Q: I love the purple flowers of ‘Silverado’ sage after a rain, but I do not love how stalky the shrubs can become. I have been careful to not over water them and even tried light pruning. The bushes are planted in full morning sun and in well-drained soil. What am I doing wrong? They have been in the ground for 18 months, so I feel they are established.

Mary Ann Polhemus, Houston

A: ‘Silverado’ is a cultivar of the drought-tolerant, native shrub with fuzzy, silver-gray foliage, Leucophyllum frutescens. ‘Green Cloud’ foliage has more green.

The native shrub has several common names, including silverleaf sage, Texas sage, purple sage, cenizo, wild lilac and barometer bush, which refers to the open, bell-shaped, purple blooms that appear off and on during the year, but especially after summer rains.

Texas sage can reach 8 feet in height; some cultivars are more compact. But all can get leggy and become less dense without full sun. You can encourage bushier growth with heavier pruning in late winter and early spring. Try pruning up to a third of a shrub.

For a more natural shape, snip branches individually at varying heights. Then in late spring, early summer, prune again, if necessary. You also can prune tips during the growing season to encourage bushy growth.

In addition to full sun, Texas sage must have excellent drainage. Yellowing leaves signal over-watering, a rainy period compounded by poor drainage, swings from wet to dry or simply age.

High humidity also is a problem, so plant in an area with good air circulation.

Texas sage is a larval and nectar plant for butterflies.

Several other unrelated plants also are known as sage. Most species in the genus Salvia share the name, including autumn sage, bog sage, Brazilian sage, forsythia sage, mealy sage and Mexican sage. Pineapple sage and the silver-gray culinary sage (Salvia officinalis) are great additions in herb gardens.

Jerusalem sage, Phlomis tuberosa, has fuzzy, lance-shaped foliage and forms an evergreen mound. It produces whorls of velvety, lavender-pink blooms on 3-foot stalks in summer.

Russian sage, Perovskia atriplicifolia, is a perennial with wispy wands with lavender-blue blooms and silvery foliage. It’s best in full sun and excellent drainage.

Pruning Russian Sage

Tackle Russian sage pruning with confidence. It can seem daunting at first, but once you get the hang of pruning Russian sage, your plants will grow stronger and fuller—and stage a prettier flower show. Pruning is not part of Russian sage propagation, although taking tip cuttings might qualify as a pruning activity by true botanists.
For the average gardener, pruning Russian sage typically occurs on the ends of the growing season—near the start and finish. Russian sage forms a purple haze in gardens starting in mid- to late summer with its purple spires of bloom. The fuzzy flowers are whorled around silver-gray stems, forming an unusual and eye-catching scene. Foot-long flower heads infuse strong drama into plantings. Proper spring Russian sage pruning prepares the way for a spectacular flower show.
As Russian sage matures through the growing season, stems shift from being green, tender and succulent to having a woody component. Garden experts call this type of perennial flower a semi-woody perennial or shrubby perennial. At the end of the flowering season in cold regions, when flowers have faded and a killing frost has occurred, clip Russian sage stems back to 18 inches. Or skip this pruning and leave stems intact through winter to add interest to winter garden scenery. It’s wise to leave stems in place in the coldest areas where Russian sage is hardy—Zones 4 and 5.
As winter arrives and freezing temperatures settle in, stems freeze. Whether or not stems freeze to the point of death depends on how cold it gets and how long the cold hangs around. In spring, new growth emerges on Russian sage from two places: stems and the plant crown, the growing point where roots and stem tissue meet. Typically the crown is buried just beneath soil.
In a hard winter, all of the aboveground stems on Russian sage may be killed, and all new growth emerges from the crown. In milder winters, stems may die back part way. In this instance, new growth on a Russian sage would emerge from both the stems and the crown.
As spring arrives, snip stems back to 12 to 18 inches. If you’re doing your garden clean-up well before the last average frost date, leave 18 inches in place. If all danger of frost has passed, clip stems to 12 inches or shorter.
Russian sage is hardy in Zones 4 to 9. In warmer regions it may not die back much, if at all, during the winter months. In areas with mild winters, tackle pruning Russian sage after flowers fade and when winter settles in. You can give plants a hard prune at this point, cutting plants to 6 to 12 inches tall, if you don’t want to see stems all winter long. Otherwise, wait to do a hard prune in late winter or very early spring.
In areas with long growing seasons, pruning Russian sage immediately after flowering can promote a second flush of bloom. Cut plants back by half to encourage rebloom.

Purple Sage
Botanical Name: Salvia officinalis ‘Purpurascens’

Purple Sage is an aromatic, evergreen shrub growing from 50 cm to 1 meter in height, with a similar spread. The purple colouring is usually found on new growth leaves and stems. Older foliage takes on a grey – green colouring, with the oblong leaves growing from 3-6 cm long. The 2 cm flowers are a purple – blue colour, held in terminal racemes that appear in early summer to late spring.

This colourful sage is a cultivar of the Common Sage and may be used in a similar manner. It does have the added advantage of being able to add extra colour when used as a garnish. However, many people simply take advantage of the colouring and treat Purple Sage as an ornamental plant.

