(Giant Gentian Sage) What makes Salvia patens 'De Flores Gigantes' truly giant is the size of its true blue flowers. However, this variety from Argentina is tall as well.
Other big pluses about Giant Gentian Sage are its extended bloom time and its far greater heat tolerance than any other variety of this species.
However, in hot climates, this sage prefers partial shade. It requires rich, well-drained soil and thrives with average supplemental watering based on your local rainfall.
Gentian Sages began captivating the UK in the mid-19th century following their discovery in Mexico around 1836 by plant explorer Karl Theodor Hartweg. Being New World natives, they appeal to hummingbirds, which are limited to the Western Hemisphere.
By 1867, the then-familiar, blue flowered Salvia patens was considered not only "moderate in price" but also a plant with which few ornamentals could "vie" for "colour." That was the opinion of George W. Johnson and Robert Hogg in their book The Journal of Horticulture Cottage Gardener and County Gentleman.
True blue is not a part of the color spectrum that hummingbirds favor, but they do love the rich nectar of the Gentian Sages. To ensure that hummingbirds stop by to tank up, mix Gentians with red flowered species. You'll be glad to know that deer leave most sages alone, including the Gentian group.
These are species whose stems never develop a woody character and that either die to the ground or loose leaves and become unsightly at the end of a growing season. This group includes both hardy and tender types. Many of the tender forms are grown as annuals in cold winter areas.
Pruning is both an art and a science. It takes practice, experience and learning from your mistakes to become a proficient pruner. The pruning information about this plant should be considered as a guideline for getting started. Your particular climate, soils, watering and fertility schedules, sun exposure, space requirements and weather are all factors that influence how and when you choose to prune. We’re providing a starting place for you, and over time you will learn the particularities of this plant in your garden. Don’t be afraid to get started – Salvias, in general, are quick to rebound if inappropriately pruned.
Deadheading – the removal of spent flowers, is a practice that will always benefit the plant’s health and appearance. This can be done at any time. Pruning involves removal of entire stems of spent growth. Becoming "spent" means that flowering stems stop blooming and begin going to seed.
During the spring and summer, you can completely cut to the ground any stems that have finished blooming and are becoming unsightly.
In mild climate areas, growth can be so rapid that the entire plant becomes messy and spent mid-way through the season. In this case, it can be cut back close to the ground – given a short “haircut”. The result usually is fresh, vigorous new growth and another round of flowering.
(Balkan Sage) Violet-blue whorls of flowers and plentiful, fuzzy, basal leaves that reach an impressive length of 18 inches are two notable features about this hardy, herbaceous perennial, which is native to the Southeastern Balkan Peninsula.
Balkan Sage is found in coniferous forests, meadows and slopes from Bulgaria to Turkey's Black Sea coast. However, it is named after the 19th century Finnish plant collector Peter Forsskål, who collected botanical samples further south in Saudi Arabia.
Although deciduous in areas with cold winters, it blooms about nine months a year for us on the Northern California coast beginning in summer. Following a brief winter dormancy, it returns reliably every spring, clumping in a way that makes it look like Hosta from a distance. Yet, unlike that woodland plant, it grows well in full sun as well partial shade. It is a fine choice for a lightly shaded garden or border and is happy in the acid soil under conifers.
Give it soil with average fertility, occasional water and enough shade to promote lush growth. Your reward will be large flowers with lovely white and yellow bee lines attractive to hummingbirds and honeybees.
(Ground Ivy Sage) Native to Central Mexico's highlands, this creeping perennial grows at a altitudes of more than 10,000 feet and can handle some chill. Its common name comes from its scalloped yellow-green leaves, which resemble Ground Ivy or Glechoma.
The wiry stems of this heat-tolerant Salvia sprawl and spread gracefully. Honeybees are attracted by the prominent double beelines on the violet-blue blossoms of its 1-foot-tall flower spikes, which bloom from summer into fall.
