PAINTED SAGE, ANNUAL SAGE
syn. S. horminum
Pronounced: SAL-vee-uh ver-IH-dis
Southern Europe, Mediterranean.
Sunset zones: Not listed.
USDA zones: All.
Heat zones: 9-1.
Height: 1-2 feet (30-60 cm).
Width: 1 foot (60 cm).
Summer to fall.
Racemes of purple whorled flowers surrounded by wide colorful bracts of pink, purple or white. The bracts provide a long season of color.
Two-inch long, ovate or oblong, hairy, notched green leaves.
Humus rich, moist, well-drained soil.
At planting time use a complete organic fertilizer.
Sow seed in early spring in pots using well drained seed starting mix. Do not cover as they need light to germinate. Germination will begin 10-14 days after sowing at 68-77°F )20-25°C).
Prune any browned bracts in late summer and again in fall to keep the plants looking fresh in the garden.
Rainy Side Notes
City of Long Beach, Washington has street side planters filled with festive Salvia viridis flowers.
This annual looks great in flower borders at the Boreas Inn and Jo and Bob Fitzsimmons garden.
During the Music in the Garden Tour on the Long Beach Peninsula, I first spotted the bracts of Salvia viridis growing in the gardens. Outstanding bracts of purple-blue, pink, or white hues top this annual sage, making it a knockout plant in the garden or containers from summer well into the fall season. With such a long season of color, I am surprised we don’t grow them in our gardens. I plan to grow it myself after seeing it in person and learning what an easy plant this is to grow. The real surprise is why garden centers are not putting this out on their tables for sale.
On the Long Beach Peninsula, Tangly Cottage gardeners, Skyler Walker and Allan Fritz utilize this long blooming annual in many of their client’s gardens. If you’re ever on the Long Beach Peninsula in southern Washington, as you drive through the town of Long Beach, enjoy all the colorful planters along the main road. You can thank Walker and Fritz for the festive plantings they plant and maintain from spring well into fall.
Walker first learned about the annual during a slide show at one of Lucy Hardiman's lectures. The slide showed it growing in Hardiman’s Portland, Oregon garden. Skyler planted them in her client’s gardens before the turn of the century, and continues to plant it every year since.
Salvia viridis provides a lot of color for their long growing season. I asked Walker if she started them from seed or bought plants. She explained that she buys the seeds Marble Arch series Marble Arch White, Marble Arch Blue and Marble Arch Pink from Renee's Garden Seeds and their local nursery—The Planter Box—grows them to planting size for her.
During our conversation, I mentioned that I didn’t understand why Salvia viridis isn’t grown more. She answered with, "I know, what is up with that? I get asked about them all the time and have never seen them anywhere but at the Planter Box, and they are only at the PB because I asked them to grow them for me ... They really are pretty combined with godetia (Clarkia amoena)." Clearly this plant is one of Walker’s favorites.
The bracts look great up through August when some plants or stems may need deadheading. The plant will grow side shoots and more colorful bracts. Skyler takes the last of the plants out at the end of October or November when tidying up the gardens under her care.
On its medicinal properties, older herb books report when the herb is added to the brewing process of alcoholic beverages gives the alcohol heightened intoxicating properties. Oh good, just what we need in this world—drunker drunks. This would make an interesting experiment to see if there is any truth to the claim.
Until the 1980s (another source says 1950s), S. viridis went under the name of S. horminum. Carl Linnaeus named both of them as separate species, and to this day, the argument continues on whether or not they are two different ones. While the taxonomists sort this out, the species I am writing about is S. viridis and its cultivars.
The plant has been mistakenly called clary sage, which is the common name for Salvia scalerea—a highly invasive sage east of the Cascades. That salvia is on Washington state's noxious weed list and is illegal to grow. Even though Salvia scalerea is not invasive west of the Cascades, we are not allowed to grow it. I suppose it is easier to ban it clear across the state, than to only ban it where it is a problem. For ornamental purposes, Salvia viridis is much showier than its cousin and does not show any signs of invasiveness, so you can grow it without worry in our region west of the Cascades.
To dry the bracts for arrangements, harvest the plant when the bracts feel papery and hang them upside down until dry.
Try this annual sage in your containers or in your garden for a long season of color! Just ask Skyler, who claims, "It won't disappoint!"
Salvia viridis in Long Beach containers in November.
All images photographed on the Long Beach Peninsula in Peggy Miles Memorial Garden, Jo and Bob Fitzsimmons garden, Boreas Inn, and Long Beach, Washington's street side planters.
Bottom two photographs by Skyler Walker, all others by author.