28 Different Types of Sage Plants – Identification Guide

Sage plants are a diverse group of herbs and shrubs in the mint family Lamiaceae, with over 900 species. They are native to many parts of the world, but most come from the Mediterranean region and Central and South America .

Sage plants are known for their fragrant leaves, which can be used in cooking, medicinal purposes, and as ornamentals. The most common type of sage is common sage (Salvia officinalis), which is used in seasoning stuffings, poultry dishes, and sausages.

Sage is a hardy plant that can grow in a variety of conditions, but it prefers a sunny location with well-drained soil. It can tolerate some shade, especially in hot climates, but too much shade can lead to leggy growth and reduced flowering. Sage is also drought-tolerant once established.

In the garden, sage can be grown in herb gardens, mixed borders, or even containers. It pairs well with other Mediterranean herbs like rosemary, thyme, and oregano, as well as with vegetables like tomatoes and peppers.

List of Sage Plants

  • White Sage (Salvia apiana)
  • Scarlet Sage (Salvia splendens)
  • Texas Sage (Salvia coccinea)
  • Common Sage (Salvia officinalis)
  • Sonoma Sage (Salvia sonomensis)
  • Fruit-scented Sage (Salvia dorisiana)
  • Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans)
  • Meadow Sage (Salvia nemorosa)
  • East Friesland Sage (Salvia nemorosa ‘Ostfriesland’)
  • Grapefruit Sage (Salvia gesneriifolia)
  • Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha)
  • Hummingbird Sage (Salvia spathacea)
  • Canary Island sage (Salvia canariensis)
  • Greek Sage (Salvia fruticosa)
  • Grape-Scented Sage (Salvia melissodora)
  • Cleveland Sage (Salvia clevelandii)
  • Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea)
  • Black Sage (Salvia mellifera)
  • Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii)
  • Anise-Scented Sage (Salvia guaranitica)
  • Blackcurrant Sage (Salvia microphylla)
  • Mealy Cup Sage (Salvia farinacea)
  • Diviner’s Sage (Salvia divinorum)
  • South African Sage (Salvia lanceolata)
  • Golden Chia (Salvia columbariae)
  • Tricolor Sage (Salvia officinalis ‘Tricolor’)
  • Purple Sage (Salvia officinalis ‘Purpurea’)

Description And Pictures

White Sage (Salvia apiana)

White Sage also known as bee sage or sacred sage, is native to the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico . It is found mainly in the coastal sage scrub habitat of Southern California and Baja California, on the western edges of the Mojave and Sonoran deserts.

The whitish evergreen leaves persist throughout the year. They are opposite with crenulate margins and covered in hairs that release a strong aromatic fragrance when crushed. In late spring and early summer, the stems proudly bear small whorls of white flowers.

Scarlet Sage (Salvia splendens)

Scarlet sage (Salvia splendens) is native to Brazil, where it grows at high elevations with warm temperatures and high humidity year-round. The wild form, rarely seen in cultivation, reaches 1.3 meters tall. Smaller cultivars are very popular as bedding plants, particularly in warmer climates.

It usually has dense clusters of red flowers, although newer cultivars come in shades of rich purple, pink, blue, lavender, salmon, white and even bicolor. The flowers are tubular and arranged in terminal clusters. The leaves are medium green, slightly hairy, and have scalloped edges.

Texas Sage (Salvia coccinea)

The Texas Sage also known as blood sage, scarlet sage, or tropical sage, is native to the southeastern United States, Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and northern South America. This plant is usually has red flowers, which bloom from early summer to the first frost of autumn.

This plant prefers full sun to partial shade and thrives in sandy, fertile soil. It is a fast-growing plant that can reach a height of 1 to 3 feet and a spread of about 2.5 feet. The leaves are pea green and are slightly hairy. It is grown as an annual in cooler climates, but it is hardy in zones 8 to 10. It is has immense ability to reseed, it can easily become a permanent part of your garden if you let it.

Common Sage (Salvia officinalis)

Common Sage also known as culinary sage, garden sage, or simply sage has silvery-green to grayish-green leaves with a pebbly texture. This sage has a long history of medicinal and culinary use. In fact, the word “sage” has come to mean “wise” or “a wise or learned person.

The leaves have a strong, pungent flavor that can be used to enhance the taste of meats, poultry, stuffings, soups, and stews. The plant grows to be about 2-3 feet tall and wide. It is a bushy plant with a woody base. The flowers are small and lavender-colored, and they bloom in whorls on short spikes in early summer.

