The Salvia Genus (Sage)

Part of the mint family, Lamiaceae, the salvia genus has just under 1000 different species of perennial, biennial and annual plants, making it the largest genus in the family.

Salvia At A Glance

Salvia hails from many parts of the world, and is grown as an ornamental plant in many gardens, especially those which don’t see a lot of rainfall.

Salvia is easily recognized for its flower spikes, producing columns of brightly colored, tubular flowers, which pollinators adore, and brings a wealth of color into any garden.

It helps that the leaves are often scented, too.

Salvia Name Origin

The name of the genus comes from Latin, salvia, which means sage.

This is derived from salvus, which translates as safe, healthy, and it’s related to salvēre, which means to heal, referring to its many medical properties.

Salvia Flower Symbolism

In the language of flowers, salvia stands for wisdom, wellbeing, health, long life, and thinking of others.

Salvia Uses

We’ve used salvia for medicinal purposes for centuries, and you can see this in the name itself, which the Romans described as a plant which would heal. 

As it contains anti-inflammatory properties, as well as antioxidants, it has many applications.

Thanks to its relation to mint, it can be used to help digestive problems, such as diarrhea. It’s also employed to help improve oral health, getting rid of the bacteria that cause plaque.

Some varieties are grown for their culinary uses, which are used all over the world.

Edible species include Salvia rosmarinus, which is rosemary, Salvia columbariae, the wild chia sage, and Salvia hispanica, which is also known as chia, producing seeds of the same name which are high in protein and omega-3.

Be careful when selecting a salvia for culinary purposes, as some plants belonging to this genus are not fit for this purpose.

It’s worth noting that Salvia divinorum, or seer’s sage, which hails from Mexico, has psychoactive properties which cause hallucinations, and the long term effects are currently not known.

In some parts of the world, this particular cultivar is illegal, for obvious reasons.

Others are grown for their aromatic leaves and gorgeous flowers.

These include Salvia guarantica, which has foliage that smells similar to anise, and attracts plenty of hummingbirds, Salvia elegans, which has pineapple scented leaves, and Salvia spathacea, which produces foliage with a fruity fragrance. 

Sage Growing Requirements

Salvias are hardy in USDA zones 3 through to 11, but this also depends on the species you go for.

When salvia will flower is dictated by the species, some of which flower in spring through to summer, and others which flower in fall or winter.

Salvia can reach between 1 and 6 feet tall, depending on the growing conditions and the species.

All salvias love well-draining soil, and some can survive in very poor soil. 

These plants prefer full sunlight where possible, but they will also tolerate some shade, too.

They only need an average amount of water, and the most maintenance you’re likely to need to do is to cut off the spent flower spikes.

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