The salvia family has over 900 members with an extensive history as culinary, medicinal and ornamental plants. Ornamental salvias have become collectors items, as gardeners try to find a place in their garden for each and every one. There are salvias that will suit every type of soil and climate. More information on the Salvia genus and Common Sage (Salvia officinalis) may be found on our Common Sage page.

Growing Conditions

Purple Sage is a hardy plant with some drought tolerance and an ability to grow in a wide range of soil types. It will grow in average soil and clay or lime soils, as long as the ground is moist and well drained. Full sun or part shade is acceptable. If your sage plants tend to suffer in the extreme heat, an experiment with partial shade is worthwhile. The ultimate size may vary but it does take 5-10 years to reach full height.

Purple Sage may be propagated by taking softwood cuttings in spring and semi-hardwood cuttings in late spring.

sage purple

I have a sunny, well drained bank mass-planted with purple sage, this winter they have crisped up and look very dead, with dusty looking leaves. Some plants did this last year and needed to be replaced, what has happened and have I lost the lot? If so, what would you recommend replacing them with?

Ukholl1

2018-03-23

Hello, The most likely reason that this plant does not make it through the winter is a combination of excessive cold and wet.

2018-03-27

Helen

I have planted salvia sages purple in both my back and front gardens. All the plants look very unhappy, limp and exhausted looking. I planted them summer last year, and for the first three months or so grew incredibly fast, looking full of life. We have had very wet conditions here in the south of England in the last 6 months or so, the soil never really dry. Could this be the problem, even though we did put lots of shingle in the holes for drainage before planting.

parsleypuss

2018-03-07

Hello, Yes, these plants do not respond well to waterlogged conditions, so I suspect yours are suffering from the wet conditions.

2018-03-09

Helen

the leaves appear to have chunks bitten out of them. i have two large plants three years old and nearly every leaf appeares to have been chewed. shall i dig up and is it safe to replant with same plant.

london

2015-03-09

Hello there Sounds like it could be slugs and snails. I would try and protect the plants, or do a evening patrol to try and catch the culprits. We do have various slug and snail repellents. I have attached a link below. The copper rimmed cloches might be worth thinking about. http://www.crocus.co.uk/products/_/tools/pest-control/slugs-snail-control/plcid.767/plcid.783/plcid.967/ Hope this helps.

2015-03-12

Purple Sage Planting Guide: What Is Purple Sage And Where Does It Grow

Purple sage (Salvia dorrii), also known as salvia, is a bushy perennial native to the desert regions of the western United States. Used to sandy, poor soil, it requires little maintenance and is perfect for filling in areas where most other plants would die. Keep reading to learn more about growing purple sage plants and the care of purple sage in gardens.

Purple Sage Planting Guide

Growing purple sage plants is great because they require such little care. Used to desert conditions (lending to its other common name – desert sage), they are very drought resistant and actually prefer sandy or even rocky soil. Because of this, the most likely reason for a purple sage plant

to fail is that the growing conditions are too rich.

Only gardeners in the hot, dry regions of the western U.S. have real success growing these plants. Your best chance is to plant it in the hottest, sunniest, best-drained part of your garden. South facing, rocky hills are a good bet.

If you succeed in growing purple sage plants, you’ll be rewarded with a medium sized, round shrub with fragrant, fleshy green leaves and vivid purple flowers that may bloom multiple times in a single growing season.

Purple Sage Plant Facts

Purple sage can be grown from seed sown in the fall or cuttings planted in the spring. Plant it in a spot that receives full sun and mix a good amount of compost with the soil to improve drainage.

Care of purple sage is extremely easy – it needs little in the way of water and nutrients, though it will benefit from a 1- to 2-inch layer of compost once every spring.

It will maintain a nice round shape without pruning, though some pruning either during or after flowering will encourage new growth.

And that’s pretty much it. If you’re known to neglect plants now and then or live in a dry region, then purple sage is definitely the plant for you.

Salvia leucophylla

Purple sage, Salvia leucophylla, is a three to six foot evergreen shrub with flowers that are light purple in May-Jul.. Purple sage has leaves that are white tomentose(kinda fuzzy grey). This sage occurs on dry slopes where it is native from Santa Maria to Baja. Some of it companion plants are Encelia californica, Rhus integrifolia, Eriogonum cinereum, and Artemisia californica. Needs sun, no water after established (grows rank otherwise to eight feet). We have had no damage in containers at 8 degrees F. and slight damage in the ground at 0 deg.. One has been growing here for almost 30 years and it is still doing fine, looking good. There is a form of purple sage in the trade called Pt. Sal. Use the purple sage in heavy clays(but it does ok in sand), for wildlife(Quail love the seed), for a grey border of a desert garden(a little extra water in winter is all you’ll need in Palmdale), in the back of a butterfly garden, or as part of a sage garden. A grey, gray, cloud with some pink, a dream for one who loves grey, or gray.

Here’s a native sage page where you can see all the Salvias of California.

