Salvia, which is commonly known as sage, is a shrub that may be grown as an annual, perennial or biennial, depending on what climate it is grown in. Often used as a border plant or ground cover, most sages have oblong or long, narrow foliage and produce showy flowers in blues, pinks, purples, reds, yellows and whites. Most sage varieties should be planted in full sun and require regular watering.
This perennial sage is well-known by chefs and may be used fresh or dried. Common sage, of which there are many cultivars, grows to about 2 1/2 feet, has wrinkled, gray-green leaves, and produces a lavender flower spike in summer. The 'Berggarten' cultivar has the largest, least pungent leaves, but does not produce flowers, while 'Tricolor' does produce a bloom and its foliage is gray, purple-pink and white.
Mexican Sage Bush
One of the sages that can survive arid conditions, Mexican sage bush (S. leucantha) is a graceful shrub that can grow to 4 feet. Also known as velvet sage, this bushy shrub produces small white flowers on purple spikes in summer and fall. Mexican sage bush can thrive in full sun to part shade and may be planted where other sages cannot, such as the high desert in Arizona or New Mexico, though it may be an annual in coldest planting regions.
A prolific and long bloomer, Salvia superba is a perennial in most climates, including those that get snow. This plant blooms from summer to fall, grows to 3 feet and has narrow gray-green foliage. Most cultivars have violet blue or purple blooms, though 'Blue Hill' produces dark blue flowers nearly year round while 'Lubeca" is an early-flowering cultivar with violet blooms.
Scarlet sage (S. splendens) is a perennial that is often used as an annual for its bright green foliage and red flower spikes. Depending on use, it may be grown in any climate and will produce blooms in summer. Scarlet sage grows to 3 feet, though dwarf varieties are available.