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The sage

The sage

- sage chamedrioides">Sage

The sage genus includes several hundred species of herbaceous plants native to the American continent, Europe and northern Africa; they can be herbaceous or real shrubs, perennial, annual or biennial. Most of the sages grown as ornamental plants are perennials, although some fear the cold, and are therefore grown as annuals. In general the salvie they constitute dense, very branched bushes, with semi-woody stems, lignified only in the lower part; the leaves are oval or lanceolate, of an intense green or gray-green color, sometimes pubescent or variegated. In spring and summer long erect spikes rise from the bushes bearing flowers of a generally white, red or blue-purple color, but there are species with pink or yellow flowers, and there are numerous cultivars with flowers of the most varied colors.

The most common sage in cultivation is undoubtedly the aromatic one, indispensable for many kitchen preparations. However, the genus is really wide and includes extremely interesting essences for the garden thanks to the long flowering season and the ability to adapt to the cultivation in borders, in flowerbeds, formal or informal, but also in pots.


- uric sage">The location in the garden

Most of the sage species cultivated like to be planted in soil rich in organic matter, loose and very well drained; before burying these plants it is good to work the soil, adding mature organic fertilizer and compost soil. In general, they do not develop well in excessively acidic soils, although a slightly acidic pH does not cause growth problems. To favor flowering, it is best to choose a sunny or partially shaded position, but which enjoys at least 5-6 hours a day of direct sunlight. Many species are suitable to be grown in containers, which must be chosen of adequate size for the correct development of the plants; often it is decided to plant the less rustic species in pots, in order to allow them to overwinter in a place sheltered from frost.

THE ORNAMENTAL SAGE IN BRIEF
Family, genus, speciesLamiaceae, gen. Sage, more than 900 species
Type of plantShrubs or suffruticose, biennial or perennial annuals, flowering
HeightFrom 20 to 150 cm
Maintenanceeasy
Water needaverage
RusticityMore or less rustic, depending on the species
ExposureSun, partial shade
GroundPoor and well-drained (perennials), rich and fresh (annuals)
UseBorder, flowerbed, vase
Soil moistureWell drained
PropagationSeed, cutting, division
AdversityRots, powdery mildew, spider mites, aphids

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Sage classification and description

The Salvia genus is part of the large Lamiaceae family and includes about 900 species of herbaceous or shrubby plants, annual or perennial. The leaves have different shapes depending on the species, but are often aromatic, also declining in particular shades (apple, pineapple, mint) The flowers, which appear from the beginning of summer, have an engraved lower lip and much more evident than the 'other. The colors are the most varied: blue, purple, mauve, red, yellow, blue and white.

The dimensions are very variable: there are ground cover species that do not exceed 20 cm and erect or even bushy species that easily exceed one and a half meters.

Unfortunately not all of them are rustic and to develop correctly they almost always need soils that dry quickly.


- Dorisian sage">Cultural care

To obtain a compact vegetation, or to prolong the blooms, it is good to prune the withered flower spikes; at the end of the flowering it is good to prune the rustic species, avoiding however to cut the branches too deeply, as these plants do not always bear pruning of the already lignified branches. At the end of flowering, however, it is advisable to leave some flower spikes of the species that self-sow on the plant, in order to obtain new plants the following year. In general the salvie they do not need too frequent watering, tolerating short periods of drought without problems; however, it is advisable to ensure regular watering in the hottest periods of the year, especially for summer flowering species.

We will now examine some species of sage, chosen among those most generally used in our gardens, both annual and perennial; these few lines should be considered as a simple introduction to the cultivation of ornamental sages, just as the species that are treated below are only examples, since the existing species of sage are hundreds, and most of them certainly present elements that make them suitable to be cultivated as aromatic plants or as ornamental flowering or leaf herbaceous plants.


Where to place the sage

All sages grow and bloom abundantly in sunny positions, that is, illuminated all day or in the hottest hours of the day. In the southern regions it may be useful to place them in a slightly more sheltered condition, perhaps where they receive the sun only in the morning: otherwise the flowers would wither prematurely.

They also fear the wind: it could lead to the breaking of the stems and therefore compromise flowering. It is therefore good to choose a location near a wall, perhaps facing south (especially in the northern regions).

THE CALENDAR OF THE SAGE
PlantingAutumn (South), March-April (Center-North)
SowingAutumn-late winter
CuttingJune September
DivisionMarch April
FloweringMay-October
PruningMarch April


Plant the sage

In the northern regions, the most rustic perennial sages should be planted at the end of winter, making sure that the frosts are over. In the Center-South and on the coasts, in the presence of suitable soil, it is also possible to proceed in autumn: in this way we will have plants that are already well established when the summer arrives. In any case, they should be spaced from 30 to 50 cm; it is preferable, in mixed borders, to create groups of three specimens.

The annual sages can be purchased or placed outside starting from the end of March (in the South) or from April (in the North). The ideal distance between the specimens is 20-30 cm.

We always avoid burying the collar too much: it would favor the onset of rot.