This is an ideal low-growing groundcover that is adaptable to full sun or partial shade. Grow it in full sun in cooler zones and in partial shade elsewhere. We also highly recommend this plant as a groundcover or in mixed containers where it carpets the base of larger plants, conserves soil moisture and spills gently over the pot's edge. Don't be afraid to water and fertilize it regularly.
(Jupiter's Distaff) Easy to grow and adaptable to a wide range of conditions, this native of Europe and Asia is our best tall, yellow-flowering perennial. Although its common name compares the flower spikes to wool spindles, they look more like glowing sceptres.
Honeybees and butterflies love this long-flowering, drought-resistant Salvia, which is found in a wide sweep of mountains from the Alps in Europe to the Himalayas in Asia. It has been used as a medicinal garden herb for millennia.
This sage does well in dry or moist conditions and in full sun or partial shade. Its bright yellow flowers and lush foliage blend well in mixed plantings, borders and cut flower arrangements.
(Japanese Woodland Sage or Shu Wei Cao) This short, lavender-flowered, ornamental sage has purple-to-green foliage. In Asia, this woodland plant has long been an important medicinal herb, used in the treatment of conditions such as diabetes.
Aside from being pretty, the foliage of Salvia japonica has been eaten during times of famine. In addition to Japan, it is found in Korea, China and Taiwan.
Although its 24-inch spikes of airy flowers are pretty, it is the richly purpled new growth of this mounding sage that particularly attracts attention as a groundcover or border edging. Give it moist, rich soil and partial shade.
(Shinano-akigiri) Japan's largest island, Honshu, is home to Salvia koyamae, a shade- and moisture-loving herbaceous perennial. It is notable for arrow-shaped foliage and translucent, yellow flowers blooming from late summer into fall.
Large and lush, the yellow-green hairy leaves of this sage form loose, gently spreading clumps. Although it can tolerate some morning sun, this is a shade-loving sage. It is a hardy choice for shady groundcovers, borders, containers, woodland settings and moist areas.
An underused gem of a plant, Salvia koyamae and presents the added bonus of being disagreeable to deer. Highly recommended.
(Midnight Mexican Bush Sage) The typical Mexican Bush Sage has purple flowers surrounded by furry white bracts. This clone from the San Francisco Peninsula has deep purple flowers, calyxes and stems. It is a good groundcover due to a mounding habit, smaller size and generous amounts of flowers.
Similar to other Mexican Bush Sages, Midnight is pleasantly fuzzy. The hairiness helps protect this full sun, heat-tolerant sage against drought. Use this compact plant in shrubby borders and large containers. It is also a fine addition to a cut-flower garden, blooming from summer into fall.
Deer avoid this sage, but honeybees, hummingbirds and butterflies are drawn to it.
(Oaxaca Orange Wooly Sage) Tall, eye-catching spikes of dusky red-orange flowers that bloom from summer into fall make this one of our most impressive Salvias. Plus it's cold hardy into Zone 7.
Even in a fully blooming border, this native of Southern Mexico's cloud forests is the plant that draws the eye.The flowers harmonize with deep blues, such as the gentian of Salvia patens 'Patio Blue,' and bright yellows, including Salvia nubicola.
It is Oaxaca Orange's hairy foliage that gains it the description of being 'wooly' and helps it survive drought and heat. This sage works well in herbaceous perennial borders and container plantings or as a small-scale groundcover in the broad range of climates from Zones 7 to 11. We highly recommend it.
(Ocampo Mexican Sage) Growing from 7 to 10 feet tall each year, this is the largest of our Mexican Sages. Yet due to its erect form, this sage only spreads 36 inches. It has large, deep violet flowers with almost black calyxes that rise up on tall spikes and dark green, heavily veined foliage.
Collected near the mountain valley town of Ocampo, this Salvia mexicana is native to Mexico's eastern Sierra Madre range in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas on the Gulf of Mexico.
In its homeland, Ocampo Mexican Sage grows on the edges of oak and pine forests. So it does well under tall, deciduous trees and at the margins of moist woodlands in USDA Zones 8 to 11 where it blooms in fall.
