How to Grow California White Sage in Oklahoma


California white sage (Salvia apiana) has been prized by Native Americans for generations, valued for its distinctive aroma and often used to make smudge sticks or incense. Attractive to bees, the plant is also known as bee sage. California white sage grows wild in California, but because of its popularity, the plant has been over-harvested nearly to the point of extinction. Although California white sage will thrive in Oklahoma's hot summers, the clay soil--prevalent in much of the state--can add an extra challenge.

Step 1

Choose a spot where the plant will be exposed to six to eight hours of sunlight every day. Morning sunlight is preferable, as the plant will benefit from protection during Oklahoma's hot summer afternoons.

Step 2

Prepare the soil for the plants ahead of time. Spade the soil to a depth of at least 8 inches. If the soil is clay-based or drains poorly, incorporate 6 inches of organic material, such as compost, rotted animal waste or finely shopped bark, into the soil to improve drainage. Alternatively, build a raised bed from bricks, lumber or concrete and fill the bed with a well-draining soil.

Step 3

Purchase young California white sage plants at a garden center that specializes in herbs. For best results, purchase plants that have been grown in Oklahoma as locally grown plants will be acclimated to Oklahoma's climate. Choose compact, evenly colored plants and avoid leggy, spindly plants.

Step 4

Dig a small hole just large enough to accommodate the roots of the sage plant. Like most herbs, white sage will rot if planted too deeply. Place the plant in the hole and fill the hole around the roots with the same soil. Allow 12 to 20 inches between each plant, as sage will require good air circulation during Oklahoma's humid summers.

Step 5

Water the plant immediately. Keep the soil moist until the plant is established and new growth appears. After that time, water the plant sparingly only during hot, dry weather.

Step 6

Protect the plant from Oklahoma's cold winters by covering the sage with a 4- to 6-inch layer of mulch, such as straw, leaves, pine needles or grass clippings. Covering the sage in early winter is especially important if the plant won't be protected by a snow covering.

Things You'll Need

  • Spade
  • Organic material
  • Bricks, lumber or concrete for raised bed (optional)
  • Soil for raised bed (optional)
  • Small sage plants
  • Mulch


  • University of California, Davis: Ornamental Salvia (Sage)
  • Washington State University: Sage
  • ARM Climate Research: Oklahoma Soil Texture
Keywords: California white sage, Salvia apiana, bee sage

About this Author

M.H. Dyer is a long-time writer, editor and proofreader. She has been a contributor to the East-Oregonian Newspaper and See Jane Run magazine, and is author of a memoir, “The Tumbleweed Chronicles, a Sideways Look at Life." She holds an Master of Fine Arts from National University, San Diego.