and grows in a small shrub two feet high and one foot wide.
Salvia Fruticosa blooms with pale pink flowers that grow on tall stems rising above the leaf rosette. The young leaves of the Greek sage plant are the most commonly used spice among all other sage species making Salvia Fruticosa one of the most famous culinary plants. Dried or fresh leaves are the basic ingredient of the favorite Faskomilo tea.
You can grow Greek Sage in a garden or a one-gallon pot, but you need to transplant it into a bigger pot after two seasons. It thrives best if placed in full sun or at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight a day. In winter, it can withstand temperatures up to 20 F.
Blue Anise Sage (Salvia Guaranitica)
Common names: Anise-scented sage, Hummingbird sage
Native to South America, a popular ornamental plant naturalized worldwide is Blue anis sage or hummingbird sage. It got its name because of the pleasant anise-like scent that the leaves release when rubbed.
Anise-scented sage grows into a shrub three to five feet tall and has delicate dark green leaves with a serrated edge. Its intense blue flowers, 1 inch long, appear from mid-summer to autumn and are a real magnet for hummingbirds and butterflies. It explains its other common name – Hummingbird sage.
Salvia Guaranitica is a tender perennial that can spend the winter outside in the climate zone 8 to 10.
You can only grow Hummingbird sage in colder regions as a fast-growing annual plant.
Despite the anis-fragrant, its shiny, deep green leaves are tasteless, so grow it primarily as a decorative rather than a culinary herb.
Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia Leucantha)
Many will agree that Mexican bush sage, also known as Salvia Leucantha, is one of the most beautiful salvia species among ornamental sage plants! This striking plant produces showy bicolor blooms with soft purple sepals and fuzzy, white flowers.
The alluring Mexican bush sage flowers grow densely on long arching stalks, rising above lance-shaped, gray-green leaves. The flowering period begins in mid-summer and lasts until the first frosts.
Mexican bush sage is a robust shrub growing four to six feet tall and the same width. It looks great as a background plant on a flower bed but as an individual accentual point.
Mexican bush sage grows as an annual plant in colder regions because it is not resistant to frost. In climate zone 8 to 10, this is a perennial that does not require any special care. Yet, it requires regular watering, unlike the other plants from the same genus.
Purple Sage (Salvia Dorrii)
Purple sage or Salvia Dorrii is also known as desert sage because its home is the arid region of the western United States.
Accustomed to poorly nutritious rocky and sandy soil and resistant to drought and heat, this hardy perennial plant is the best choice for those who occasionally neglect their gardening duties.
The plant has a naturally spherical shape, forming a dense bush of medium size even without pruning. Its leaves are fragrant, fleshy, and green, and striking purple flowers can appear several times during the season.
In addition to its undoubted decorativeness, this is one of the most popular culinary sage plants that you can use as an alternative to common due to sage’s similar taste.
Fruit-Scented Sage (Salvia Dorisiana)
Common names: Fruit sage, Peach sage
The plant is native to Honduras, and it was first described in 1950. It grows as a branched shrub three to five feet tall and wide.
Fruit-scented sage gives three inches long pink or magenta flowers with lime-green calyx. The branches and the leaves are covered with fine hairs. The whole plant has a pleasant fruity aroma similar to pineapple or grapefruit, so that you can use it as a spice for a fresh salad.
Pitcher Sage (Salvia Azurea)
Common names: Pitcher sage, Blue sage, Azure sage
Salvia Azurea is native to the southeast USA and grows as a perennial in climate zones 5 to 9. The plant forms clumps and can grow three to five feet tall and four feet wide. The blue sage got its name because of its two-lip flowers’ vivid azure blue color that grows in spikes from July to October.
Regularly removing spent stalks will encourage the new wave of flowering and prolong the blooming s season until late fall.
You should prune the plant to 10 inches each spring to promote new growth and maintain a compact shape. Salvia Azurea that you have not pruned quickly becomes a floppy, clumsy, formless plant.