Give this hummingbird favorite well-drained, rich soil and regular watering. It works well as a screen or background planting or in tall borders and cut flower gardens. Container planting is fine, but limits height.
(Big Orange Mountain Sage) When temperatures are cooler in spring and fall, the persimmon-orange flowers of this large Mountain Sage darken. Gray-green foliage, deep red calyxes and reddish-green stems add to the plant's fascinating look, which mixes well with yellows and blues.
This Salvia microphylla comes from the mountains of Northern Mexico. We call it "Big Orange," because it matures to 4 feet tall and wide. Its flowers are also large and bloom spring to fall in USDA Zones 7 to 9.
Similar to many Salvias, Big Orange is adaptable to differing conditions, including either full sun or partial shade. It grows well in a wide range of climates, including the hot, dry Southwest and the cool, moist Pacific Northwest. Although this heat- and drought-tolerant sage fits well in a dry, native garden, it also appreciates regular watering and an average garden soil, such as sandy loam.
Plant it as a tall groundcover that can help control weeds. Or mass it for a shrubby border. It also looks pretty in a container where its height will be shorter.
(Blue Angel Gentian Sage) Since the 1838 discovery of this herbaceous species from Central Mexico, Salvia patens has been a mainstay of the perennial garden. Blue Angel is one of the smallest of the full-sized varieties.
Well branched and compact, this variety has 2 1/2 inch flowers that are a deep, royal blue and bloom from summer into fall. It is a reliable perennial, returning year after year in Zones 8 to 11. However, it is so lovely that it is worth growing as a summer bedding plant in colder zones.
Blue Angel likes regular watering and rich, well-drained soil. It grows in full sun or partial shade and can handle moist corners of the yard. Use it as a path edging, border, groundcover or container plant.
British horticulturist Graham Stuart Thomas called Salvia patens "the best plant in cultivation."
Highly recommended by hummingbirds, but not by deer!
(Cambridge Blue Gentian Sage) Cambridge Blue is one of the most famous varieties of Salvia patens, which was discovered in Central Mexico in 1838. Its powder blue flowers are delightful and cooling in the landscape.
This variety grows well in full sun or partial shade. Well branched and compact, it has 2 1/2 inch flowers that bloom from summer into fall. Similar to other Gentian Sages, this is a reliable perennial, returning year after year in Zones 8 to 11. However, all varieties of this species are so lovely that they are worth growing as summer bedding plants in colder zones.
British horticulturist Graham Stuart Thomas called Salvia patens "the best plant in cultivation."
Highly recommended by hummingbirds, but not by deer!
(Dot's Delight Bicolor Gentian Sage) This sage turns heads, because its large, white and blue bicolored flowers make it a unique variety of Gentian Sage. Developed in the UK, Dot's Delight is smaller and less sun tolerant than other varieties of the species.
The flowers, which are 3 inches long similar to those of the Guanajuato and Large Form varieties, bloom summer into fall. Unlike other varieties of Salvia patens, this one has fan-like, palmate leaves.
Dot's Delight can tolerate full sun, but prefers partial shade. It is not as vigorous as some of it's peers, but it is an excellent container choice for a partially shaded spot. We wonder if British horticulturist Graham Stuart Thomas would have loved this variety as much as the parent species. He called Salvia patens "the best plant in cultivation."
Highly recommended by humans and hummingbirds, but not by deer!
(Giant Gentian Sage) "Wow!" is what most people say when they see this large Gentian Sage from Central Mexico. Growing to 4 feet tall, it has long, graceful spikes of 3-inch deep, royal blue flowers that are highly visible and easily accessible to hummingbirds.
This rare, wild form is less orderly yet more dramatic than some of the modern Salvia patens hybrids. Similar to the species overall, it blooms summer into fall. British horticulturist Graham Stuart Thomas called Salvia patens "the best plant in cultivation."
