Apart from its comical appearance as the bright green sprouts growing from a Chia pet, the chia plant is actually an attractive annual wildflower. Also known as California sage, Chia is found predominantly in dry, open areas of the southwestern United States. A member of the mint family, Chia plants also produce tiny, edible seeds.
The plan sprouts in early spring and grows quickly, flowering in late spring or early summer. The blooms eventually dry and turn from blue to golden and remain on the stems. The plan eventually dies in the fall. Seeds are shaken from the dried blossoms and dispersed by wind or other disturbances.
Chia is an annual herb that grows in California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and northwestern Mexico. It is found predominantly in foothill woodlands, chaparral, sage scrub and other arid environments. Chia is frequently found growing wild and dry, open plains, sandy washes, and newly disturbed soils. It grows in elevations up to 6,000 feet.
The leaves of the plant radiate from its base and are about 6 to 10 inches long. Deeply lobed, the leaves are green, fuzzy, thick and wrinkled. The stem of the flower projects from the center of the plant and is relatively tall and thin, growing to 3 feet tall. The flowers form as a cluster at the top of each stem. Each flower is tiny and tubular and is surrounded by several bracts, specialized leaves that protect the blossom. The color of the flower ranges from light to deep blue. The seeds of chia are tiny, around 2mm long. They can vary from light tan to dark brown and often have a mottled appearance.
Chia seeds can be sown freely in the fall or early spring and germinate quickly. The plant prefers light to medium soils that are well-drained. Sandy or loamy soils that are either slightly acid or slightly alkaline will accommodate chia. The plant needs full sun to grow well and will not tolerate shade. Chia is also very drought- and salt-tolerant.
Chia is frequently grown as an annual wildflower and often is seen in plantings with other wildflowers along roadsides and embankments. It can also be grown as an annual ornamental in gardens, particularly wild flower gardens. The seeds of the plant are edible and can be eaten raw or toasted. The seats can also be steeped in water to produce a thick drink.