There are between 800-900 types of sage or salvia, which is the biggest genus in the mint family. Other herbs that are part of the same family are oregano, rosemary and basil.
Some types of sage are purely ornamental and can be a gorgeous addition to your garden. While other types of sage can be used for culinary and medicinal purposes. They also grow very differently in sizes; some are small and compact, while others grow massively up to 8-9 feet in height and width. After knowing all of this, you are probably wondering what types of sage to plant.
Sage is a herb that everyone should include in their gardens since it is quite low maintenance and drought tolerant. This herb is high in nutrients including calcium, manganese and iron, as well as vitamin k and B6. Sage’s medicinal benefits include its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties
Types of Sage
Of all the types of sage, garden sage is the most common. This is the one you usually purchase at the supermarket or in nurseries. It has soft leaves that are silvery green with purple or blue flower spikes that usually appear in the spring. Garden sage is edible, including the flowers. You can use it fresh or dried for cooking or brewing tea.
This variety of sage grows well in zones 5-8 (USDA) but can be grown between 4-11. It is quite tolerant to droughts, so make sure that the soil is more on the dry side. Too much water will cause problems with your plant. It is also tolerant to frost and will come back more prolific the following year. Ideal growing conditions include full sun (can manage a bit of shade occasionally) and well drained soil. Garden sage becomes woody after some time, so make sure to prune it and plant new ones every couple of years.
Pineapple sage is the second most common type of sage after garden sage. It doesn’t look like other types of sage since its small leaves are green and yellow. Flowers come in tubular shape and are bright red in color. They bloom in the summer attracting hummingbirds and butterflies. Flowers are edible, just like the leaves which taste delicious, with hints of citrus and a minty flavor. They can be used to give flavor to desserts, salads, meats or be drunk in a tea. It is also medicinal, since it has anti-anxiety and antidepressant properties.
This sage is a vigorous grower so make sure to give it enough space or prune it. It can grow in USDA zones 8-11 with full sun. Pineapple sage needs well drained soil. Keep it moist until it is established, after it can tolerate drought.
Greek sage grows up to 3 feet tall, larger than other types of sage, so make sure to allocate enough space or prune it. Its long and narrow leaves are medium sized, with flowers that are a light shade of purple. This culinary variety is the most common form of dried sage, which explains why the dried condiment taste so different from the fresh leaves. It is also possible to buy the dried leaves without crushing which can be used for tea.
Make sure you plant Greek sage in a humid area, since it is not a fan of dry climates. Just like other types of sage, this plant needs full sun and well drained soil.
Dry Clary sage is used in bundles to improve the smell of clothes in drawers or dressers. It has a woody and earthy aroma that is added to sachets and perfumes. Clary sage oil is used medicinally either topically, inhaled or swallowed (only very high quality oil). It is also edible and can also be used in many dishes. The leaves of this sage are quite large and bright green in color. Flowers are purple with cup shaped blossoms that appear between summer and fall.
Unlike other types of sage, this plant is not drought tolerant. For Clary sage to grow it needs regular watering and cooler climates, where it can be a perennial. Otherwise it grows as a biennial in very humid climates, since it cannot tolerate dryness. Clary sage needs partial to full shade and well drained soil.
This type of sage grows well in cold and warm areas. It is a hardy perennial, native to Texas and Mexico, that can be planted in zones 6-9. Autumn sage needs full sun and well drained and fertile soil. Do not over water this plant, as it prefers to be a bit dry. Grow this variety of sage as a hedge, in garden beds or borders.
Typically it is known for being a beautiful ornamental, but it is also edible with a minty flavor. Its velvety green leaves are ovate in shape, about 2 inches long. Autumn sage blooms from spring to fall. Flower spikes are quite large, which come in a variety of colors including yellow, orange, red, pink and purple.
White sage is edible and is surprisingly delicious, as it enhances the flavors of pork or meat. However, most people use it for smudging to remove bad energies. This tradition comes from natives in North America and Mexico. Its long silvery green leaves turn white when dried and are usually tied with a piece of string to be burned producing a smokey, pine-like aroma. Its flowers, which grow in round balls, are white as well.
This sage is quite hardy and grows as a perennial in zones 5-9. It needs full sun, since shade will cause it to droop. White sage needs well drained and moist soil, as it is not as tolerant to drought as other types of sage.
Scarlet sage is one of the most versatile types of sage. This ornamental plant can be grown in containers, garden beds or as border plants. It has oval green leaves with tube-shaped flowers that bloom in shades of red or purple. Leaves are very fragrant and are often used in potpourri or sachets.
It can be grown in cooler regions (between zones 2-9) but only annually. Scarlet sage needs hotter weather (10-11) to be able to grow as a perennial. Make sure your plant has full sun and that the soil is well drained and moist.
Mexican Bush Sage
As it name suggests, this variety of sage is native to Mexico and grows well in subtropical regions. Those who want to grow it in the United States should live in zones 8-10 and have humidity, since this plant does not like dry climates. Mexican bush sage needs full sun and well drained soil just like many other types of sage.
It has green medium sized leaves that are quite narrow and long pink or lavender flowers with white tips. Pollinators and beneficial insects love the showy flowers. Unlike other types of sage, this ornamental variety is bushy and spreads quickly, so make sure you have enough space for it.
This ornamental variety of sage has many names including anise-scented sage (because of the woody and spicy scent) and pitcher sage. Leaves are quite dark, growing in ovate shaped clumps. Hummingbird sage blooms in the summer producing tall stems with dark blue tubular flowers.
It can grow up to 5 feet quite easily and is taller than wider. Plant this sage in full sun, although it can handle light shade. Soil needs to be rich in organic material and well drained. Hummingbird sage needs to be moist, however it can tolerate droughts for months.