More sage advice

Lori Murray, Cameron County Master Gardener, Texas Superstar Specialist

Previous articles have dealt with Texas Sage (Cenizo), our gray-green shrub that blooms so beautifully after a rain, and Mexican Bush Sage, a shrub that is actually a salvia, but here is yet one more facet of sage: sage plants for gardens.

The most common sage is garden sage (salvia officinalis).  It’s used for cooking things like that delicious bread dressing at Thanksgiving and is sometimes used as a flavoring for sausage.  It has soft, silvery green leaves that can be used either fresh or dried.  It comes in many varieties.  In addition to culinary sage, there is ornamental sage for gardens.

One well-known sage is scarlet sage which does well in our heat and is popular for butterfly gardens.  The Do It Yourself site listed as a source describes six different types of sage – garden, pineapple, Russian, Purple, Golden, and Berggarten.

Sage (or salvia) plants have a wide range of characteristics.  They may be annuals or perennials, blooming or non-blooming, with green foliage or variegated, and have blossoms that range from lavender to bright blue to cherry red.  But there’s one thing they have in common – they are all aromatic, tough Mediterranean plants that require good drainage and plenty of sun.

Perennials in our zone, the older plants can get woody and tough in 3 – 4 years and should be replaced.  Better Homes and Gardens produced a slide show of 36 varieties the most striking of which was called “Hot Lips” (salvis microphylla) for its white flower spikes decorated with a kiss-shaped red marking near the bottom of the bloom.

There was almost no end to the type of sage available, so think carefully about what you want in size and color and you can probably find it in a good catalog.