Like many other sage plants native to North America, Azure sage has edible seeds used as a spice in pastries or bread and muffins. In addition, its leaves are aromatic, and you can make tea from them.
Woodland Sage (Salvia Nemorosa)
Common names: Violet sage, Purple flowering sage, Meadow clary, Balkan clary, Perennial woodland sage
Unlike most of its relatives, which grow as shrubs, these are clumps-forming types of sage plants. From July to September, the plant blooms with beautiful violet-blue flowers that grow densely on erect stalks making striking flower spikes.
However, Woodland sage is not a spice plant because the leaves are not edible, but it is a great floral decoration for full sunspots that will attract a lot of bees, hummingbirds, songbirds, and butterflies to your garden.
Native to continental Europe and Asia, this perennial can overwinter outdoors in climate zone 4.
Pineapple Sage (Salvia Elegans)
Common names: Scarlet sage, Pineapple sage
A very decorative small shrub native to Mexico and Guatemala, Salvia Elegans has been present as an ornamental garden plant since 1870, when it was introduced to the world.
The pineapple sage got its name after the pine-like aroma of its two to four inches long leaves. The intensity of aroma depends on weather conditions and is more pronounced in wet weather.
In addition to aroma, the leaves have a characteristic fresh green color, a vivid contrast to the scarlet-red flowers.
In nature, scarlet sage or Salvia Elegans is a shrub that can grow five feet tall, but nowadays, cultivars are usually much lower plants, no taller than two feet.
Unlike the indigenous plants of red flowers, today, you can buy plants with white, soft orange, and purple flowers, and varieties with two-tone flowers are not uncommon.
The flowers and leaves of pineapple sage are edible and medicinal, and you can use them fresh or dried. For example, the Mexican Indians used scarlet sage to treat anxiety and lower blood pressure.
Due to its low resistance to frost, you can grow scarlet sage in the continental regions as a seasonal flowering plant. As a perennial, it grows in climate zones 8 to 10.
Cleveland Sage (Salvia Clevelandii)
Common names: Cleveland sage, Jim sage, California blue Sage, Fragrant sage, Musk sage
Native to California, Salvia Clevelandii is an aromatic plant that grows into a branched shrub three to five feet high and five to eight feet wide. This culinary sage has gray-green wrinkled leaves and tubular dark purple or lavender-purple flowers.
The plant is an evergreen perennial in climate zone 9 to 11, forming a branched shrub three to five feet high and five to eight feet wide. It blooms in mid-summer with tubular dark purple or lavender-purple flowers with an intense scent.
It likes full sun to partial shade position and well-drained soil. Once established, it does not need extra watering since it is drought tolerant.
Blackcurrant Sage (Salvia Microphylla)
Common names: Blackcurrant sage, Hot lips sage, Baby sage plant, Graham’s sage, Little leaf sage
With lovely flowers and a very long blooming season, Salvia Microphylla deserves a place in every garden. The lipped, one-inch-long flowers of red, pink, burgundy, or white appear several times during the season, starting in spring and finishing in fall. Tiny, only one inch long, smooth leaves of almost triangular shape and deep green color remain throughout the year in climate zone 7b.
The leaves and stems have a pleasant smell resembling black currants, which explains the name of this plant. You can use dry or fresh leaves to make a tasty tea that helps with coughs and fevers.
Sonoma Sage (Salvia Sonomensis)
Common words: Sonoma sage, Creeping sage plant
As one of its common names says, this small plant does not grow in the form of a bush but is a mat-forming type. Planted in full sun, the plant creates an interesting gray-green groundcover.
Its leaves are up to two inches long and one inch wide. On the upper side, Salvia Sonomensis foliage is slightly hairy and very densely hairy on the back to look almost completely white. The flowers grow in clusters one to five inches wide and usually are white or blue.
Autumn Sage (Salvia Greggii)
Common names: Autumn sage, Cherry sage, Gregg salvia
In nature, autumn sage grows on rocky slopes in western Texas to Mexico. It is a plant with small aromatic, elliptical, opposite evergreen mint-smelling leaves that grows in the form of a bush two to three feet high.