This is the largest and most spectacular variety of the species in cultivation -- even bigger than our Guanajuato variety. Grow it as a border, a container plant or a tall, commanding groundcover. It's a good solution for moist, partially shady areas of the yard.
Highly recommended and destined to sell out rapidly!
(Oxford Blue Gentian Sage) Only Salvia patens 'Blue Angel' comes close to the rich gentian blue of this sage from Central Mexico. Oxford Blue also grows taller and spreads wider than Blue Angel.
Well branched and compact, this Gentian Sage is reliably perennial in USDA Zones 8 to 11. Its lustrous, true blue flowers are 2 1/2 inches long and bloom from summer into fall. They make it a worth growing as a summer bedding plant in areas with colder winters.
Oxford Blue likes regular watering and rich, well-drained soil. It does fine in full sun or partial shade and can handle moist corners of the yard. Use it as a path edging, border, groundcover or container plant.
German botanist Karl Hartweg discovered the Salvia patens species in 1838. British horticulturist Graham Stuart Thomas later called it "the best plant in cultivation."
True blue is not a part of the color spectrum that hummingbirds favor, but they do love the rich nectar of the Gentian Sages. To ensure that hummingbirds stop by to tank up, mix Gentians with red flowered species.
(Dan-shen Gansu) Growing into a large basal rosette of leaves measuring up to 3 feet across, Salvia przewalskii var. mandarinorum is known for its handsome foliage.
In summer, tall spikes of rich purple flowers rise above the large, wrinkled leaves, which are yellow-green on top and wooly, rusty brown underneath.
The scientific name of this species honors Nikolay Przhevalsky, a Polish-Russian geographer whose 19th century explorations of Asia increased knowledge about the continent's plants and wildlife. This sage is a traditional medicinal herb from the mountains of Central China. Its therapeutic herbal uses are similar to those of Salvia miltiorrhiza, which is commonly known as Dan-shen.
This tough sage does best in partial shade in USDA Zones 4 to 9. It grows slowly, but eventually reaches 24 to 48 inches tall and 36 inches wide. Although this woodland plant only needs average watering that is based on local conditions, it also handles damp spots. It can be grown as a groundcover, container plant, edging or part of a perennial border.
(Romanian Sage) Here's a great selection for mixed Salvia borders in zones with colder winters. This herbaceous perennial features deep violet flowers in large whorls atop tall, branched spikes.
As its name indicates, Romania is a homeland. This cold- and heat-tolerant sage is also native to Northern and Central Russia.
The stems of this sage are lax; they trail across the ground rooting as they go and forming small clumps. Flowering begins in early summer and continues until first frost. Lovely and long-blooming, this Salvia deserves to be planted in more gardens.
Place Romanian Sage where you can also enjoy the prominently textured, yellow-green leaves, such as front of border or edging a pathway in a cottage garden. Give it full sun to partial shade, well-drained soil and average watering based on local conditions in USDA Zones 6 to 9.
Although this sage probably is hardy to temperatures below 0 degrees F, we haven't yet been able to verify this hunch. If you live in Zone 5 or a colder area and decide to give it a test run, we would love to hear about the results. Remember that winter mulching usually improves chances of survival.
Highly recommended by people but not by deer!
(Lilac Sage) We try not to brag too much, but this is our own variety of Salvia verticillata from home-grown seed, and we think it is spectacular. Butterflies and honeybees also are in love with this long-blooming, heat-tolerant perennial.
Spring into summer, dense whorls of blue-to-smoky lavender flowers cover 3-foot-tall spikes arising from fragrant, mint-green, basal foliage. This native of Europe and Central Asia is lovely when mixed in cut-flower arrangements.
Although it only needs average watering based on local conditions, Lilac Sage works well in moist areas. It looks pretty in borders and containers and as a pathway edging. Give it full sun or partial shade in USDA Zones 5 to 9.
We offer this plant at a very reasonable price in order to encourage its widespread planting. When you grow Salvia verticillata, you help us help the honeybees and other beneficial insects pollinating gardens.
