If you are looking for an easy-to-grow herb, sage is such a good choice. It is both beautiful and useful for cooking. Many gardeners love growing this lovely perennial herb plant in their home gardens because of its compact nature, resistance to pests and diseases, and ability to withstand less-than-perfect care.
There are several varieties of sage, and there are a few ways to categorize them. Some people grow sage simply because the leaves make a great addition to your culinary creations, but other gardeners grow it for its ornamental qualities as well.
The first way to categorize types of sage is by color. The most common type is green, but you can also find purple sage and golden sage. Purple sage has an attractive purple flower with a lime-green leaf, while golden sage is yellowish in color on both its flowers and leaves.
Darker colors such as the deep green of standard garden sage blooms are usually preferred by cooks who want to add a sprig of fresh herb to their dishes. Lighter-colored sage leaves are usually preferred by those who want to spice up the appearance of their home gardens and grow more ornamental varieties.
Red and purple sage tend to be more prone to pests and diseases than green varieties. They attract a lot of aphids, and they also have a soil-borne fungus that affects the roots of the plant and can cause it to die out over time.
Another way to categorize types of sage is by medicinal or culinary use. Both have their benefits, but there are also some differences that affect how you grow each type. For example, garden sage – the most common variety – has a stronger flavor than purple or golden sage. Since it is the most common variety, it will also be easier to find.
Table of Contents
Culinary Sage Types
The two main types of sage that are grown for their culinary uses include ‘ Berggarten ‘, or traditional German sage, and the ever-popular ‘ Broadleaf ‘. While many people prefer to grow garden sage for cooking and its rich flavor, broadleaf sage has a milder flavor, making it more suitable for pickling or adding to dishes and even cheese.
Garden Sage is a hardy perennial if you live in hardiness zones 5-8 in the United States. It’s also resistant to pests and diseases, so while you will need to remove small insects from the plant, it won’t require much work from you to keep it healthy.
Also known as: Culinary sage, garden sage
Scientific name: Salvia officinalis
Common sage is a popular herb that is grown for both medicinal and culinary uses. It’s an easy-to-grow perennial plant that can handle most of the harsher climates in the northern United States, as well as in colder areas.
It grows best in raised beds with clayey soils in full sun to partial shade. Make sure it has complete drainage. You should also look for good air circulation around this plant to help prevent pests such as spider mites from destroying it or infecting it with diseases.
Also known as: Culinary sage
Scientific name: Salvia nemorosa ‘Spicy Globe’ A great plant to add to your vegetable garden if you like pairing fresh herbs with meals. The leaves can be used in both savory dishes or desserts. This variety of sage is also a good choice if there are children (or pets) in your home because it has a milder flavor than other types of sage. It also works well for pickling and flavoring oils, vinegars, butters and cheeses.
Scientific Names: Salvia officinalis ‘Aurea’ and Salvia officinialis ‘Icterina’
Golden sage has a less pungent flavor than typical garden sage, and oftentimes has a slight citrus flavor.
Golden sage doesn’t fare very well in colder climates and tends to be more sensitive to changes in light or temperature than other types of sage. These garden varieties tend to be more sensitive to other pests and diseases as well. But it is hardy to about 20 degrees Fahrenheit but can grow back from the roots if exposed to colder temperatures.
Scientific name: Perovskia atriplicifolia
Russian sage is a beautiful and fragrant flowering plant, but it can also be grown for culinary purposes. Native to Russia, Central Asia and Turkey, this perennial herb is hardy in USDA zones 4 through 9 with a preference for zones 5 through 8. It has long blooming periods that run into fall or winter and often reseeds itself the following spring.
The colors of Russian sage flowers and leaves are primarily shades of purple. As a perennial, they can grow up to 2 feet tall with 2-inch long leaves growing in opposite pairs on the stem. The blooms are usually violet to pinkish or purplish but may also be white.
Herbalists consider this plant mildly astringent and often use it as a hair rinse for dry or brittle hair. It is also effective in relieving swelling of your mucus membranes, such as those found in the throat or mouth and nasal passages.
An infusion of Russian sage has been used to treat colds, sore throats and coughs when added to beverages such as tea.
Also known as: Italian aromatic sage
Scientific name: Salvia officinalis ‘Italian’
Italian sage has large violet flowers with grey leaves. This variety of culinary sage isn’t commonly used for medicinal purposes, and it is a good choice if you want to grow it for ornamental reasons. It grows up to 2 feet tall with opposite, ovate leaves that are about 1 inch in length.
