White sage plants are slow growers, taking as long as 3 years to reach maturity. White sage is also known as bee sage because bees find the plant irresistible. White sage also attracts butterflies, hummingbirds, sparrows, grouse, quail, deer, antelope, elk, mountain sheep and rabbits. White sage leaves and green and crinkly when young and silvery white when mature. They stand practically straight out from the thick stems in stark contrast to the thin, but taller, flower stems.
The evergreen leaves that form the base of the plant grow to between 2 to 3 feet tall with a width of 8 feet and more, while the stalks that support the flowers will grow from 2 to 5 feet above the top of the base. The flowers themselves are small and white with dots of lavender that bloom from late April to early June. It produces a light brown fruit.
The natural environment for white sage is the hot, dry area of the southwest United States. It is hardy in zones 7 to 11, an area from the deep south to south Florida, the Gulf Coast and in certain places up the west coast to the Canadian border. (Zone 11 is in Hawaii.)
White sage needs full sun and dry conditions even in winter or else the stems can turn black and then die. If it is used in an area that has high humidity in the summer and/or wet conditions in the winter, use the white sage as a container plant.
Start the seeds in flats using well-drained potting soil. They need sun to germinate, so plant them right at the surface of the soil or from 1/8 to 1/4 inch deep, but no deeper. Give the flats a good soaking and then only water when the soil is absolutely dry. Keep the flats at a temperature of 68 to 86 degrees; the seeds should germinate in 2 to 3 weeks.
When the plants have grown two to four leaves, put them in pots. They will be ready to go outside in 6 months to a year. They cannot be grown as container plants. Make sure to plant them in the fall. This will allow the plant to become established and well rooted in the garden.
White sage is low-maintenance. Prune the leaves and branches and it will stimulate new growth, but pruning is not necessary. Only water once a week in the summer, but give it a good, deep soaking--not just a sprinkle. During the winter, just give it a good soaking twice a month. This is as close as you can get to replicating the natural growing conditions.
The stems of the white sage are brittle and can break off easily. Plant it where the chance of getting bumped or hit with any garden implements is minimal. Aphids can attack young plants, mostly in the spring. Older plants are very resistant to all kinds of insects.