For some folks, the holidays just wouldn’t be right without the traditional sage stuffing. Although we are most familiar with culinary sage plants, there are many different types of sage. Some types of sage plants have medicinal properties as well, or are grown purely for ornamental purposes. Read on to find out about sage plant varieties and their uses.
There are many different types of sage or salvia plants available. They may be either perennial or annual, blooming to non-blooming, but pretty much each of these different types of sage is fairly hardy.
Foliage comes in sage green, variegated purple/green, or variegated gold and blossoms range from lavender to bright blue to cheery red. With so many varieties of sage, there’s bound to be a variety for your landscape.
Garden or common sage (Salvia officinalis) is the most common type of sage used for cooking. You can also make tea from the leaves. It is very hardy and bounces back in the spring even after a severely cold winter. This particular sage has soft, silvery green leaves that can be used fresh or dried. It is also known to attract beneficial insects, which are attracted to its purple-blue flowers.
Although hardy, garden sage usually becomes too woody after a few years to produce many aromatic leaves, so it needs to be replaced every 3-4 years. That said, I had a very woody sage that was losing its vigor, so I dug it out last year. This year, I have brand new downy leaves peeping up from the soil. Hardy, indeed!
There are a number of these common garden sage plant varieties.
Pineapple sage (Salvia elegans) is a perennial flowering sage with tubular red flowers that attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Today, this beauty is primarily grown as an ornamental, but it is said to have medicinal uses as well.
Grape scented sage doesn’t smell like grapes, but rather more like freesia. It can get quite tall (8 – 6 feet or 2 – 2.5 m.). It is a late blooming plant that attracts hummingbirds. The leaves and flowers can be steeped to make tea.
Another common salvia amongst gardeners is Salvia splendens or scarlet sage. This is an annual plant that thrives in full sun but withstands partial shade in well-draining soil with consistent irrigation. Blossoms are scarlet in color and last from late spring through the first frost.
Mealycup sage (Salvia farinacea) is generally an annual in most regions. It attains a height of 2-3 feet (0.5 – 1 m.) and is punctuated with blue, purple or white flower spikes. Some newer varieties to look for are ‘Empire Purple,’ ‘Strata’ and ‘Victoria Blue.’
Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha) grows to 3-4 feet (1 m.), is drought tolerant, but a tender perennial otherwise. This beautiful accent plant has purple or white flower spikes.
There are many other varieties of sage plants for the garden (far too many to name here), whether you want them for their aromatic foliage or as an ornamental or both. Sage plants are a hardy addition to the garden and with so many varieties, you are sure to find one to suit you.
Sage is an aromatic herb used for both medicinal and culinary purposes. Not all of the varieties detailed here are used for culinary purposes some simply make an attractive flower. Either way, these six different types of sage vary in color and use, but all of them make a wonderful addition to any garden.
This is the most common type of sage. It can be used for cooking, for brewing tea, or simply for decoration. It is very hardy, and, even after a long winter, will come back more prolific the next year. Time seems to give this herb intensified production as well. Garden sage is silvery green with soft leaves, which can be used in cooking either fresh or dried. It will also attract beneficial garden insects if you leave some untouched on the ground.
A perennial flower with tubular red flowers, salvia elegans, better known as pineapple sage, attracts hummingbirds and butterflies. Not known for its culinary uses, pineapple sage is thought to have medicinal effects, possessing antidepressant and anti-anxiety properties.
Another perennial plant, Russian sage has silver-gray leaves and produces small, blue or lavender tubular flowers. It's not a culinary form of sage. In fact, it's not even in the sage genus, nor does it come from Russia. It's actually native to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Less hardy than garden sage, purple sage will nonetheless survive outdoors even in cooler climates. Once it is established—and if it is protected in the winter—it will come back in bloom the following year. Grow it in your garden for a dash of purple when you're mixing and matching different flowers for effect.
Not merely a culinary herb, golden sage is used in many gardens as a strictly ornamental plant. It is about as hardy as purple sage, so it must be protected throughout the winter, but once it is established it will come back year after year.
This variety of sage is very similar to garden sage except that it's bred so it will not flower. This hybrid sage will continue to produce soft, silvery green leaves for both culinary and aromatic uses.
If you're a gardener, herbs offer a great variety of culinary, aromatic, and ornamental uses. Sage is one of the hardiest additions to any garden, and because there are so many varieties, you can enjoy the best of all its uses. Also since it's a perennial, if you protect sage throughout the cold season, it will come back strong for years to come.