Sonoma Sage (Salvia sonomensis)

Sonoma Sage also known as creeping sage is native to California. This plant features lavender-blue flowers that bloom from May to June, standing out above the foliage on spikes that can reach up to 6 inches tall. Its leaves are fragrant, silvery-green in color.

This sage species is attractive to pollinators such as bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. It is also deer resistant and can be a good choice for a native, low-maintenance groundcover in a California garden. It is also a good choice for erosion control, as its low-growing habit helps to hold soil in place.

Fruit-scented Sage (Salvia dorisiana)

The Fruit-scented Sage also known as peach sage, is native to Honduras. It grows 1-1.3 meters tall and is heavily branched. The leaves have a fruity scent when brushed, and large magenta-pink flowers bloom in winter. Salvia dorisiana was first described in 1950 and has become popular as a greenhouse plant.

The plant has several common names, including fruit-scented sage or peach sage. It is named after Doris Zemurray Stone, an American archaeologist and ethnographer who focused on Central America.

Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans)

Pineapple Sage is native to Mexico and Guatemala. It has pineapple-scented leaves and bright red tubular flowers that bloom in late summer and early fall. The leaves and flowers are edible and can be used to add flavor to salads, teas, jellies, and desserts.

This is a tender perennial, hardy in USDA zones 8-11, where it can grow up to 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide. In colder regions, it is often grown as an annual or overwintered indoors in pots. The plant prefers well-drained, fertile soil and full sun to partial shade.

Meadow Sage (Salvia nemorosa)

The Meadow Sage also known as Balkan Clary, Violet Sage, and Woodland Sage, is a clump-forming plant native to Europe and west-central Asia. It has spikes of blue-violet flowers and gray-green foliage.

It blooms from June through September and grows up to 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide. It is also a great plant for attracting bees, butterflies, and birds to your garden. It thrives in full sun to partial shade and prefers well-drained soil that is high in organic matter and slightly acidic.

East Friesland Sage (Salvia nemorosa ‘Ostfriesland’)

East Friesland Sage feature violet-blue flowers and aromatic, gray-green foliage. This variety of sage is native to Europe and is noted for its long blooming season, often starting in early summer and continuing into fall.

This plant grows 18 inches tall and 18-24 inches wide. It is a low-maintenance plant that is drought-tolerant once established. It is a hardy plant that can be grown in USDA zones 4-9. It prefers full sun to part shade and well-drained soil. It is often used in borders, rock gardens, and cottage gardens.

Grapefruit Sage (Salvia gesneriifolia)

Salvia gesneriifolia, commonly known as Grapefruit Sage or Mexican Scarlet Sage, is native to the mountainous regions of Mexico. The plant can grow up to 7 meters tall in its native habitat but is usually smaller in cultivation. The leaves are heart-shaped and aromatic, with a mid-green color and hairy texture.

It has long tubular flowers, which are orange-red in color and arranged in whorls around the stem. The main flowering time is late winter and early spring, although it may spot flower throughout the year if not pruned back in summer. The plant is a fast grower and can be pruned back to nodes about 20 cm from the ground in midsummer to encourage regrowth and flowering.

Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha)

The Mexican Bush Sage is native to subtropical and tropical conifer forests in central and eastern Mexico. The plant grows up to 1.3 m with numerous erect stems, often arching at their tips, and with long inflorescences. The linear-lanceolate leaves are a soft mid-green, with whitish, hairy undersides.

This plant has gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit for its showy, bicolor flowers which consist of soft purple sepals that create a lively contrast to the fuzzy white flowers. It blooms from late summer to first frost.

Hummingbird Sage (Salvia spathacea)

The Hummingbird Sage also known as California Hummingbird Sage or Pitcher Sage, is a flowering plant native to southern and central California. It is a semi-evergreen plant that grows about 1-3 feet tall. It has a spreading growth habit and forms clumps with time. The leaves are arrow-shaped, scalloped, wrinkled and bright green.

It also has pink and red flowering spikes that bloom throughout spring and into summer, with some repeat blooms in fall. The flowers are borne in large whorls on upright stems and resemble a pagoda. Both the bracts and calyxes remain colorful for weeks after the flowers fade. It is hardy to at least 20 degrees Fahrenheit, or USDA zones 8 to 11.

Canary Island sage (Salvia canariensis)

The Canary Island sage is native to the Canary Islands off the African coast. It grows up to 4 feet wide and sends up 6-foot white-furred stems that are cloaked with long, felted, arrow-shaped leaves. The plant is topped with plumes of purplish violet flowers that are held by red-tipped calyxes, which bloom from summer to frost.

