Salvia sclarea
Common Name: clary sage
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Lamiaceae
Native Range: Europe to central Asia
Zone: 5 to 9
Height: 2.00 to 4.00 feet
Spread: 2.00 to 3.00 feet
Bloom Time: June to August
Bloom Description: White to lavender
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Leaf: Fragrant
Attracts: Butterflies
Tolerate: Deer, Drought, Shallow-Rocky Soil

Culture

Easily grown in average, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun. Prefers moist, light, gravelly or sandy soils with good drainage. Tolerates drought. Avoid wet soils in winter. Intolerant of climates with high heat and humidity. Cut flower stalks prior to seed being set in order to coax a third year from biennial plants. Will self seed in the garden, albeit somewhat aggressively, in some climates.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Salvia sclarea, commonly called Europe sage or Clary sage, is a multi-branched biennial or short-lived perennial sage that typically grows to 3-4’ tall. It is native to the Mediterranean region (southern Europe, central Asia and northern Africa), but has been introduced, escaped gardens and naturalized in a number of locations around the world including parts of the northern and central U.S. It is currently listed as a Class A Noxious Weed in the State of Washington where it has been found to invade pastures, meadows and rangeland resulting in displacement of native plants.

Clary sage forms a basal rosette of broad gray-green leaves (to 8” long) in the first year. Flowering stems appear in the second year rising to 3-4’ tall topped by inflorescences of small, tubular, two-lipped, creamy white to lilac flowers subtended by papery, white to pinkish-purple bracts. Flowers bloom in summer. Flowers and foliage are very aromatic. Square stems are thick, hairy and rough. This plant basically grows as a biennial, but may linger on for 1 or 2 additional years.

This salvia has a long history of use as a medicinal herb, but current uses are primarily as an herbal flavoring for foods, muscatel flavoring for wines, vermouths and liqueurs, and as an aromatic additive to soaps, perfumes and cosmetics. Flowers are sometimes used to make tea. Prior medicinal usage includes use in the treatment of anxiety, certain menstral issues, kidney diseases, muscle pains, insomnia, and digestive disorders.

Genus name comes from the Latin word salveo meaning to save or heal in reference to the purported medically curative properties attributed to some plants in the genus.

Specific epithet comes from the Greek word skeria which means hardness in reference to the hard parts of the flower petals.

Common name of clary comes from the Latin word clarus meaning clear in reference to the use of the oil as an eyewash to “clear” the eyes of inflammation and foreign materials.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Slugs and snails can be troublesome. Stem and root rot, powdery mildew, rust and leaf spot may occur. Watch for aphids and mites.

Garden Uses

Herb garden. Rock garden. Edging.