Salvia is the sage family. These are plants with pungent leaves and blooms that can be colorful and showy. There are salvias large and small that grow all over the world. There are some yellow salvias but most bloom in pinks, reds, whites, blues and purples. Some offer the rare color of true blue. There are many that are excellent to use in garden where soil is poor and water scarce. Most of them are adaptable for drought-tolerant gardens with a wide range of conditions. Here is just a sampling of some of the most drought-tolerant of these decorative sages.

You can see that the family of sages offers a wide selection. Don’t forget to plant the edible garden sage for cooking. Even this comes in an assortment of varieties offering lovely spikes of indigo blue flowers when in bloom and leaves from soft green to variegated with splashes or edgings of white, yellow, purple or pink — or combinations of these colors. Like the rest of the sage family, the edible sage also likes full sun and prefers lean soil and not too much water.

There are salvias that need it warm, some that handle hard frosts and a good number that can handle almost desert conditions. Some do well in shade although most prefer sunshine. There are so many cultivars that you should be able to find one for any location. Some are ideal to use as ground cover as they spread wide and low. A good hillside ground cover for dry-summer seasons is the S. ‘Terra Secca’ shown below. This one can go for months without water, but it will look richer and happier if it gets a little supplemental irrigation.

The most popular sage is the annual bedding flower that once came only in bright red, but now can be found in blues, purples, reds, pinks and whites. This sage only lasts for one season (being an annual), but will put on an impressive blooming show. It will do well in a regular garden bed with rich soil. Use it to fill in places that need to be colored up for the season.



Cleveland sage: Salvia clevelandii (CA native) Salvia clevelandii ‘Winifred Gillman’

Bicolored salvia

This is a shot of a rare Salvia clevelandii ‘Winifred Gillman’ blooming with both blue and white flowers. It is sometimes referred to as a Betsy Clebsch variety, but after several years it proved unstable and reverted to the usual all-blue blooms.





Salvia melifera‘Terra Secca’

groundcover sage

The Salvia ‘Terra Secca’ covers lots of ground with pebbled, lush-colored, evergreen leaves and sends up little white flower spikes in the spring.





Salvia‘Bee’s Bliss’

Groundcover sage

Salvia ‘Bees Bliss’ forms a handsome, low-growing mat of soft grey foliage and sends up purple-lavender blooms in spring.





Desert blue sage Salvia dorrii

Desert sage

The desert sage, Salvia dorrii, takes extreme hot and dry. In spring it blooms with rich, bright blue flowers.





Salvia canariensis (Canary Island Sage)

Canary sage

Salvia canariensis forms a 5′ x 5′ shrub thick with flowers.





Penstemon centranthafolius blooms between flows of Salvia ‘Bees Bliss’ and S. ‘Terra Seca’

Perennial red salvia

Penstemon centranthifolius (CA native) blazes out in red among lower growing salvias












Salvia chamadryoides

blue salvia

The small, neat-growing Salvia chamaedryoides offers pure sky-blue flowers for the garden that accent its soft silvery little leaves.













Salvia greggii

flowering sage

The Salvia greggii plants are bred in an assortment of colors. They are versatile and waterwise. Look for colors in reds, yellows, whites, pinks, and purples.





Salvia leucantha (Mexican Bush Sage or Velvet Sage)

Mexican sage

The Mexican sage or Salvia Leucantha has a purple and a purple and white variety. It grows up to 8′ in width and 4 – 5′ high — an eye-catcher when in bloom.