It thrives in full sun and prefers dry to medium moisture conditions. It is a relatively short-lived plant, with an expected lifespan of about 5 years. It is recommended for zones 10 and 9, and can be propagated by seed sowing in spring, division in spring, or cuttings from spring through autumn.

Greek Sage (Salvia fruticosa)

Greek Sage is native to the eastern Mediterranean, including Southern Italy, the Canary Islands and North Africa. It’s especially abundant in Palestine, Israel and Lebanon. It is often used in cooking, and its leaves are also used to make tea.

The plant grows 2 feet high with the flower stalks rising above the foliage. The flowers are pinkish-lavender, growing in whorls along the inflorescence, and held in a small oxblood-red five-pointed hairy calyx. It has a long tradition of use in Greece, where it is valued for its beauty, medicinal value, and culinary use, along with its sweet nectar and pollen.

Grape-Scented Sage (Salvia melissodora)

The Grape-Scented Sage is a woody in nature and native to the Sierra Madre Oriental mountain range in Mexico. It is also known as tarahumara, named after the Tarahumara people who have used the leaves and seeds for medicinal purposes for several hundred years.

The plant is characterized by grape-scented, lavender-blue blooms. It grows up to 6 feet tall and 4 feet with a graceful and upright habit. The flowers are full of nectar and bloom from late spring until frost. It prefers full sun and well-drained soil. It is hardy to around 20 degrees Fahrenheit but can recover from bouts of cold if well established or protected.

Cleveland Sage (Salvia clevelandii)

This species was named in 1874 by Asa Grayin in honor of Daniel Cleveland, an amateur botanist and civic leader from San Diego. It is found throughout portions of Southern California and northwestern Baja California, in chaparral and coastal sage scrub habitats.

It grows to a height of 3-4 feet. The small, gray-green leaves are not only visually appealing with their wrinkled texture, but also possess some fragrance. Come spring and summer, the Cleveland Sage comes alive with whorls of vibrant purple or lavender flowers. These blooms are a magnet for pollinators, attracting hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees.

Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea)

Clary sage is a biennial or short-lived plant that is native to the northern Mediterranean Basin, along with some areas in North Africa and Central Asia. It has a long history of use in herbal medicine and as an aromatic additive in soaps, perfumes, and cosmetics.

The plant has a tall, upright growth habit, reaching heights of 2 to 4 feet, and produces showy, colorful bracts that are in color from pale mauve to lilac or white to pink, with a pink mark on the edge. The flowers are tubular and two-lipped, with a creamy white to lilac color. The upper leaf surface is rugose, and covered with glandular hairs.

Black Sage (Salvia mellifera)

Black Sage is a small, highly aromatic shrub native to California and Baja California, Mexico. It’s commonly found in the coastal sage scrub and lower chaparral plant communities. It usually has a dark appearance, especially during drought.

This plant is semi-deciduous with leaves that are oblong-elliptic to obovate in shape. The upper surface of the leaf is somewhat glabrous, while the lower surface of the leaf is hairy. The plant produces flowers in whorls. The fruit is a schizocarp composed of brown nutlets.

Black sage readily hybridizes with several other coastal scrub Salvias, including Salvia apiana (Californian white sage), Salvia leucophylla (San Luis purple sage), and Salvia clevelandii. This sage has been used by the Chumash people for its medicinal properties. The leaves and stems are used to make a strong sun tea.

Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii)

Autumn Sage is native to Texas and Mexico. It is also known by other common names such as Texas Sage, Cherry Sage, Gregg Salvia, and Autumn Sage. It blooms from spring to frost, with flowers appearing in whorls above the plant’s minty aromatic foliage. The flowers can be red, purple, pink, yellow, or violet.

The plant grows to a height of about 2 to 3 feet. It is suitable for USDA Zones 7 to 9. It is a prolific bloomer and is fairly low-maintenance. The plant is not considered invasive in the USA and is ideal for xeriscape gardens and rocky slopes. Among its other strengths, it is also salt-tolerant and deer-resistant.

Anise-Scented Sage (Salvia guaranitica)

Anise-Scented Sage is native to southern South America, particularly Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Argentina. It is hardy in USDA zones 8-10 and can be grown as an annual in colder climates.

This plant grows up to 6 feet tall in its native habitat, but it is shorter when grown as an annual in colder climates. The leaves are dark green, wrinkled above and pale green below, with a slight anise scent when crushed (though some gardeners report the scent is more like a common sage).

The flowers have purple to true blue petals surrounded by a green calyx.

