North America is home to many native perennial sages. They are perennials within their U.S. Department of Agriculture Plant Hardiness Zones, if your region is colder you can grow them as annuals. Cultivars are bred to handle the home garden situation. To grow native sages, mimic the conditions in which they are naturally found. Most grow in dry, hot regions that are intolerable for many flowering plants. There is also a smaller group of sages native to the cooler mountain and coastal regions.
Perennial Culinary Sage
Common garden sage is the type used in cooking and in medicinal teas. It has gray-green fuzzy aromatic foliage, and is native to Mediterranean regions. There are also perennial hybrids of this plant bred for ornamental value. Variegated hybrids are edible but the leaves turn an unsightly brown when they are dried. For this reason they are generally used fresh in cooking. Ornamental sages, which may have leaves that are variegated or in colors such as purple or yellow, are attractive edging plants for the perennial bed. All culinary sages have edible purple flower spikes. Garden sages are hardy to USDA zone 4.
Perennial Native Sage
There are native perennial sages found in the arid regions of states like California and Texas. Native Americans have long used white sage (Salvia apiana) in their religious ceremonies. This plant grows wild on the California desert and has white flowers and leaves that appear white in the sunlight. Many wild sages have spikes of vibrant blue and red flowers. Hummingbirds flock to all sage plants, but are especially attracted to red. One red flowering sage is even called hummingbird sage (Salvia spathacea). Pitcher sage (Savlia lepechinia) is another desert native that has trumpet-shaped flowers. Pitcher sages are currently being bred for garden use. Native sage can be grown in your garden, if your climate is arid as well. An exception is autumn sage (Salvia greggii). Autumn sage, native to Texas, is perennial to USDA zone 6, but can be grown as an annual in colder climates. It's long, late-summer bloom period often makes it worth growing, even as an annual. It looks a little different from other sages, as it has tiny leaves and develops into a small bush.
Ornamental Perennial Sage
There are some hardy perennial ornamental sages that are more likely to succumb to too much water than to cold. One cultivar of meadow sage, 'May Night,' has deep purple flower spikes that bloom all summer long. The anise sage, 'Black and Blue,' brightens the garden in late summer and fall with its unusual cobalt blue flowers with black calyxes. This tall sage is hardy to USDA zone 7. Pineapple sage (Salvia elegans) has the advantage of having pineapple-scented foliage and bright red flower spikes. It is hardy to USDA zone 8.
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