Northern California's Sacramento Valley lies in USDA Hardiness Zone 9. It gets 18 inches of average annual rainfall during the winter months and has long, hot, dry summers. While summers are hard on Sacramento gardens, at least three types of sage are well-adapted to the conditions and produce brilliant blooms over an extended season.
Bearing the name of a 19th-century Russian general, Russian sage (preovskia atriplicfolia) is native to the rocky hillsides of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Tolerant of those harsh growing conditions, Russian sage thrives in the Sacramento Valley's sunny hot summers. This is a woody shrub growing in clumps of up to 5 feet, producing silvery-gray leaves on multiple branches. Feathery foliage makes an attractive base for late summer and fall spikes of pale blue to deep purple flowers.
While Russian sage grows in shade, it may become leggy and need staking. Full sun and well-drained soil produce compact vigorous plants. This plant can handle chalky acidic soil as well as salt and drought. Cut back Russian sage in early spring, says Floridata.com, because flowers occur on new growth.
Autumn sage (salvia greggii) is a vase-shaped mounding shrub that can grow 4 feet high and 2 feet wide. Small succulent leaves help it autumn sage retain moisture in Texas' Chihuahua desert, its native habitat. Plants are so well adapted to hot dry climates, in fact, that too much moisture kills them. They need full sun and poor, dry well-drained soil.
Blooming from spring through fall, autumn sage produces abundant white, red, pink, orange or purple flowers attractive to hummingbirds and butterflies. One cultivar, Sierra San Antonio, has bi-colored red and yellow blooms. Evergreen in most locations, the plants also provide winter garden interest. Autumn sage benefits from frequent pruning to keep it from becoming leggy.
A member of the mint family, pineapple sage (salvia elegans) releases a pineapple scent from bruised leaves. The edible leaves and flowers are delicious and colorful additions to salads, teas and desserts.
Pineapple sage has an open growth habit, reaching up to 5 feet tall. Its pale green leaves make a striking contrast to brilliant red 8-inch spikes of 1- to 2-inch tubular flowers that appear through the late summer and fall. Like autumn sage, pineapple sage is a hummingbird and butterfly magnet.
Native to mountain forests of Mexico, this sage likes full sun and regular watering. Plants drop their leaves during extended droughts, but recover quickly with adequate moisture. In the Sacramento Valley and other Zone 9 areas, pineapple sage is winter hardy. Plants grow readily from tip cuttings planted in the spring. Set started plants from nurseries out after the last spring frost.