From spring to frost, wild autumn sage plants give mainly deep red flowers, but the flowers can be predominantly purple, orange, white, or pink, depending on the region.
Salvia Gregii’s taste buds are edible, and aromatic foliage places the plant among reputable culinary sage types.
Grape-Scented Sage (Salvia Melissodora)
Another special culinary sage type is the so-called grape scented sage, the robust woody plant that can grow into a sizable eight-foot-tall bush.
In nature, grape-scented sage grows as an indigenous species in the Sierra Madre mountains at 4000 to 8000 feet.
Despite the plant’s name, its fragrant light purple flowers do not smell like grapes. Instead, the scent is more reminiscent of the smell of freesia.
In climate zones 8 to 10, it is an evergreen perennial plant but cannot overwinter outside in areas with colder winters.
White Sage (Salvia Apiana)
Common names: White sage, Bee sage, Sacred sage, California sage
White sage bears this name because of its silvery-white leaves and clustered white flowers with tiny lavender spots that rise above the foliage.
The plant originates from Southern California, growing as a native plant in full sun in rocky coastal areas.
Salvia Apiana is a typical bushy sage plant up to four feet in height. It is an evergreen perennial in areas with mild winters.
All plant parts are extremely aromatic, so white sage has found its place in cooking as a spice and tea. In addition, the seeds of this plant were once the staple food of Native Americans, and fragrant flowers and leaves were used in rituals and ceremonies.
Unfortunately, climate change and unforeseen industrial development are serious threats to the survival of white sage, which is increasingly difficult to find in the wild.
And one more detail: the young leaves of white sage have a green color, which turns white as the leaf develops.
Clary Sage (Salvia Sclarea)
Common names: Clary sage, Clary, Clear eye, European sage
Another valuable member of the mint family is Salvia Sclarea or Clary sage, an essential component of traditional medicine since antiquity.
Clary sage grows naturally in dry and sunny areas of Southern Europe, North Africa around the Mediterranean, and Central Asia.
The name of the species ‘Sclarea’ comes from the word ‘clarus’ or pure because people once used preparations from the seeds of this plant for rinsing the eyes.
Even today, the leaves and flowers of clary sage are used for tea or flavoring dishes. Moreover, the essential oil obtained by distilling the aboveground part of the flowering plant has wide application in the perfume and the alcoholic beverage industry.
Its effect is similar to estrogen’s, which is why it has applications in aromatherapy, amenorrhea treatment, and nervous system regulation.
Clary sage is a short-lived perennial with branched stems and soft, wrinkled round-oval hairy leaves. Its flowers are bisexual, one-inch long white or pink white with a pleasant scent gathered in vertebrate blooms in the form of long erect spikes.
Prawn Sage (Salvia Haenkei)
Among different types of sage, the prawn sage stands out due to its lovely, flaming red flowers reminiscent of a shrimp head, which explains its name.
Prawn sage originates from the warm regions of Bolivia and Peru and grows as a perennial in climate zone 9. In the continental areas, this fast-growing plant that can reach eight feet in height and width can be grown as an annual plant in the garden or a container plant that spends winter in frost-free space.
According to the latest research, its fragrant leaves contain substances that have great prospects in cosmetics due to the significant effect on the anti-aging treatment.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Is wild sagebrush a type of sage?
A: No, it is not. Despite its common name, the plant belongs to the Artemisia plant family.
Q: What is the most fragrant sage plant?
A: Among the native sage plants, one of the most fragrant is Salvia Clevelandii or Jim sage plant.
Q: Is South African sage edible?
A: Yes, it is! South African sage (Salvia Dolomitica) is edible, and its aromatic leaves are used for making medical tea.
Q: Is Berggarten sage the same as Salvia Officinalis?
A: Berggarten sage is a variety of Salvia Officinalis (Common sage plant).
Now you know the different types of sage plants. What is your favorite? Comment below. Also, check out our other articles: