A profusion of purple flower spikes rises above the attractive green, wooly foliage of lilac sage (Salvia verticillata). Drought-tolerant once established, lilac sage does well in cottage gardens, rock gardens, or naturalized sunny spots. The broad, coarsely toothed leaves form a dense cover under spikes that reach 24 to 36 inches tall. ‘Purple Rain' (pictured) is a smaller, more delicate cultivar. The deep purple, wispy spikes reach 18 to 24 inches tall and bloom most of the summer.
Common Name: Lilac sage, whorled clary
Botanical name: Salvia verticillata
Plant type: Herbaceous perennial
Height: 24 to 36 inches
Zones: 5 to 8
- Sun: Full sun
- Soil: Average, well-drained soil
- Moisture: Moderate to dry
- Mulch: A thin layer of summer mulch deters weeds and cools soil. In heavy clay soil, small pea gravel or coarse sand keeps soil dryer, reducing the possibility of root rot.
- Fertilizer: If necessary, apply a balanced fertilizer once a season.
- Pruning: Cut spent flowers in summer.
- ‘White Rain' has white, butterfly-attracting flowers on arching stems from June to September. An easy-care, sun-loving perennial, it grows 2 feet tall. Zones 5 to 9.
- For a bold color contrast, plant lilac sage with yellow and orange perennials such as coreopsis, daylily, sneezeweed (Helenium spp.), or yarrow (Achillea spp.).
- Combine lilac sage with sweet William (Dianthus barbatus), pink varieties of cranesbill (Geranium spp.), and silver-foliaged perennials like pearly everlasting (Anaphalis spp.) for a soft, restrained color palette in the garden.
- Plant in soil with good drainage to prevent root rot.
Pests and diseases
- Leaf spot, powdery mildew, and rust occur.
- Whitefly and scale are occasional pests.
- Sow seeds on soil surface in spring.
- Divide plants in spring.
All in the family
- Texas sage (Salvia coccinea) is the annual sage used in containers and flower beds. As a wildflower, it's native in the southern United States. ‘Lady in Red' is a good cultivar. It grows 12 to 16 inches tall.
- Violet sage (Salvia nemorosa) is a perennial sage flowering summer to autumn with violet to purple flowers. It grows 3 feet tall. Zones 5 to 9.
- Garden sage (Salvia officinalis) is the culinary herb. Its gray-green, felt-like leaves have a pungent scent of camphor and lemon. Garden sage has lilac flowers in summer and grows 18 to 32 inches tall. Zones 4 (with protection) to 9.
Text by Mary Pestel, photo courtesy of Proven Winners