The plant is also known by various common names such as Black and Blue salvia, blue anise sage, anise-scented sage, Brazilian sage, giant blue sage, sapphire sage, hummingbird sage, blue ensign, and purple splendor.

Blackcurrant Sage (Salvia microphylla)

Blackcurrant sage also known as baby sage, Graham’s sage, or little leaf sage is native to southeastern Arizona and the mountains of eastern, western, and southern Mexico. It grows as a bushy shrub with a spreading habit and easily hybridizes with other salvia species.

This plant has small oval-shaped leaves with a fragrance reminiscent of blackcurrants. It prefers a sunny, sheltered spot and does best in well-drained, highly organic soil. It is drought and heat tolerant and slightly salt tolerant. The flowers occur on spikes in shades of pink, red, and white in spring with repeat blooming to fall.

Mealy Cup Sage (Salvia farinacea)

Mealycup sage, also commonly called mealy blue sage or mealy sage, is native to parts of the United States and Mexico. It has elongated spikes of tubular flowers. These flowers have a unique, mealy or powdery appearance on the flower bracts, which explains the plant’s common name.

It thrives as a perennial in USDA hardiness zones 8 to 10, but in colder climates, it’s best treated as an annual. The foliage is narrow and lance-shaped, medium to dark green in color. The blooming season stretch from late spring all the way to early fall.

Diviner’s Sage (Salvia divinorum)

Diviner’s Sage is native to the misty mountains of Oaxaca, Mexico. The plant has large, velvety, vivid green leaves and small white blooms. It can grow up to 4-5 feet tall.

Salvia divinorum has a long history of use by the Mazatec shamans in northern Oaxaca, Mexico, for spiritual rituals, healing ceremonies, and as a medicinal herb. It is often used in conjunction with other sacred plants, such as Ololiuhqui (the seeds of the Morning Glory vine) and Teonanacatl (psilocybe mexicana mushrooms), to facilitate spiritual journeys and healing practices.

Salvia divinorum is a plant species with transient psychoactive properties when its leaves, or extracts made from the leaves, are administered by smoking, chewing, or drinking. The leaves contain the potent compound salvinorin A and can induce a dissociative state and hallucinations. 

South African Sage (Salvia lanceolata)

South African Sage is native to a small area of the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. It thrives in sandy ground at sea level and on dry hills and flat ground up to 1000 feet elevation.

It is a much branched shrub that grows to about 3 feet tall and 2 to 4 feet wide. Its stems become woody and light tan as they age. The plant blooms with unusual dull rosy brownish colored flowers from May through November. When crushed, the leaves give off a light fragrance reminiscent of lemon pepper.

In South Africa, the leaves of Salvia lanceolata are commonly used in cooking, especially with fish.

Golden Chia (Salvia columbariae)

Golden Chia (Salvia columbariae) is an annual plant that is commonly called chia, chia sage, golden chia, or desert chia, because its seeds are used in the same way as those of Salvia hispanica (chia). It grows in California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Sonora, and Baja California, and was an important food for Native Americans.

It has oblong-ovate leaves that form a basal rosette at the base. Bright purple flowers that occur in whorls, with a flowering period from March to June. Tiny, oil-rich seeds are produced inside spiny seed capsules. The bright purple flowers of golden chia attract bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.

Tricolor Sage (Salvia officinalis ‘Tricolor’)

Tricolor sage is a cultivar of common sage (Salvia officinalis). It features variegated leaves that are strongly aromatic and are commonly used fresh or dried in cooking, similar to the common sage. The leaves are irregularly splashed with shades of green, pink, cream, and purple.

The plant grows to a height of about 1.5 feet and can be used in various garden settings, such as borders, containers, or as part of a butterfly or hummingbird garden. It’s noted for being less hardy than the purple sage varieties and may require winter protection in colder climates.

Purple Sage (Salvia officinalis ‘Purpurea’)

Purple sage is a cultivar of common sage (Salvia officinalis), it is both an ornamental plant and a culinary herb. Unlike the green leaves of common sage, Purple Sage unfolds oblong leaves in the shade of purple. The undersides of the leaves has a grayish-green hue.

Just like common sage, Purple Sage possesses the characteristic sage fragrance. The narrow, purple leaves are highly aromatic, releasing a strong, savory scent when crushed.

In early summer, it produces whorls of two-lipped, lavender-blue flowers on short, upright flower spikes. This plant prefers full sun and well-drained soil, and it is drought-tolerant once established. It can survive with as little as 3.7 inches of rain per year but cannot survive wet winter conditions.

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