Common sage is not just for Thanksgiving turkey stuffing. The lovely, leathery silver leaves, also available in golden and tricolor variegated forms, make handsome foliage plants for the mixed annual garden.
Description of common sage: Sage is a hardy shrub that reaches 21/2 feet and bears elongated, oval, gray leaves that are lightly hairy and fragrant. It is easily grown as an annual, filling in fast to provide bright color. Open spikes of blue-purple flowers appear in summer. Its less hardy variegated cultivars are equally attractive with leaves of purple; yellow and green; or pink, white, and green.
How to grow common sage: Provide full sun and well-drained soil. Sages also grow easily in pots of ordinary peat-based mixes. You can set out well-hardened seedlings of common sage in spring before the last spring frost but wait until the weather warms to plant the less hardy, colorful-leaved cultivars. Space plants 12 to 18 inches apart.
Propagating common sage: By seed or cuttings. Sow seeds indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost. They will germinate in 14 to 21 days at 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Propagate colored leaf cultivars by softwood cuttings.
Uses for common sage: Use sages for color in an ornamental edible garden or mixed pot of herbs and vegetables. The silver-leaved and purple forms blend nicely with annuals of cool colors such as blue and purple. Use sages with golden variegated leaves with gold and orange flowers. Sages with pink foliage highlights are best matched with similar pink flowers.
Common sage related varieties: 'Aurea' and 'Ictarina' have gold variegated leaves. 'Tricolor' has white variegation with pink on the new foliage. 'Purpurescens' has purple-toned leaves.
Scientific name for common sage: Salvia officinalis