Purple Sage foliage

Purple Sage foliage

(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)

Plant Height: 18 inches

Flower Height: 24 inches

Spacing: 15 inches

Sunlight:

Hardiness Zone: 4a

Other Names: Common Sage, Culinary Sage

Edible Qualities

Purple Sage is a perennial herb that is typically grown for its edible qualities, although it does have ornamental merits as well. The fragrant narrow purple leaves with curious grayish green undersides can be harvested at any time in the season. The leaves have a savory taste and a strong fragrance.

The leaves are most often used in the following ways:

  • Cooking
  • Drying
  • Seasoning

Features & Attributes

Purple Sage has masses of beautiful racemes of fragrant lilac purple flowers with blue overtones rising above the foliage from early to mid summer, which are most effective when planted in groupings. The flowers are excellent for cutting. Its attractive fragrant narrow leaves are purple in color with curious grayish green undersides. As an added bonus, the foliage turns a gorgeous deep purple in the fall.

This is an herbaceous perennial herb with an upright spreading habit of growth. Its medium texture blends into the garden, but can always be balanced by a couple of finer or coarser plants for an effective composition. This is a high maintenance plant that will require regular care and upkeep, and can be pruned at anytime. It is a good choice for attracting bees, butterflies and hummingbirds to your yard, but is not particularly attractive to deer who tend to leave it alone in favor of tastier treats. It has no significant negative characteristics.

Aside from its primary use as an edible, Purple Sage is sutiable for the following landscape applications;

  • Mass Planting
  • Border Edging
  • General Garden Use
  • Naturalizing And Woodland Gardens
  • Herb Gardens
  • Container Planting

Planting & Growing

Purple Sage will grow to be about 18 inches tall at maturity extending to 24 inches tall with the flowers, with a spread of 18 inches. When grown in masses or used as a bedding plant, individual plants should be spaced approximately 15 inches apart. It grows at a medium rate, and under ideal conditions can be expected to live for approximately 9 years.

This plant is quite ornamental as well as edible, and is as much at home in a landscape or flower garden as it is in a designated edibles garden. It should only be grown in full sunlight. It prefers dry to average moisture levels with very well-drained soil, and will often die in standing water. It is not particular as to soil pH, but grows best in rich soils. It is somewhat tolerant of urban pollution. Consider applying a thick mulch around the root zone in winter to protect it in exposed locations or colder microclimates. This is a selected variety of a species not originally from North America.

Purple Sage is a good choice for the edible garden, but it is also well-suited for use in outdoor pots and containers. With its upright habit of growth, it is best suited for use as a ‘thriller’ in the ‘spiller-thriller-filler’ container combination; plant it near the center of the pot, surrounded by smaller plants and those that spill over the edges. Note that when growing plants in outdoor containers and baskets, they may require more frequent waterings than they would in the yard or garden.

Purple Sage: Planting and Care Instructions

Purple sage, also known as Salvia, is an evergreen shrub that is both inexpensive and hardy. As a native desert plant, sage bushes are accustomed to drought and heavy sun. They making them a worthwhile addition to any garden. For more information about Salvia planting and care, read on.

Characteristics of the Purple Sage Plant

Purple sage is a perennial plant, meaning it recovers each year without replanting. Although it may grow to hedge size, many people prefer to keep purple sage bushes 12 to 18 inches high. They bud several times per year, typically after a heavy rainfall or during periods of high humidity. They have no specific soil requirements, and they necessitate little care throughout the year.

Tips for Planting Purple Sage

It is best to plant purple sage in the spring, when there is no longer chance of a snowfall or frost. Ensure that your garden or flowerbed has at least 15 inches of loose soil for Salvia’s root system. Mixing in compost with the soil may help the plant to grow more quickly as well.

Purple sage plants should be spaced two to three feet apart to allow for full growth. When preparing to plant your sage bush, dig a hole that is approximately twice as wide as the top of the flowerpot and deep enough that the entire root system of the plant can fit under the soil. Carefully remove the sage from the flowerpot and transfer it to the hole.

Once you have set the sage bush in the hole such that no part of the root system is above the surface level of the soil, fill in the remaining part of the hole with a soil and compost mixture. Pat the soil gently to firm it and water the plant regularly

Tips for Caring for Purple Sage

One of the benefits of purple sage is that it requires minimal care after planting. Minimal composting, mulching and pruning may be helpful to encourage springtime growth and keep the size of each bush in check.

During the springtime, before the plant has flowered after the winter season, lay a 1 to 2 inch layer of compost around the base of each plant, then add an equal layer of mulch to help control weed growth.

Prune your purple sage plants back during flowering to encourage additional growth. However, this does mean cutting off the flowering parts of the plant. If you prefer, wait to prune the plant back until the first frost of the fall or winter. Trim any dead stems back to just above the soil.

Purple sage is a beautiful plant that is resilient enough to flourish in almost all gardens and soil types. Additionally, it is easy to care for and requires only minimal observation throughout the year. Consider adding purple sage to your yard or garden to augment your home with beautiful purple flowers throughout the year.

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