Guide to the Different Types of Sage Plants

The bold and flavorful herb sage is a staple in many dishes. You might think there are only one or two types of sage, but in fact, there are over 900! In this guide, we’ll explore the most common sage varieties for your garden and culinary adventures. Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or a beginner, learning about different types of sage can enhance your gardening experience and elevate your cooking to new heights. So, let’s dive into the wonderful world of sage!

Fresh-picked bunch of flowering sage, casting natural shadow on white.

Sage: More Than Just an Herb

Sage belongs to the mint family, which includes other beloved herbs like rosemary, basil, and oregano. Not only does sage add a wonderful flavor to your dishes, but it can also serve as a striking ornamental plant in your garden. With its versatility and beauty, sage is truly a multi-purpose plant.

The Most Common Sage Varieties

While it’s impossible to cover all 900 sage types, we’ll highlight nine of the most popular ones to get you started. These varieties range from culinary powerhouses to eye-catching ornamentals. Let’s explore them:

Garden Sage

Also known as common sage or culinary sage, this variety is the most common and widely used. With its silver-tinged green leaves and colorful flowers, garden sage is a hardy perennial that thrives in full sun to part shade. It’s perfect for both cooking and as a companion plant in your garden.

Fresh velvet leaves of garden sage on the white background.

Mexican Bush Sage

Native to subtropical regions of Mexico, Mexican Bush Sage is primarily grown for its ornamental value. It features long stems adorned with showy flowers that attract pollinators. This sage variety prefers full sun and well-draining soil.

Mexican bush sage with purple flowers against a lush green background.

Greek Sage

Greek Sage is the most common type of dried sage found in grocery stores. It has a minty aroma and is often used in European dishes. This larger bushy variety can grow up to 3 feet tall and prefers full sun and well-draining soil.

White Greek sage flowers growing in a garden.

Scarlet Sage

Scarlet Sage is an ornamental variety that adds a pop of vibrant color to your garden beds, borders, and containers. Its oval leaves and red or purple flowers make it a stunning addition to any landscape.

Scarlet Sage flower isolated on white background.

Pineapple Sage

Known for its fruity aroma and minty flavor with hints of citrus, Pineapple Sage is the second most common variety. Its bright yellow-green leaves and red tubular-shaped blooms attract hummingbirds. This sage variety thrives in full sun and well-draining soil.

A stem of pineapple sage with bright red blooming flowers.

Clary Sage

Clary Sage is known for its woody, earthy aroma and is often used in perfumes. It features large stalks of bright green leaves and cup-shaped purple flowers. This sage variety prefers partial to full shade and well-draining soil.

A branch of clary sage with light purple delicate flowers and bright green leaves against a bright white background.

White Sage

White Sage is primarily used in Native American and First Nations ceremonies, such as sage-burning (smudging). This variety has long, silvery-green leaves and white flowers. It thrives in full sun and well-draining soil.

Closeup of small pile of five fresh white sage Salvia apiana leaves isolated on white background

Autumn Sage

Autumn Sage is a hardy perennial that can tolerate both cold and warm climates. It features velvety green leaves and produces tall flower spikes in a range of colors, including pink, purple, orange, red, and yellow. This sage variety thrives in full sun and well-draining, fertile soil.

A large healthy bush of Autumn Sage growing in an outdoor garden.

Hummingbird Sage

Also known as “pitcher sage” or “anise-scented sage,” Hummingbird Sage boasts a woody and spicy aroma similar to anise. It has dark leaves and dark blue flowers that attract hummingbirds. This variety can tolerate full sun to light shade and prefers well-draining soil rich in organic matter.

A field of hummingbird sage in full bloom.

Growing and Using Sage

Sage is an easy-to-grow plant that thrives in well-draining soil and prefers full sun. It doesn’t require much water, as it prefers to stay on the drier side. Depending on your climate, sage can be an annual or a perennial plant. It also serves as a beneficial plant for pollinators like bees and hummingbirds.

In the kitchen, sage leaves add a unique and delicious flavor to a wide range of dishes. Whether you use them fresh or dried, the possibilities are endless. Sage leaves can also be used to make aromatic teas or even added to homemade potpourri.

So why not bring the beauty and flavor of sage into your garden and kitchen? Try growing one or more of these sage varieties and enjoy the fresh, unique taste and stunning visuals they offer.

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Editorial note: this post was originally published on September 20, 2021, and updated on February 3, 2022.