Most Sages are easy-care plants, requiring little more than a sunny spot, well-drained soil and cutting back to shape after flowering. They are related to the mint family but, unlike mints, do not grow well in moist soil.
There are many different species, the best known being Common Sage (Salvia officinalis), which is a sprawling perennial plant with grey-green leaves and spikes of blue-purple flowers in summer.
Use the aromatic leaves in cooking to flavour meat or cheese and egg dishes, or to make a tea which is said to be a digestive aid.
Sage tea is also used as a rinse for darkening grey hair.
There are a number of attractive forms of Common Sage, including Purple-leaved Sage (S. officinalis ‘Purpurea’), White Flowering Sage (S .officinalis ‘Albiflora’), Golden Sage (S. officinalis ‘Variegata’) and Dwarf Sage (S. officinalis ‘Nana’) The leaves can be used in the same way as the ordinary Sage but the plants are not as hardy and are generally short-lived.
As well as the herb Sages, there is a wide range of ornamental Sages, which are grown primarily for their flowers, which are usually shades of blue, purple, pink, red and white. The best known is the Bonfire Salivia, a small annual with bright red flowers, often used as a bedding plant in parks. The shrubby sages are popular in cottage gardens and the taller varieties are ideal for the back of garden borders.
Pineapple Sage (S. elegans) – Grows to 1.5 m tall with scarlet flowers in autumn, fruity scented foliage.
Mealy Sage (S. farinacea) – Grows to 1.5 m tall with dark purple flowers in spring-summer.
Rosy Leaf Sage (S. involucrata) –grows to 1 m tall with pink to red flowers late summer and autumn
Mexican Sage (S. leucantha) – Grows to 1 m tall x 1.5m wide with attractive, felt-like purple and white flowers summer-early winter.
Salvia nemorsa -A hybrid of S. involucrata, usually with purplish flowers and to 1.2m tall.
Clary Sage (S. sclarea) – An upright biennial to 1 m tall with pale blue flowers summer.
Bog Sage (S. uliginosa) – Grows to 2 m tall with blue flowers in summer-autumn. Tolerates moister soil and more shade than other sages (can be invasive).
by John Mason and staff of Australian Correspondence Schools.