- Salvia officinalis">Salvia officinalis

Present in most of the Italian gardens, this sage is generally cultivated as an aromatic plant, it has oval, rough and wrinkled leaves, of a gray-green color, which is precisely called sage color; in late spring it produces elongated spikes, consisting of blue-purple flowers; there are cultivars with variegated leaves: S. o. Aurea has green leaves variegated with yellow, S. purpurea has gray-green leaves, and purple-purple shoots. S. tricolor has white leaves variegated with two shades of green, sometimes with purple flecks. This small perennial shrub is also suitable as an ornamental plant in the flower beds in a sunny or semi-shaded place.


Salvia splendens

This species has also been cultivated in our gardens for a long time; it is a perennial herb, but it can't stand the cold, and therefore is cultivated as an annual; the most common variety has green, oval, pointed, smooth and thin leaves, from spring to late summer it produces a long erect spike, which bears numerous bright red flowers; there are numerous cultivars with pink, white, blue, purple, and even bicolor flowers.


Farinacea sage

Cultivated as an annual, it has leaves similar to salvia splendens, of an intense green color, lanceolate; from the beginning of summer until the first cold winters it produces numerous thin spikes made up of numerous flowers of an intense purple color, there is also the white-flowered variety and cultivars with very intense colors or purple flowers with white throat. In general it reaches 40-50 cm in height; it prefers sunny areas, where it should be planted in April-May; it does not need excessive watering, but it is advisable to water it in particularly dry periums. It propagates by seed.


- Salvia coccinea">Sage coccinea

Small shrub of 60-90 cm; it has triangular leaves, with elongated petiole, dark green in color; from the beginning of summer until autumn it produces erect, square-sectioned stems, bearing long spikes of carmine-colored flowers. It is native to North America and prefers dry, very well drained soils rich in organic matter. In general, it does not tolerate frost, but tends to self-sow from one year to the next.


Salvia microphylla

Herbaceous plant native to Mexico, it reaches 120-150 cm in height at the time of flowering; it has dense and compact foliage, the leaves are green-blue, thick and slightly waxy, fragrant. In summer it produces long stems that rise from the foliage, on which numerous red or pink flowers of a very intense color bloom; there are numerous cultivars, even two-colored. These plants fear the cold. While loving drought soils, it is advisable to water these plants from time to time during flowering periods.


Salvia pratensis

Perennial herbaceous plant, which reaches 60-90 cm in height during flowering. It produces large, elongated, pointed, often lobed, green, wrinkled leaves; in spring and summer long spikes bloom deep blue flowers, sometimes pubescent; it prefers semi-shaded positions, where it can also be sown directly, in March-April.


Superb sage

Herbaceous perennial which forms dense bushes, with erect stems bearing blue flowers, from June to November; it has large ovate leaves and 40-50 cm tall stems. It loves sunny or partial shade positions, there are numerous cultivars


Salvia apiana

Small shrub, 60-100 cm tall, densely branched; it has gray-green leaves, rigid, lanceolate, leathery. in summer it produces numerous erect spikes of white or creamy-white flowers; for a more compact development of the plant it is advisable to prune the withered flower stems. It loves sunny positions, in rich and very well drained soil, it tolerates drought without problems.


Salvia azurea

Perennial herb that reaches about 150 cm in height; It has square stems, completely covered by a thin curved down, the leaves are opposite, lanceolate; throughout the summer it produces numerous inflorescences consisting of small flowers of an intense blue color. It prefers full sun, but develops without problems even in partial shade.


Silver sage

Herbaceous perennial that forms dense basal rosettes made up of large rounded, pubescent, silver-gray leaves; in summer it produces long erect spikes of white-lilac, bell-shaped flowers. it develops without problems in dry and well-drained soils, even poor and dry ones.


Sage pruning

Sage is a rustic plant that grows optimally in sunny locations. It has no particular temperature problems and grows well even at high altitudes as long as there is a lot of sun. When sage is healthy it also grows a lot and if we do not use its leaves in an important way, pruning may be necessary. Sage pruning is carried out in early spring or late winter and depending on the volume and vigor of the plant it can be more or less intense.

Usually when we prune the sage we will have to shorten the branches lightly, trying to make the branches smaller without exaggerating with the cut. Pruning will serve to give the sage its shape, trying to give the plant a harmonious appearance as well as stimulate the sage to push the branches back with new vigor.

With the pruning we will also eliminate all the dry parts of the plant, the badly placed or half bare branches and all those areas that have clearly suffered from the winter, pruning them.

Keeping the sages clean is essential to prolong the flowering season as much as possible: it is therefore important to eliminate withered flower stems as soon as possible.

Another important intervention, for perennial species, is the removal of the aerial part in early spring, in March or April. This will allow the plant to completely renew itself when the warm season arrives.


Soil for sage

Sage is a Mediterranean aromatic plant that grows well in well-drained, porous and permeable soils. It suffers from water stagnation and overly acidic soils while tolerating them in some certain conditions.

For the cultivation of sage in pots it is advisable to choose neutral soil that can be purchased at any nursery or garden center. Buy a soil for a vegetable garden or garden, preferably already fertilized.

