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SALVIA officinalis

Image of Salvia officinalis

James H. Schutte

Family

Lamiaceae

Botanical Name

SALVIA officinalis

Plant Common Name

Culinary Sage, Sage

General Description

Whether used to flavor sausage, Thanksgiving stuffing, or butter for pasta, sage is a favorite herb in western cooking. This semi-woody perennial is an age old culinary herb used to flavor foods for centuries. Historical references also list it as an ingredient for medicinal teas and poultices during The Middle Ages. It is native to Europe and northern Africa where it naturally grows in Mediterranean chaparral shrub lands and open areas.

Garden sage is a bushy plant that produces long soft gray-green leaves that are evergreen to semi-evergreen and fragrant when lightly rubbed. Like most aromatic herbs, the aroma comes from glandular hairs filled with aromatic oil. These oil-filled hairs are found just along the surface of the leaves and are called trichomes. In late spring to early summer upright stems of two-lipped, lilac-blue flowers appear. These are subtly attractive, lightly fragrant and particularly attractive to bees. Cut the spent stems to maintain a neat appearance and encourage new leaf development. Garden sage will not rebloom into summer and fall, even if deadheaded.

This perennial herb is a joy to grow because it is pretty, functional and easy. It requires full sun and very well-drained soil. Excessive moisture at the root zone can lead to root rot. Avoid mulching it too. Once established, sage is very drought tolerant and will thrive where growing conditions drier, though it will also flourish in areas with regular rain if provided sharply drained soil and high light.

Harvest sage leaves year round. They may be eaten fresh or stems can be hung upside down to dry and stored for later use. Sage also doubles as a resilient garden ornamental. It looks super in rock gardens, mixed borders and containers. Variegated and purple-leaved cultivars are particularly well-suited as garden ornamentals.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    8 - 5

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    5 - 8

  • Sunset Zone

    A1, A2, A3, H1, H2, 1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Perennial

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun

  • Height

    1'-2' / 0.3m - 0.6m

  • Width

    2'-3' / 0.6m - 0.9m

  • Bloom Time

    Late Spring, Early Summer

  • Native To

    Europe, Mediterranean, Northern Africa

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Neutral, Alkaline

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Loam, Sand

  • Growth Rate

    Fast

  • Water Requirements

    Drought Tolerant, Average Water

  • Habit

    Clump-Forming

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    Blue Violet

  • Fruit Color

    Brown

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Sea Green, Gray Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Sea Green, Gray Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Sea Green, Gray Green

  • Foliage Color (Winter)

    Sea Green, Gray Green

  • Bark Color

    Tan, Gray

  • Fragrant Flowers

    Yes

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    Yes

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    Yes

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    No

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Medium

  • Foliage Sheen

    Matte

  • Evergreen

    Semi-Evergreen

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Container, Edible, Herb / Vegetable, Mixed Border, Rock Garden / Wall

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    No

  • Self-Sowing

    No