Also known as: Salvia cypria
Scientific Names: Salvia fruticosa
Common Uses: This type of sage is native to the Mediterranean region and is used primarily for ornamental reasons. It grows up to 3 feet tall with slender stems and dark green leaves. Its blue-purple flowers are often used in bouquets and dried flower arrangements.
Greek sage is hardy in USDA zones 5 through 9 and prefers to grow in full sun. It is a member of the mint family, so it can self-sow if given enough water.
Greek sage accounts for 50-95% (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salvia_fruticosa) of the dried sage sold in North America, so to say it’s popular is an understatement.
Also known as: Scarlet salvia
Scientific name: Salvia splendens var.rubra ‘Lady in Lace’
A unique variety of sage with vibrant red or purple flowers, this plant has a very fragrant scent that can be used to make a wide variety of herbal products. The growing tips are the most potent part of the plant, but you can also harvest them for use in sachets or other scented items. You can even dry and crush the leaves to create your own potpourri.
Plants will reach around 2 feet tall and spread out into a dense bush with their classic oval green leaves. Like many perennials, you should cut back on water during the winter months when temperatures drop below freezing.
Also known as: Sweet sage
Scientific name: Salvia elegans
This variety gets its name from the sweet smell it has when it blooms. Pineapple sage also grows well as an ornamental herb with small purple flowers and green leaves. You can use this variety to make both a tea and tincture or harvest the leaves for later use.
Common uses for this plant include aiding indigestion, reducing pain associated with menstrual cramps, calming symptoms of anxiety and helping you get a restful night’s sleep.
Pineapple sage is hardy in USDA zones 5 through 9 with a preference for zones 7 through 8. It is an annual flowering plant that can grow up to 4 feet tall and 2 feet wide. It has soft green leaves that are slightly serrated, giving it a unique look when compared to other plants in the Salvia genus.
Pineapple sage is popular for its fragrant purple flowers with yellow centers but also makes an attractive ornamental plant due to its dark green foliage and low-growing stature. The blooms will appear from late summer into fall or early winter on this hardy annual. They have a pineapple scent that attracts bees and butterflies while adding color to your garden beds during those months when many other blooming herbs fail to do so.
The small flowers are densely packed together with their purplish-red petals radiating from a yellow center. The plant itself will grow up to 4 feet tall, but it can also spread out into a wider bush with some pruning and proper care.
Scientific Name: Salvia apiana
White sage has silvery gray leaves and is often used as the typical “sage burning” sage. Native to the southwestern regions of the United States and Mexico. It is typically dried for ceremonial use, burning as a smudge stick. White sage has a strong, pine-like aroma with a smokey finish. It is highly valued for ceremonial use by many Native people.
Most varieties of white sage are not recommended for culinary use because they tend to have more of a burnt flavor than other varieties. White sage is also very hardy, and can be grown in zones five to nine.
Scientific name: Salvia farinacea
Mealycup sage is native to Texas and the desert areas of New Mexico. The leaves are blue-green or grey, with downy hairs beneath, and grow close together along the stems that can grow between 12 and 24 inches tall. Mealycup sage is also known as Texas tarragon because it tastes like its French cousin when used in cooking. Herbalists use this plant to help soothe upset stomachs, reduce stress and treat diarrhea.
The flowers on the mealycup sage are lilac-blue, white or pink depending upon the variety you choose. This hardy perennial grows best in USDA zones 8 through 11 but will thrive in zone 6 if given the right amount of water. You can cut back on the amount you give it during the winter months when temperatures drop below freezing. Just don’t allow the plant to wilt completely.
Mealycup sage should be planted in a sunny spot in either full or partial sun and watered frequently. However, this particular variety doesn’t do well with overwatering – keep the soil slightly dry between watering sessions. This is especially true if using a drip irrigation system – too much water will kill your plant off rather quickly. If you use sprinklers, wait until after sunset so the leaves have time to fully dry before morning dew appears.
The seeds for mealycup sage are white and grow within pods that are usually around 1 inch.
Mexican Bush Sage
Scientific name: Salvia leucantha
This variety of sage is native to Mexico and Central America. It grows between 2 and 3 feet tall and has deeply colored, dark green foliage. Mexican bush sage is often used as a border plant in the landscape due to its ability to grow on steep slopes and withstand hot weather conditions with regular watering.
