9 Popular Types of Sage Plants And Their Helpful Uses

There are hundreds of types of sage, but we’ll go over the most common sage varieties for your garden and your recipes. Learn about the most common sage types, how to identify them, and how to grow them.

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

It may be easy to assume there are only one or two types of sage, but more than 900. That’s a lot of sage! With so many sage types, it should be no surprise that they can vary from tender herbs to woody shrubs and culinary additions to splashy ornamental beauties in your garden. There’s no way I can go over all 900 different sage types because you would need a full-scale plant compendium. Instead, I’ll pick 9 of the most common sage varieties and show you my favorite ornamental and culinary sage varieties!

Table of Contents

    Garden Sage

    It is also called common sage or culinary sage. This is one of the most common types of sage, is deliciously edible (including the flowers), and has dozens of cultivars that range wildly in color.  Sage is super easy to grow. Prevent it from getting too hot or too wet, and it’ll stay happy.

    • Scientific Name: Salvia officinalis / S. officinalis
    • Hardiness Zone: 4-11 (but prefers 5-8)
    • Light: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil: Well-draining soil
    • Water: It likes to live just a little on the dry side of life
    Fresh velvet leaves of garden sage on the white background.

    How To Identify:

    This type of sage is a hardy perennial with flat, silver-tinged green leaves. In the spring, it grows flowers that can be purple, blue, white, or pink spikes. 

    Ways To Use:

    Use fresh or dried leaves in all your cooking. Garden sage leaves also make a delicious tea! We also love to toss dried sage bundles on our outdoor fires to keep the mosquitoes at bay.

    Mexican Bush Sage

    This sage variety is native to subtropical regions in Mexico and used as ornaments. It has long, showy stems of flowers that attract pollinators. Unlike most types of sage, this one looks bushy and quickly spreads. If it will grow in your climate, plant it where it has room to spread.

    • Scientific Name: Salvia leucantha
    • Hardiness Zone: 8-10
    • Light: Full sun 
    • Soil: Well-draining soil
    • Water: Keep it moist – it prefers humid climates over dry climates
    Mexican bush sage with purple flowers against a lush green background.

    How To Identify:

    Look for long, somewhat narrow medium green leaves and (more importantly) long pink/lavender racemes of flowers with white tips

    Ways To Use:

    Mexican Bush Sage isn’t a culinary variety. Instead, plant it for beauty in your garden and add it to your fresh-cut flower arrangements! 

    Greek Sage

    Believe it or not, this sage variety is the most common form of dried sage that you’ll find in your grocery store. If you’ve ever wondered why dried sage tastes SO different from garden sage, the mystery is now solved!  It gets to be fairly large, so grow it where it has some “elbow” room.

    • Scientific Name: Salvia fruticosa
    • Hardiness Zone: 5-9
    • Light: Full sun
    • Soil: Well-draining
    • Water: Keep it moist; prefers humid climates over dry ones

    White Greek sage flowers  growing in a garden.

    How To Identify:

    This larger, bushy variety can grow up to 3 feet tall and has long, narrow, medium-green leaves and light purple flowers.

    Ways To Use:

    In addition to being sold as dried leaves in the bulk aisle of the grocery store, it’s primarily used in Europe in Faskomilo tea, thanks to its minty aroma.

    Scarlet Sage

    This ornamental variety of sage grows well in garden beds, border plants, and containers. Scarlet sage is a tender plant that is only perennial in zones 10 and 11. However, it can be grown annually in cooler regions (zones 2-9) for its bright blooms.

    • Scientific Name: Salvia splendens
    • Hardiness Zone: 10-11 as a perennial
    • Light: Full sun 
    • Soil: Well-draining
    • Water: Keep it moist

    Scarlet Sage flower isolated on white background.

    How To Identify:

    Look for green oval leaves with vibrant red or purple flowers.

    Ways To Use:

    The tube-shaped flowers make terrific ornamentals in your garden. Also, the leaves are very fragrant and make wonderful additions to sachets and homemade potpourri.

    Pineapple Sage

    This sage variety is the second most common variety, and it’s known for its fruity aroma and minty flavor with hints of citrus. It has a vigorous growth habit, so make sure you grow it where it can have room to spread.

    • Scientific Name: Salvia elegans
    • Hardiness Zone: 8-11
    • Light: Full sun 
    • Soil: Well-draining
    • Water: Keep it moist but can be drought tolerant once established

    A stem of pineapple sage with bright red blooming flowers.

    How To Identify:

    The leaves are bright yellow-green, small, and do not resemble a typical sage plant. The plant has bright red tubular-shaped blooms in summer that draw hummingbirds in like a moth to a flame.

    Ways To Use:

    The leaves (and flowers in some cultivars) are edible, taste delicious, and can be used in everything from teas to salads to desserts.

    Clary Sage

    This type of sage has a woody, earthy aroma and used to be added to sachets and put into dressers or chests to enhance the smell of clothes. Grow this sage variety as a biennial only in very humid climates because it won’t thrive in dry climates.

    • Scientific Name: Salvia sclarea
    • Hardiness Zone: 5-9
    • Light: Partial to full shade 
    • Soil: Well-draining
    • Water: Keep it moist

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

    How To Identify:

    Look for large stalks of large bright green leaves. It’ll bloom cup-shaped purple flowers from midsummer until the fall.