If you want instead grow sage in the ground, after purchasing the plant, make a hole at least one and a half times the size of the earthen bread of the sage. After making the hole, fill a small layer of the hole with new soil, fertilized and enriched with porous material. Once this is done, put the sage seedling in the hole, making sure that the collar of the plant is at the same level of the ground or slightly out of it.

At this point, fill the empty spaces with good quality soil and press the soil around the seedling to compact the new substrate well.

Almost all perennial sages fear i water stagnation, especially during autumn and spring. They are the first cause of wasting. To preserve our plants as much as possible, it is important to give them a very draining and poor substrate, even limestone and stony at the limit. If our soil is, on the contrary, clayey it is important to intervene: it will be necessary to replace it as much as possible, digging deeply. In that case we will opt for a mixture of cacti or citrus fruits or we will mix normal soil for flowering plants with river sand and fine gravel.

On the contrary, the annual species want a richer substrate: we can opt for a preparation for flowering plants enriched with a few handfuls of manure.


Irrigation

All species, but especially annuals, in the hot season want fresh soil: you must pay close attention to water stagnation which, as we have said, can favor both rot and the advent of cryptogams such as powdery mildew.

We irrigate, both in pots and in the ground, when the first five cm of soil are totally dry.

In the summer months it can be very useful to prepare a thick mulch based on vegetable debris: it will help us to keep the roots fresh, avoiding continuous irrigation.


Sage fertilization

It is not strictly necessary, but, both for the specimens in the ground and for those in pots, the support of a fertilizer with a high potassium content can be useful to make the blooms more colorful and lasting.

Plants in containers benefit from fortnightly administration, in the open ground a slow release granular product is generally sufficient, spread about every 3 months.

The annual varieties are, from this point of view, much more demanding.


Parasites and diseases

As we have said, the two most fearsome enemies are the cold and excessive soil moisture.

Water stagnation can lead to the appearance of gray mold and powdery mildew, especially on the lower leaves.

First of all, we regulate the watering and, if possible, improve the area's ventilation; then we intervene by eliminating the affected parts and spraying a specific product for prevention and treatment.

In summer, another important enemy is the spider mite: suitable acaricides with a low environmental impact are available. In this case, it is useful to often humidify the leaves and the surrounding area.


Propagate the sage

Annual sages are easily propagated by seed; for the perennial ones, on the other hand, the cutting is preferable as it guarantees homogeneous results in a shorter time. However, the division of the tuft is also an excellent alternative.

Sowing

The annual sages can be sown in autumn or winter, indoors, in the southern regions: the plants will be ready for transplanting as early as March. In other regions it is better to wait at least February or March.

Germination requires very high temperatures (20 to 22 ° C) maintained for at least a week. Once the seedlings have sprouted we can instead grow them in a warm room, even with only 15 ° C and we will transfer them to single jars 30 days later. Flowering occurs about 3 months after sowing.

The biennial species should always be sown in autumn to be able to complete the entire cycle, with flowering, the following year.

Cutting

The cutting succeeds very easily if practiced from mid-spring to the end of summer.

The apical portion of a non-flowering stem must be removed, removing most of the low leaves. We insert the base in a mixture of sand and perlite, humidify and cover with a transparent bag. We place in a shady place.

Division

It is carried out in spring by extracting the roots and dividing with the help of two pitchforks or with shears. We lower the stems considerably, plant them again and water abundantly.


Annual varieties of sage

Sage coccinea

It produces beautiful cylindrical flower spikes; they are generally a beautiful red, but cultivars in pink and white are also available. It grows up to 60 cm and is especially suitable for borders, where it acts as a supporting character for perennials and shrubs.

Farinacea sage

It grows up to 60 cm and is very popular for the beautiful spikes of deep blue flowers, carried from mid-spring to autumn. Beautiful combinations with echinacea, echinops and ornamental grasses.

Salvia horminum

It produces with great continuity beautiful bracts in bright colors: pink, white, purple. It grows up to 60 cm and is well suited to the second row of borders.

Salvia splendens

Very popular annual, used both in pots and in formal or informal flower beds. It produces, in summer and autumn, spikes of mostly red bell-shaped flowers; today, however, cultivars are also available in pink and white. The dimensions are contained, as they rarely exceed 30 cm. It wants rich and always fresh soil.


Sage: Perennial varieties of sage

Salvia nemorosa

It produces dense spikes of a beautiful bright blue; flowering occurs in spring and, if pruned, often repeats in early autumn. It can reach one meter in height and is especially suitable for mixed borders. Suitable for all our country in well-drained soils.

Clary sage

It produces purple-pink flowers on very tall stems (even more than 1.5 m), in early summer. The leaves are very aromatic. Among the most rustic.

Salvia elegans "Scarlet Pineapple")

Beautiful stems that bear spikes of red flowers throughout the vegetative period. It grows up to 150cm in height. Its peculiar feature, however, is the particular fragrance of the leaves: if rubbed they give off an aroma similar to that of pineapple. Fear the cold.


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