Guide to the Different Types of Sage Plants

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The bold flavor of sage is enjoyed in a variety of dishes. 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.

Sage is in the mint family, a large botanical family containing many other favorite herbs, including rosemary, basil, and oregano. It’s a wonderful herb for culinary purposes, but many people also grow it as a purely ornamental plant.

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.

In addition to the beauty that different types of sage add to my garden and the fresh, unique flavor the leaves add to my recipes, I love to use it as a companion plant. This one plant benefits several different plants and doesn’t take over in my garden as mint does.

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!

Sage Plant Basics

An easy plant to grow, many sage plants are native to the Mediterranean Region, the Americas, and Asia Minor. They are fuss-free and look stunning in your outdoor garden, containers, or as an eye-catching indoor herb. 

Sage has been used for culinary, ornamental, and medicinal purposes for hundreds of years. This list of the most common sage varieties breaks down each type to help you identify and choose what you want to plant in your garden.

Quick Tips For Growing Sage

Most sage plants are native to dry, warm climates, so they prefer well-draining loamy or sandy soils with a PH between 6 and 7. Use fertilizer sparingly, as over-fertilization will reduce the flavor of your sage.

Plant your sage in early to late spring, about two weeks after the last frost date. Avoid overly moist soil and only water when the soil is dry. Sage prefers full sun but will tolerate partial shade in warmer climates.

If you live in USDA zone 9 (or further South), your sage plants will be annuals. But if you live in zones 5-8, your plants will likely be perennial, coming back year after year. These full-sun perennials will also bloom all summer long!

Planting sage benefits plants in your garden, as bees, hummingbirds, and other pollinators are drawn to its heavy aromas.

  • Learn More: For more information on growing sage, check out our full guide.

9 Types Of Sage To Grow In Your Garden

Sage has a unique flavor that pairs well with bold, rich dishes. It’s earthy and peppery with hints of lemon, eucalyptus, and mint. Wowzer, talk about a lot of flavor going on at once!

Check out these different varieties, from colorful to culinary, to see which ones you might want to grow yourself.

Garden Sage

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. 

  • 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

How To Identify Garden Sage

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

How To Grow Garden Sage

Sage is super easy to grow. Prevent it from getting too hot or too wet, and it’ll stay happy.

Ways To Use Garden Sage 

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

Fresh velvet leaves of garden sage on the white background.

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.

  • 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

How To Identify Mexican Bush Sage

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

How To Grow Mexican Bush Sage

Unlike most types of sage, this one looks bushy and spreads very quickly. If it will grow in your climate, plant it where it has room to spread.

Ways To Use Mexican Bush Sage 

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! 

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

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! 

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

How To Identify Greek Sage

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

How To Grow Greek Sage

It gets to be fairly large, so grow it where it has some “elbow” room.

Ways To Use Greek Sage 

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.

White Greek sage flowers  growing in a garden.

Scarlet Sage

This ornamental variety of sage grows well in garden beds, border plants, and containers.

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

How To Identify Scarlet Sage

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

How To Grow Scarlet Sage

Scarlet sage is a tender plant that’s only a perennial in zones 10 and 11. However, it’s grown annually in cooler regions (zones 2-9) for its bright blooms.

Ways To Use Scarlet Sage 

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.

Scarlet Sage flower isolated on white background.

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.

  • 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

How To Identify Pineapple Sage

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.

How To Grow Pineapple Sage

It has a vigorous growth habit, so make sure you grow it where it can have room to spread.

Ways To Use Pineapple Sage 

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

A stem of pineapple sage with bright red blooming flowers.

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.

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

How To Identify Clary Sage

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

How To Grow Clary Sage

Grow this sage variety as a biennial only in very humid climates because it won’t thrive in dry climates.

Ways To Use Clary Sage 

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

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

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).

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

How To Identify White Sage

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

How To Grow White Sage

This variety is hardy and grows well as a perennial in zones 5-9.

Ways To Use White Sage 

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.

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

Autumn Sage

Autumn sage is one variety that can hold its ground. It grows well as a hardy perennial in cold areas as well as warm ones.

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

How To Identify Autumn Sage

Autumn sage is a smaller sage 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.

How To Grow Autumn Sage

This sage variety thrives in many conditions, from cool to hot, and is drought-resistant. 

Ways To Use Autumn Sage 

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

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

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.

  • 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

How To Identify Hummingbird Sage

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.

How To Grow Hummingbird Sage

Hummingbird sage is a striking ornamental variety that can grow up to 5 feet tall that’s very easy to grow. 

Ways To Use Hummingbird Sage 

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

Sage not only tastes amazing in your kitchen, but it also looks unbelievably beautiful in your garden. I hope you’ll try growing any of these types of sage yourself so you can always have some fresh cuttings at the ready! 

What kind of sage is good for smudging?

White sage is most commonly used in smudging ceremonies by Native Americans and Canadian First Nations peoples, along with cedar and sweetgrass.

How many types of sage are there?

There are hundreds of types of sage – members of the salvia genus – spread all over the globe. They grow primarily in the Americas, Asia, and Mediterranean regions. Purple sage (or desert sage), and blue sage are native to North America, while Woodland sage is found in the Mediterranean and Asia.

What is the difference between white sage and culinary sage?

White sage is native to the Western United States and Canada and has a smokey, pine-like aroma and flavor, while culinary sage has a much more savory flavor that most people prefer.

What foods go with sage?

Sage has so many wonderful pairings in the kitchen. It very goes well with beans, cheeses, roasted chicken, pasta, pork, or savory stuffing. For best results use these flavor groups with sage: marjoram and thyme – parsley, rosemary and thyme – pasta and walnuts – stuffing, turkey and walnuts.

A field of hummingbird sage in full bloom.

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

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