Favorite Natives: Salvias (Sages) for Aroma, Wildlife and Spectacular Flowers

Favorite Natives: Salvias (Sages) for Aroma, Wildlife and Spectacular Flowers

Native California salvias (commonly called sages) make my favorite list for many reasons: their spectacular show of flowers spring through summer, their aroma that permeates the air, especially after rainfall. Also, the sages in our landscaping offer great wildlife habitat. I have photos of butterflies, hummingbirds and a variety of bees taking the nectar, while a variety of birds eat the seeds that follow. Part of a huge worldwide family, salvias native to California thrive in dry places, which make them a great long-lived addition to areas of your yard you water less often. And — fall is the perfect time to plant natives.

Here is more info about sages, plus some favorites and photos:

Blossom Color – Native California species of salvias range in color from white to purple and numerous shades of blue.

Plant characteristics – Leaves vary from silvery white (white sage) to dark green (black sage). They also range in size. White sage grows 3-4 feet tall with the flower stalks adding another 3 feet, while other varieties, such as tera seca or hummingbird sage, make great groundcovers that easily spread 8 feet. Many other hybrids cultivated over the years combine the best characteristics.

Pruning – Most large sages benefit from pruning of up to 1/3 in early fall, which will create a more compact shape and promote increased flowering. But you can also leave them alone for a wilder look.

Habitat value – As mentioned above, sages are important wildlife plants for the 3 “Bs” – birds, butterflies and bees, along with many other beneficial insects.

When/where to plant – Most do well in full sun but part shade works well in our hot inland – check the particular species. Plant now! Fall through winter is the best time to plant natives to allow their roots to establish.

Where to buy – The Redlands Horticulture and Improvement Society’s upcoming Uncommon Plant Sale this Saturday in Prospect Park will have some salvias, while Mockingbird Nursery and Louie’s Nursery (both in Riverside) have nice selections. Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden (Claremont) will be selling dozens of species at their Nov 3rd plant sale and nursery (Nov – April). Others are Tree of Life Nursery in San Juan Capistrano, and Las Pilitas in Escondido. Or check with your local nursery.

My favorites: White Sage for hot sunny areas, or the shorter Bees Bliss for beautiful grey foliage, Cleveland sage or one of its many hybrids for a ‘leave it alone’ hardy variety. For shadier areas, consider hummingbird sage.

For more info:

The website of Las Pilitas www.laspilitas.com  for helpful descriptions with photos

Tree of Life Nursery’s online catalog – www.californianativeplants.com

California Native Plant Society – www. cnps.org

Great book: California Native Plants for the Garden by Carol Bornstein, et al

About Linda Richards

My goal is to educate about the science of nature in layperson speak, through my writing, science and education background. I grew up in the Chicago area, loved living in Minneapolis before gravitating to the West, which is now home.

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