Common sage is seemed in historical lore and culinary uses. Think of the term “sage advice”. In old times it was associated with old age and preventing memory loss. In the Middle Ages it was used as a cure-all for most ailments. It is still used today in some herbal circles.
Sage (Salvia) is the largest genus in the mint family, with over 900 species worldwide. Salvia officinalis varieties are herbaceous evergreens and usually have mauve-blue to lilac-purple flowers midsummer. Sage’s colorful leaves and small shrub form add depth and texture to any herb garden, container planting, or flower bed.
The rich, large purple summer flowers attract birds, bees, and butterflies. The aromatic compounds of the leaves are highly valued in cooking (dried or fresh leaves). A classic use is in Thanksgiving stuffing. A newer recipe might include frying fresh leaves in butter creating a gourmet garnish.
*Common sage should not be ingested in large amounts for a prolonged period of time, due to the fact it contains small amounts of the neurotoxin thujone.
Pineapple sage is more delicate in growth and flavor. It produces brilliant red blooms in late summer to frost. It is much faster growing than common sage reaching 3-4’ in a single season. It is tender in the Portland area, hardy to zone 8. Fresh leaves are edible and delightful in salads, or dried for a floral tasting tea. As the common name suggests the flavor is reminiscent of pineapple.
Varieties you may find at Portland Nursery:
Salvia elegans 'Honeydew Melon'
Melon scented leaves and red flowers late summer to frost. Tender perennial, bring inside for winter. Growing 24-36” tall and wide
Salvia elegans 'Pineapple'
Pineapple scented, pubescent leaves, red blooms on spike, known to attract butterflies. Tender perennial, bring inside for winter. Grows 24-36” tall and wide
Salvia officinalis 'Berggarten'
Highly aromatic, lilac colored blooms. Extra large leaves. Grows 20-30” tall and wide
Salvia o. 'Bicolor Icterina'
Green and gold variegated leaves, mauve-blue blooms in spring. Grows 12-18” tall and wide. A.K.A Golden Sage. Tolerates part shade. Grows 12-18” tall and wide
Salvia o. 'Curly'
Curly, ruffled, grey-green leaves. Grows 12-16” tall and wide.
Salvia o. 'Dwarf Green'
Low growing, bright blue blooms, small leaves, good for borders, hedges, containers or rock gardens, compact and bushy habit. Grows 12-18” tall and wide
Salvia o. 'Garden Sage'
Blooms for 3-4 weeks in early spring, stunning habit with bloom shoots 3' in the air, great in bouquets.
Salvia o. 'Growers' Friend
Citrus scented, green leaves, rose - violet blooms in early spring-mid summer. Birds, bees, and butterflies highly attracted to this variety. Grows 24-34” tall and wide
Salvia o. 'Holt's Mammoth'
Vigorus growth habit, larger sage plant that produces very flavorful leaves, great for cooking. Grows 24-36” tall and wide
Salvia o. 'Purpurea'
Attractive purple foliage, lilac blue flowers. Grows 12-18” tall and wide
Salvia o. 'Tri-color'
Striking multicolored foliage, great winter color, rarely flowers. A bit more tender than other varieties. Grows 15-18” tall and wide
Salvia o. 'Pink Flower'
Unusual tubular pink-rose bloom on spike, soft savory leaves. Grows 18-24” tall and wide
Salvia o. 'White Edged'
Requires sun, silver-green leaves edged in white, rose-purple blooms on spires in summer. Grows 24-30” tall and wide.
Genus: Salvia elegans & Salvia officinalis
Common name: Pineapple Sage & Common or Culinary Sage
Origin: Southern Europe and Eastern Mediterranean
Culture: Plant in full sun with slightly alkaline, light, well-drained soil. If soil is not well drained, it is likely the plant will become water logged and freeze during a cold winter. It should be watered moderately throughout the first year (until established); once established sage is highly drought tolerant and watering can be decreased to a heavy drenching once a month during summer - less in winter. All varieties are perennials in our climate, grow between 12”-30” tall, and are hardy down to zone 5.
Maintenance: Prune new growth frequently to keep plant bushy, but never take off more than a third of each stem during the growing season. If it needs to be cut back substantially (more than a third of stem) wait until early spring.
Propagation: Easily propagated from seed or cuttings (soft wood or semi-hard wood) in slightly alkaline soils. Non-tender perennial varieties can be propagated through root division.
Pest and Disease: Good air circulation and soil drainage is crucial to preventing mildew and fungal diseases, such as root rot. The aromatic compounds produced by sage can repel deer and some insects; however, slugs, snails and aphids are a common problem.