Recently I wrote about using sage in a post on Savor the Southwest.  Following that – here is how to grow sage! 

The sage we use in cooking is Salvia officinalis, and has well over 1500 closely related Salvia species, many of them with sage somewhere in the common name.  Sage itself has many common names, including true sage, common sage, garden sage, kitchen sage, culinary sage, Dalmatian sage, and broadleaf sage.  Originally native to the Mediterranean region, sage can be grown here in the Southwest.

Soil.
A rich, well-drained loamy soil that is high in organic matter is great for sage.  Sandy soils drain too quickly and clay soils become waterlogged and don’t hold oxygen well.  Either case makes for unhappy basil plants. Soil pH for sage is between 6.5 to 7.2, yet most desert soil is around 8.0.  Add ample organic matter or grow your sage in large containers with potting soil.

Light.
Sage does best with 8 hours of light per day, but we are blessed with more than that in summer!  Ideally provide noon or afternoon shade.  The east side of a home is a good place to plant sage.

 

Heat.
Sage has grey-green leaves that are soft to the touch due to the many fine trichomes (plant hairs).  The trichomes help the plant conserve moisture, thus plants can survive our low humidity; it is the summer heat they do not appreciate.  Sage is cold tolerant to USDA Zone 4, and heat tolerant to Zone 8.  So – if you want sage in Zone 9 or 10, you can plant it as an annual, get just the right site for it, or grow it in unglazed clay or terra cotta pots so the evaporation through the porous sides of the pot keeps the roots cool in summer.  Move the pots into a shady area in summer.

Water.
Sage is a low water plant, but it does require sufficient water during the hot months.

 

Fertilizer.
Like many herbs, sage needs little fertilizer. Indeed, it is believed that too much fertilizer will reduce the amount of flavor-producing essential oils.  Half-strength fertilizer will help leaf production, but avoid fertilizer after October 15 or before February 15 when the nutrients would trigger frost-tender growth.

Variety!
There are a number of colorful varieties of sage to choose from. Why not grow a selection for subtle color in the garden?  Sage can be planted from seed, bought as seedlings from a nursery, and occasionally found potted and for sale in the grocery store.  No matter how you start sage – You Can Grow That!

 

Jacqueline Soule business portrait. Tucson, AZ. © 2012 Mark Turner

If you live in Southeastern Arizona, please come to one of my lectures. Look for me at your local Pima County Library branch, Steam Pump Ranch, Tubac Presidio, Tucson Festival of Books and other venues. After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including “Farther Kino’s Herbs: Growing and Using Them Today,” (Tierra del Sol Press, $15). And yes, this book includes how to grow & use sage!
© Article is copyright by Jacqueline A. Soule. All rights reserved. Republishing an entire blog post or article is prohibited without permission. I receive many requests to reprint my work. My policy is that you may use a short excerpt but you must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Photos may not be used.

 

Blooming in my garden right now is yerba mansa (Anemopsis californica) a member of the very unique Lizard Tail Family (Saururaceae). This unusual plant family has only seven species in it, grouped into four genera, and yerba mansa is so unique, it is the only species in the genus.

Yerba mansa is showy when in bloom in spring. Similar to the sunflower family, what appears to be a single bloom is a dense cluster of individually small flowers borne in an inflorescence. The yerba mansa inflorescence is conical and has five to ten large white bracts beneath it, so that along with the tiny white florets, the whole structure is quite striking when it blooms in spring. The conical structure develops into a tough capsule that can be carried downstream to spread the tiny, pepper-like seeds.

Planting and Care.
A lovely garden plant, yerba mansa does not appear in xeriscape books because it requires consistently moist soil and does not tolerate drying out between waterings. But by definition a xeriscape should include an oasis area, and this is often a water garden – the perfect spot for yerba mansa.

 

Plants have clusters of broad, leathery leaves. The three to four inch long leaves are a bluish green with a pale colored, thick broad midrib. That said, the plant produces long runners bearing new leaves and roots all along the nodes. This structure will float just below the surface in a water garden, and rosettes of small young plants seem perfectly content to grow just below the water surface. If they get too large they sink too deep for sufficient sunlight and air, and thus their size is curtailed.

 

Just pot one of the little plantlets into a container with potting soil and place the lowest one inch of the pot into your water garden. Viola! All done planting.

Cooler autumn weather can bring blotches of maroon to the leaves and stems. If the temperatures are cool but not freezing, the entire plant may turn color. If the temperature falls below 20 F, the leaves die. Not to worry, the plant readily comes back from the roots. The plant is considered hardy to USDA Zone 5.

In our area the plant is gaining popularity and can now be found in a number of nurseries that carry water garden plants.

If you live in Southeastern Arizona, please come to one of my lectures. Look for me at your local Pima County Library branch, Steam Pump Ranch, Tubac Presidio, Tucson Festival of Books and other venues. After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including the latest, “Southwest Fruit and Vegetable Gardening,” written for Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico (Cool Springs Press, $23).
© All articles are copyright by Jacqueline A. Soule. All rights reserved. Republishing an entire blog post or article is prohibited without permission. I receive many requests to reprint my work. My policy is that you may use a short excerpt but you must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Photos may not be used.

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About the name: Yerba mansa is one of those names which confounds linguists. Yerba is Spanish for herb, and thus one would think that “mansa” is also from Spanish as well, but all indications point to the fact that it is not. “Mansa” means calm or tranquil in Spanish, and the plant has no sedative effect, nor did local people ever use it as a calming agent. Its primary use is as an antimicrobial, antibacterial, and antifungal. The most likely case is that “mansa” is a Spanish alteration of the original native word for the plant, now lost in the depths of time. Similar name change can be seen with the O’odham name “Cuk Son,” meaning “at the base of the black hill,” which got changed to the Spanish Tucsón, and now the English “Tucson.”