    Ways To Use:

    Clary sage is used mainly in perfumes and adds a nice aromatic touch to many culinary dishes.

    White Sage

    This sage variety can be eaten but is mostly used in sage-burning ceremonies of Native American and First Nations peoples (smudging/smudge stick). This variety is hardy and grows well as a perennial in zones 5-9.

    • Scientific Name: Salvia apiana
    • Hardiness Zone: 5-9
    • Light: Full sun 
    • Soil: Well-draining
    • Water: Keep it moist

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

    How To Identify:

    White sage has long, narrow, silvery-green leaves and white flowers that grow in round balls.

    Ways To Use:

    White sage has a smokey, pine-like aroma and flavor. It is edible but most commonly used in native ceremonial traditions in North America and Mexico.

    Autumn Sage

    Autumn sage is one variety that can hold its ground. It grows well as a hardy perennial in cold and warm areas. This sage variety thrives in many conditions, from cool to hot, and is drought-resistant. 

    • Scientific Name: Salvia greggii
    • Hardiness Zone: 6-9
    • Light: Full sun 
    • Soil: Well-draining, fertile
    • Water: It likes to live on the dry side

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

    How To Identify:

    Autumn sage is a smaller variety with velvety green, ovate leaves about 2 inches long. It’ll bloom from spring to fall, producing tall flower spikes that can be pink, purple, orange, red, or yellow.

    Ways To Use:

    Although it’s typically grown as a beautiful ornamental, this sage has a delicious minty flavor that works well in the kitchen!

    Hummingbird Sage

    This variety goes by a few names, including “pitcher sage” and “anise-scented sage.” The latter name comes from the plant’s scent, which is woody and spicy…similar to anise. Hummingbird sage is a striking ornamental variety that can grow up to 5 feet tall and is very easy to grow. 

    • Scientific Name: Salvia guaranitica
    • Hardiness Zone: 7-10
    • Light: Full sun to light shade
    • Soil: Well-draining, rich in organic matter
    • Water: Keep it moist, but it can be drought-tolerant for a few months

    A field of hummingbird sage in full bloom.

    How To Identify:

    This variety is dark… dark leaves and dark flowers. The ovate leaves grow in clumps. The plant sends up tall stems with tubular-shaped, long-lasting dark blue flowers in the summer.

    Ways To Use:

    Use it as an eye-catching asset to your garden because this variety is unsuitable for your recipes.

    Expert Tips

    Sage is an incredibly diverse herb with as many uses as it has varieties. Here are a few expert tips on how to use sage in your garden and home:

    1. Burn dried white sage to purify the air and keep insects away.
    2. Use clary sage oil to relieve stress and promote relaxation in aromatherapy.
    3. Enhance dishes with the earthy flavor of common sage or the sweet aroma of pineapple sage.
    4. Add color and attract pollinators with the lavender blooms of Russian sage and the vibrant leaves of purple sage in your garden.
    5. For natural fabric dyeing, create green shades on fabric using a dye made from common sage leaves.
    6. Plant pineapple sage in the garden to attract hummingbirds with bright red flowers.
    7. Use white sage to cleanse and prepare meditation areas, creating a serene atmosphere.
    8. Add dried purple sage to bouquets and arrangements for a touch of color and fragrance in floral designs.


    How many varieties of sage are there?

    There are over 900 species of Salvia (the sage genus), which includes both annual and perennial plants. These varieties encompass a wide range of uses, from culinary and medicinal to ornamental purposes. The diversity within the genus means there’s likely a sage plant suited for almost any garden or culinary need.

    What types of sage are edible?

    Several types of sage are edible, including Common Sage (Salvia officinalis) for its earthy flavor, Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans) for sweet, fruity notes in desserts and drinks, and Purple Sage (Salvia officinalis ‘Purpurascens’), as well as various cultivars of Garden Sage, which add flavor and color to dishes.

    What types of sage are not edible?

    While many sage varieties are edible, White Sage (Salvia apiana) and Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) are less suited for culinary use, with the former used for smudging due to its strong aroma and the latter primarily ornamental because of its bitter taste.

    What is the best type of sage?

    The “best” type of sage depends on its use: Common Sage (Salvia officinalis) for culinary purposes, Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea) for medicinal uses, and Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) for ornamental value.

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    Final Remarks

    The world of sage is vast and diverse, with over 900 species each possessing their own unique flavor, aroma, and beauty that can be appreciated in both gardens and kitchens. From the delicious culinary uses of common and pineapple sage to the stunning ornamental qualities of Russian sage, this article only scratches the surface of what the sage family has to offer. Whether you’re looking to spice up your cooking, create a colorful garden, or experiment with natural remedies, sage has a variety that caters to every need and interest, making it an incredibly versatile and essential herb.

    Author: Laura Kennedy

    Writer & Owner of Little Yellow Wheelbarrow

    Laura is a highly skilled gardener and fervent flower enthusiast. Despite her playful battle with plant spacing guidelines, Laura’s work inspires gardeners to create thriving, beautiful spaces that reflect both creativity and sustainability.

    Editor’s Note: This post was published on Feb 3, 2022, and updated on Feb 10th, 2024. The update includes improved formatting and additional tips and information.

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