(Betsy's Choice Sage) Life and botany have their beautiful mysteries. Betsy's Choice Sage is one of them. We aren't certain of the parentage or history of this tall, attractive, fast-growing sage. However, we are certain that we love its tubular, royal purple flowers. Hummingbirds do as well.
Some say that it is a cross between a Salvia guaranitica and a Salvia fulgens. Some hint at a S. gesnerifolia connection by comparing it to S. x 'Jeans Purple Passion'. Others draw comparisons between Betsy's Choice and S. Amistad which may possibly be related to S. guaranitica.
On first impression, it does look like S. guaranitica. However, the leaves of Betsy's Choice are much larger and brighter; its nodes, or rooting points, are much farther apart. As to Amistad -- another South American species -- Betsy's Choice is far larger and much faster growing.
Another question is whether Betsy's Choice is the same plant as Salvia 'Betsy's Purple', which garden designer Bob Hyland of Portland wrote about for the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in 2003.
Information about the connections between Salvia species can be tantalizingly elusive. Our answer to all this botanical guesswork is that we don't have any answers.
What we do know is that this shoulder-high, long-blooming, water-loving perennial is heat tolerant and grows well in full sun or partial shade. And here's a footnote discovered at the Sweetbay garden website: Betsy's Choice looks terrific with a backdrop of Pink Muhly Grass ( Muhlenbergia 'Pink Flamingos').
(Yunnan Sage or yun nan shu wei cao) Yunnan Sage's tall spikes of violet-to-purple flowers bloom from summer into fall. Native to Southwestern China's provinces of Yunnan, Guizhou and Sichuan, it grows on shady, grassy hillsides and along forest margins at elevations up to 9,500 feet.
This is an important medicinal sage in Asia. Its bright red taproots are made into herbal remedies used to strengthen the immune system. Research laboratories are just now identifying the active ingredients, after a millennium of use by the Chinese.
Yunnan Sage tolerates cold as well as heat. It needs partial to full shade, average to plentiful water and well-drained soil. Plant it in moist areas, woodland gardens, perennial borders and along pathways where you can see it close up.
(Hidalgo or 7-UP Plant) I love to ask people what the smell of these leaves remind them of. Almost no one gets it on the first try, but when I say, "7 UP", their eyes light up, heads nod and the resounding answer is, "Yes!"
This mounding small perennial is native to shady mountain canyons in Arizona and Texas. The flowers glow on tall spikes above the furry, light green above, silvery underneath leaves. This is an outstanding perennial for shady spots. It can stand drought when established, but does very well with regular garden water. The apricot-coral flowers age to a reddish tint, and are quite long lasting. This plant blooms for us April - October!
This is another Salvia-like perennial that deserves much greater prominence in our gardens.
(Chiapas Sage) This partial-shade Salvia produces magenta flowers year round for us on the Mendocino Coast. It's compact, free flowering and not bothered by pests whether large or small. It is native to Mexico's coastal mountains at an elevation of 7,000 to 9,500 feet.
Chiapas Sage forms a neat mound of glossy, ribbed leaf-foliage with large flower spikes throughout. We grow it in mixed borders, containers and combination planters where it really stands out. Winter mulching it is essential in Zone 8 and below where you can treat this drought-resistant plant as a perennial.
(Michoacan Blue Sage) This unusual and distinctive Mexican sage grows from tuberous roots. It is compact and decidedly vertical with strong, square, winged stems that rocket upward and are topped with clusters of rich blue flowers in large rosy bracts come autumn.
In Zone 7 and above, you can leave the tubers in the ground or dig them up and divide them as you would dahlias to extend their growing range in your yard. Due to this plant's drought tolerance, we have been able to grow it without watering in summer. It needs full sun to partial shade and does well in containers, border plantings, cut-flower gardens and woodland-style gardens.
The identification and nomenclature of this plant have been confusing at best. However, one thing is certain: If you grow it, you'll love it!
