Azure/Sky Blue Sage, Salvia azurea: Fall-blooming perennial
Description: Azure Sage, Salvia azurea, also called Sky Blue Sage, Blue Sage and Pitcher Sage, is a prairie plant from the mint family, native to the grasslands of the Great Plains. In landscapes, it is equally at home in a cottage garden, a rock garden, meadow garden, or grown as a focal specimen plant. It usually grows 1-4.5 feet tall and 1-3 feet wide with smooth-edged to serrated, narrow pointed green leaves whorled around the stems. Azure Sage is very cold tolerant and will over-winter as a rosette.
Flowers and Seeds: As its name implies, Azure Sage has sky blue to light blue to (rarely) white flowers appearing in late summer and early fall. The flowers are two-lipped bell-shaped calyxes 1/4 to 1/2 inch long. After pollination, seeds form, which can be collected in mid- to late-fall. Azure Sage is easy to propagate from seed, which may be sown in the fall as well as the spring.
Planting sites: Azure Sage does well in full sun to partial shade. It tolerates a range of soil pH and soil types, including poor soil, but it does not do well in clay.
Watering Instructions: Because of its native prairie habitat, Azure Sage’s roots are large, tough and deep so that it can compete with prairie grasses. In the wild, its roots are normally shaded so Azure Sage may need irrigation during a dry spell to establish it in a well-weeded flower bed. Among tall grasses, Sky Blue Sage requires no supplemental water as a young plant. Once established, it may need watering only in an extended drought. It must have adequate drainage.
Comments: Azure Sage is an excellent choice for low-maintenance landscaping in North Texas. It usually blooms the first year that it is planted. In the garden, it may be desirable to cut plants back to half their size in mid-summer, so that they become bushier with more blooms. The nectar from Azure Sage’s flowers attracts butterflies and bees; indeed, it is recognized for its value to native bees. Azure Sage looks terrific when it is inter-planted with Maximilian Sunflower’s bright yellow blooms and various red-flowering sages. Other companion plants include Mexican Feather Grass, Lindheimer’s Muhly, Gulf Muhly and Fragrant White Mistflower.
Written by Dr. Becca Dickstein