You might also like our article on How to Dry Sage Leaves.
As a Mediterranean native, sage has similar cultural needs to thyme, rosemary and lavender and makes an excellent addition to a sustainable, drought tolerant or edible garden. Sage is a perennial grown for both its attractive appearance and its value in cooking, When mature, it is a low maintenance plant that comes in a range of varieties from common sage with broad grey-green leaves and piney scent to purple, yellow and variegated varieties.
A variety of variegated sage
A variety of yellow, variegated sage
Sage prefers full sun in moderate to warm climates, but does not enjoy the extreme heat of particularly hot inland valleys, where it will be happier with some afternoon shade. Beware that when given too much shade, sage becomes leggy and unattractive. Sage tolerates light frost.
Sage prefers well-draining soil neutral to slightly alkaline soil, but otherwise tolerates a wide range of soils types. Sage does not require particularly fertile soil and typically does not require additional fertility once planted.. Particularly fertile soil may promote lush growth at the expense of flavor.
Sage can be planted in difficult garden areas where other plants may struggle, such as near rocks or garden edges.
Young sage plants need regular water, once or twice per week for the first 2-3 weeks after planting. As sage plants mature, water progressively deeper and less frequently to encourage root development. Water established sage plants during prolonged periods without rain. As with many drought tolerant plants, sage is best watered in the morning with drip irrigation: this ensures deep and infrequent watering and prevents sage plants from sitting in cool, wet soil overnight. Do not water sage plants during periods of rain. Do not place sage in garden locations where water is likely to collect or soil is likely to remain waterlogged. Overwatering may result in root rot.
Mature sage develops the strongest flavor for cooking when given minimal water and no fertilizer.
Refrain from mulching sage with any type of most mulch or compost: the additional moisture may encourage rot.
Don’t know your GardenZeus climate zone? Click here.
American author Zane Gray immortalized this plant in his Western novel, “The Riders of the Purple Sage.” Purple sage (Salvia dorii) is a low-sprawling shrub with downy, silver leaves and dense, spiny branches. Standing 2 to 3 feet high, it grows wild in the dry, open spaces of the Pacific Northwest, California, Utah and Arizona. In May and June, purple sage's narrow flower clusters fill the landscape with a sea of brilliant blue or blue-purple blooms. This sage bush likes full sun and dry soil with maximum drainage, advises the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.
The Salvia genus of plants is the largest in the Lamiaceae family. That family of plants includes the mints and many other forms of culinary herbs as well, but Salvia species stand above and beyond the rest.
But before you go out to harvest that wild sagebrush, you need to know that there are many non-Salvias that are referred to as sage. Most of them actually are called sagebrush in some way, and most of these species are actually members of the Artemesia genus and more closely related to wormwood.
So what exactly is sage, then? For most, that lies purely in the Salvia genus, a collection of more than a thousand annuals and perennials that vary from herbaceous and low-lying herbs all the way through large shrubs. Some stay compact and small other varieties grow massive, with one plant able to reach up to eight or nine feet tall and wide.
Not all sage is edible. Some varieties are purely ornamental, but they tend to be wonderful for pollinator gardens. If you need to entice bees to come pollinate other plants, adding one of these inedible sages may do the trick.
Most of us think of roughly oval leaves with a point, a bit thick, sometimes almost fuzzy in appearance. That describes the most common culinary sage varieties, but there’s so much more to these plants. They flower in a huge array of colors. Their leaves could be silvery-grey, deep forest green, or even purple or yellow in hue. They are outstanding additions as both ornamentals and culinary plants, and I can’t imagine why people wouldn’t always want sage in their gardens!
In respect to this, how many species of sage are there?
Beside above, what type of sage is best for cooking? Garden or common sage (Salvia officinalis) is the most common type of sage used for cooking. You can also make tea from the leaves. It is very hardy and bounces back in the spring even after a severely cold winter. This particular sage has soft, silvery green leaves that can be used fresh or dried.
Also, are all varieties of sage edible?
Ornamental salvias, like 'May Night', tricolor salvia and annual salvia, are not edible. They're not poisonous, but they're nothing you'd want to put in soup. The edible salvias are usually referred to as sage, like the Salvia officinalis you use to flavor roasted chicken and turkey.
What type of plant is sage?
Sage, (Salvia officinalis), also called common sage or garden sage, aromatic herb of the mint family (Lamiaceae) cultivated for its pungent leaves. Sage is native to the Mediterranean region and is used fresh or dried as a flavouring in many foods, particularly in stuffings for poultry and pork and in sausages.