Sage is a common culinary and medicinal herb, but the word “sage” actually applies to a whole family of plants. There are some sage plants that you can eat. Others are more ornamental.
The Latin name for the sage family is Salvia and it's the largest genus of plants in the mint family.
Common Sage (or Garden Sage)
Common garden sage is usually grown for culinary reasons. The leaves of the common garden sage can be used dried or fresh. You can also brew them to make tea.
As a dwarf shrub, this type of sage is semi-evergreen. The plant forms clumps that grow both tall and wide. This type of sage plant produces grayish foliage and purple blooms on flower spikes.
Common garden sage grows the best in full sunlight. However, it can have some growing success in the shade. The plant performs well in moist soil, but it is drought tolerant. Because these types of sage plants get woody after a period of time, you will need to pick their leaves at an early date if you want to take advantage of their aromatic properties.
Mealy Cup Sage
As an evergreen plant, mealy cup sage is a consummate bloomer. This plant starts flowering from the spring right up to the first frost of the year. This plant gets packed with saturated blooms and creates tall flower spikes in different shades of the color blue. The grayish foliage creates a beautiful shrub base for the flower spikes to sit upon. Mealy cup sage gets commonly used as a cut flower. In cooler areas of the country, it can also be used as an annual plant. Pollinators such as bees love mealy cup sage. This type of sage grows best in moist soils. However, this plant is also drought tolerant.
This perennial will grow all year round in certain areas. In cooler regions, scarlet sage grows as an annual. Known for its beautiful red flowers, newer versions can also come in orange, blue, white and pink blooms. The flowers grow on tall spikes that sit atop the foliage. All of the flowers are shaped like a tube. They are also known for their long blooming period. Well known for their decorative properties, scarlet sage makes for beautiful cut flowers. You can also plant them in containers, beds, and borders. This type of sage will grow well if you maintain a moist soil.
Pitcher Sage (Hummingbird Sage)
This type of sage is native to the Southeast. Slightly taller than wide, it grows in clumps. The foliage is slender and narrow. Pitcher sage has a grayish-green color. Producing heavy blooms from the summer to the first frost, the erect stems sprawl and arch under the weight of the blooms. The blue flowers have two petals on every bloom. Pitcher sage grows well in well-draining soils, which should be kept dry. Preferring dry soil, these plants are drought tolerant.
Anise Scented Sage
A perennial plant, anise-scented sage is evergreen in warm winter climates. It grows as an annual in cooler areas. Featuring a clump of green, anise-scented leaves, the plant sends out erect stems from which blue flowers bloom every summer. The two-inch flowers sport a tube shape and an open mouth at its tip.
These plants stay in bloom until the very first frost. Anise scented sage grows best in full sun. While it can grow in the shade, too much of it will cause the sage to become droopy. You can deadhead the blooms to encourage regrowth. Once the plant has finished flowering, you can cut back on the plant.
Native to Mexico and Texas, it remains evergreen in those places. While it can also grow in cooler climates, it could be deciduous depending on the circumstances. The plant creates ovate green leaves that are about two inches in length. The aromatic foliage smells like mint. The blooms from the spring all the way to the fall. Its resulting flowers can be yellow, red, pink, or purple. As a plant, it works well in borders and beds. You can also create a low hedge with autumn sage. Autumn sage tolerates drought, heat, and humidity. The plant grows well in a soil that drains well and is moderately fertile.