Sage, the scientific name Salvia, is a member of the mint (Lamiaceae) family along with other herbs like rosemary, thyme, and oregano. There are over 900 species of sage that grow worldwide. It has been cultivated for centuries for its culinary and medicinal properties and use in religious rituals. Sage is easy to grow. Its aromatic properties and lovely blooms make it a popular herb for many gardens.
We currently offer 3 different varieties of sage at Survival Garden Seeds: Common Sage (Salvia oficinalis), White Sage (Salvia apiana), and Victoria Blue Sage (Salvia farinacea). All three are easy to grow, but need slightly different growing environments. They also have different properties and are used in different ways.
Common sage, or culinary sage, is a staple herb in any kitchen herb garden. It grows well in containers and is mostly used in cooking to flavor meats or added to dressings. While common sage is hardy and can be grown as a perennial, it can become woody after a few years and need to be replaced. Trimming the plant of woody growth can help encourage tender new branches.
Culinary sage is best started indoors about 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost. Sow the seeds about 1/4 inch deep and keep them moist, but not soggy. Seeds take 2-3 weeks to germinate. After the plant reaches about 4 inches high, with 2 sets of full leaves, it can be transplanted outdoors at least 12 to 18 inches apart in well-draining soil. This sage plant prefers full sun and does not require a lot of water, making it drought-tolerant.
Common sage has soft slightly fuzzy green leaves and pale purple-blue flowers. Both the leaves and flowers are edible and can be used fresh or dried. Sage also works well as a natural mosquito repellent. Toss a bundle onto your campfire to keep insects at bay.
White sage is a traditional Native American herb, and while edible, it is most commonly known for its strong scent in incense or “smudging”. Sacred to Native Americans, white sage was often burned to create an aromatic, purifying smoke. They also used the seeds in making a staple food called pinole - roasted ground maize combined with herbs and spices that is used to make baked goods and cereals.
White sage should be started indoors in a similar method to common sage. It typically has a low germination rate, so plant plenty of seeds to compensate. This variety is hardy and will grow as a perennial in zones 5-9. In cooler zones, you may want to grow it in a pot so it can be moved indoors during cold weather. White sage is native to California, so for best results, you’ll want to recreate the sunny, drier environment it comes from. Place plants in full sun and water sparingly.
White sage is identifiable by its long, narrow, silvery-green leaves and white flowers that grow in a ball shape. It has a smokey, pine-like aroma.
Victoria Blue Sage
Victoria Blue sage, also known as Mealycup sage is usually grown as an ornamental. This sage is native to North America, mostly found in Texas and Mexico. It makes a wonderful addition to flower beds to attract pollinators.
Like the other sage varieties that we have discussed, mealycup sage can be started indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost. This sage needs full sun to partial shade with well-drained soil and will grow to be about 2 feet tall. Too much water will make this plant “leggy”. Trim off old flower stems to keep the plants lush. It will grow as a perennial in warmer zones but is mostly grown as an annual in the U.S.
Victoria Blue sage has shiny green leaves and lovely blue cup-shaped flowers. It is aromatic and deer-resistant. The blooms are extremely attractive to pollinators like butterflies and hummingbirds.
If you are looking for a native plant that is wildlife and pest-resistant, drought-tolerant, and easy to grow, sage is a wonderful option for your survival garden. It comes in many different colors of foliage and flowers, is fuss-free, and will do well indoors or outdoors. If you’d like to try growing all 3 varieties mentioned here, we offer a Sage Seed Collection containing them all.