(Tangerine Pineapple Sage) This citrus-scented cultivar is our smallest variety of Pineapple Sage. Worth growing just for the exotic scent of its leaves, this culinary Salvia is also one of the longest blooming plants in its species.
How is this variety of Pineapple Sage different from Honey Melon? Tangerine's leaves are much smaller (1/2 inch x 1 inch as opposed to 1 inch x 1 1/2 inches), and the plant is shorter (18 inches tall vs. 24 inches). Tangerine also has darker red flowers, foliage with a very different scent and a shrubbier look. Of course, anyone who loves scented plants should have both.
Tangerine Pineapple Sage spreads into a dense clump with underground runners. By cutting back older stems to the ground, new fresh growth keeps it in flower for months. On the Northern California coast, it starts blooming no later than May and sometimes continues until February.
Grow this cultivar in partial shade in warmer zones or in full sun in the coolest part of its range. Along with Honey Melon, Tangerine is easier to grow in most of the country than the larger-growing varieties of Pineapple Sage.
Native to Mexico, Pineapple Sage is found at high elevations in Pine and Oak forests. The species is used as a medicinal herb -- such as in herb tea -- to relieve anxiety and treat hypertension. Just smelling the leaves makes us happier.
(Purple Leaf Tall Big Leaf Sage) Bright green on top, the long leaves of this distinctive sage are a dark, furry purple on the undersides. Like the more typical green form of Salvia Macrophylla, this variety has cobalt blue flowers that seem to float in airy clusters on 12-inch-tall branching spikes.
This fast-growing, herbaceous perennial from Peru is adaptable to full sun and full shade. However, a combination of morning sun and afternoon shade may be more to its liking. Heat tolerant and water-loving, it is an ideal choice for a humid climate such as Florida's. Try it in a container indoors or on a patio. It's also a good choice for borders and background plantings.
Salvia Macrophylla 'Purple Leaf' grows in a tidy, upright fashion, producing 2-inch-long flowers without pause from summer through early fall. Hummingbirds love it, but deer resist its charms.
(White Trophy Gentian Sage) White Trophy loves partial shade and is the finest white Salvia patens available, with very large flowers that age to pale blue.
Since the 1838 discovery of this herbaceous species from Central Mexico, Salvia patens has been a mainstay of the perennial garden. British horticulturist Graham Stuart Thomas called Salvia patens "the best plant in cultivation."
Well branched and compact, this shade-loving variety has 2 1/2-inch flowers that bloom summer into fall. It is a reliable perennial, returning year after year in Zones 8 to 11. However, it is so lovely that it is worth growing as a summer bedding plant in colder zones. Whether grown as a perennial or annual, it is a perfect companion to any of the blue-flowered Gentian Sages.
White Trophy can handle moist corners of the yard. Water it regularly and provide rich, well-drained soil. It looks pretty edging a shady path and in border, groundcover or container plantings.
Highly recommended by butterflies, but not by deer!
(Grape Leaf Sage) Tall spikes of intensely blue flowers bloom summer to fall and emerge in profusion from handsome, furry foliage. The leaves are grape green on top and purplish on the bottom. This water-loving sage grows rapidly into a spreading mound.
Grow this one in full sun in cooler areas or in partial shade where summers are hot. Good drainage is essential along with rich soil for best results. This showy sage from Oaxaca, Mexico, is ideal for patio planters and damp woodland gardens in USDA Zones 9 to 11.
We highly recommend this sage, which is relatively new to the horticultural trade in the US. There is, however, some confusion about its identity. Some sources say it should be called Salvia serboana.
Hummingbirds love Salvia (sage) nectar and are attracted to it by the bright colors of tubular sage blossoms. In particular, these little whirlybirds can easily spot flowers in the red spectrum, which is prevalent among sages. Here are some hummingbird gardening tips.
If you live in suburbs or rural areas where deer plunder gardens, Salvias (sages) can be part of your plan for discouraging these hungry visitors. Here are some tips.