The small purple flowers bloom from July through September on this hardy perennial plant but you can also harvest leaves for tea or drying when it blooms so the plant stays healthy.
You may find that pinch back your Mexican bush sage every few years during early spring at around 10 inches tall if you prefer it as just an ornamental flower because they are extremely large bushes once they get to a certain size.
Scientific Name: Artemisia berggardiana
This variety of sage is often used for ornamental purposes because of its attractive gray-green leaves. It grows between 1 and 2′ tall with a spread of as much as 3′. As the name suggests, berggarten sage grows best in a climate zone 7 or higher but will do alright in zones 5 through 9 if given the right amount of water – it doesn’t like to dry out completely!
The flowers bloom blue from mid-July into August on this durable perennial plant, but you can also harvest fresh leaves throughout summer for use in your culinary creations so the plant stays healthy. If you pinch the tips off of your Berggarten sage every few years in early spring at about 8 inches tall, you can encourage it to grow bushier and thicker.
Also known as: Wood sage
Scientific name: Salvia nemorosa
Woodland sage is a perennial plant that grows to about 3 feet in height and has green leaves with purple markings. The plant can be used as a border for open woods or planted near taller plants. The fragrance of the blooms is said to attract bees, butterflies, and birds.
Woodland sage spreads by rhizomes, and while they don’t cause any damage, they do grow on top of the ground. For this reason, woodlands sage is often grown in containers or raised beds. These plants can be grown in USDA zones 4 through 8 and are fairly drought tolerant during the summer months.
Woodland sage is often used for medicinal purposes. It has been known to treat nervousness, vomiting, and diarrhea. The leaves are also used for teas in some cultures as a remedy for colds, coughs, and fevers.
It can be grown indoors or outdoors but is more often found growing outside near the woods or other gardens where it tends to thrive best. This plant is best grown from seed and it is important not to overwater or fertilize woodland sage plants.
Disease & Pest Control
Sage plants can be susceptible to infestation by several different insects, but one of the most common is spider mites. As one of the smallest insects in North America, spider mites are often difficult to see, leading many gardeners to miss signs of infestation.
An easy way to check for spider mites is to take a few leaves and shake them over a piece of paper. If any tiny bugs fall off the plant, then it is likely that there are spider mites present as well.
What’s the difference between Sweet Scented Sage and Woodland Sage? These are two varieties of sage plants with some unique differences. Sweet-scented sage can grow to be 3 feet tall, produces blue flowers, and spreads by rhizomes. Woodland sage is a perennial plant that grows about 3 feet in height with green leaves with purple markings. It produces flowers from July through September and is often used for medicinal purposes.
Are there any diseases that would affect my sage plants?
Powdery mildew can create issues for sage plants. Also be sure not to spray too much water on the plant, which can create a breeding ground for spider mites.
Sweet-scented sage is also susceptible to leaf rust and powdery mildew.
How do I prevent issues with my plants?
It’s important to take steps to prevent infestation by spider mites and powdery mildew. Control of these issues can be done using an organic spray, such as neem oil or orange oil. While it’s best not to use regular pesticides on your sage plant, if you do spot any problems then consider spraying the plant with a chemical-based pesticide.
Native to the Mediterranean region and widely used in cooking, sage, or salvia, is also popular as an ornamental plant for its attractive bluish-green leaves with silver veining.
The genus name of ‘sage’ comes from the Latin word ‘salvare’, meaning “to heal.” This aromatic herb has been used medicinally since ancient times, both internally and externally. In fact, the Greek physician Dioscorides (c. 40 AD) recommended placing a handful of fresh-cut or bruised sage in hot water and inhaled it to treat head colds! Sage was also prescribed by Hippocrates (c. 460-377 BC) and Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD).
Sage leaves can be brewed into a medicinal tea for conditions such as asthma, digestive disorders, muscle aches and joint pains, headaches, colds, upset stomachs and to reduce fevers. The powerful antioxidants in sage are also thought to fight cancer as well as reduce inflammation. Sage branches can be burned on charcoal to make smudge sticks that provide a fragrant smoke and clear the air of negative energy while its leaves can be rubbed onto skin during rituals for protection or purification.
If you’re planning on growing sage as an ornamental plant or culinary spice herb , it’s important to know how much sun your region receives so it will thrive in your garden. Here’s some sage planting information for you to consider: