Phlomis fruticosa (FLOW-miss, froo-tih-KOH-suh) is a drought-tolerant, perennial flowering shrub hailing from China, the Mediterranean, and parts of eastern Asia.
This summer-blooming shrub is a member of the Lamiaceae or mint family.
Other in the Lamiaceae family include:
- Cat Whiskers plant – Orthosiphon aristatus
- Lambs Ear plant (Stachys byzantina)
- Pagoda Flower (Clerodendrum paniculatum)
The plants’ genus name, Phlomis, is Greek and may refer to a similar plant, Phlomis Mullein, which is not a part of this genus.
The specific epithet, fruticosa, is also Greek and means short and shrubby.
The plant is commonly referred to as Jerusalem Sage or simply as Phlomis.
Jerusalem Sage Care
Size & Growth
This flowering, easily naturalized shrub can attain a height and width of 3′ to 4′ feet.
The heart-shaped, evergreen leaves are deeply textured, fuzzy, and grayish-green.
Although Jerusalem Sage is not actually a sage, when the leaves are bruised, they do give off a sage scent.
Flowering & Fragrance
Cheerful, bountiful yellow flowers grow in whorls along the stems.
The bright yellow flowers set up a dazzling contrast to the plants’ bluish-green foliage.
The flowers are very attractive to insects, and because the plant has both female and male organs, pollination by insects is necessary.
Bloom time varies depending upon where the plant grows.
Typically, the growing and blooming season begins mid-spring and ends early in the autumn.
Deadheading and occasional watering will encourage a second flush of blooms.
If allowed to go to seed, the flower stalks and seed heads are attractive on their own.
Birds appreciate the extra food source provided by the seeds, and the standing stalks provide winter interest.
Light & Temperature
- Phlomis is extremely heat tolerant and is best planted in full sunlight.
- Although it can survive in partial shade, it tends to become very leggy and does not bloom well.
- During extremely hot, dry times, occasionally deep, thorough watering is advised.
- The plant will survive drought but produces the best blooms when provided with adequate irrigation.
- While extremely heat tolerant, Phlomis can also tolerate extremes of cold.
- It is winter hardy to 23° degrees Fahrenheit (-5° C).
- In USDA hardiness zones 8 through 10, it will continue to grow year-round.
- In USDA hardiness zones 5 through 7, the plant will die back to the ground during freezing weather, but the roots will survive, and the plant will return in the spring.
Watering & Feeding
Treat mature plants as wildflowers by providing deep watering occasionally when the soil dries out completely.
Provide an application of an ammonium phosphate fertilizer early in the springtime.
Soil & Transplanting
In its native setting, you will find Jerusalem Sage growing in dry, rocky limestone hills.
In your garden, you’ll find this hardy plant does well in almost any type of soil but prefers well-draining soil.
For best performance, prepare a gravelly bed in full sunlight in an area sheltered against cold winds.
Grooming & Maintenance
You’ll get the best blooms by deadheading frequently throughout the plants’ growing season.
At the end of the growing season, decide whether you wish to cut back the final blooms for a more tidy appearance through the winter or leave them to go to seed as a food source for birds.
At the end of the winter, cut the plants back to the ground.
This will spur fresh growth in the springtime.
TIP: Mist Jerusalem Sage just before pruning to prevent having hairs from its fuzzy leaves flying around.
How To Propagate Phlomis Fruticosa
Phlomis is easily grown from seed and will self-seed in a conducive climate.
- Start seeds indoors late in the wintertime.
- Simply sow the seed on a tray of sand, seed starting medium, cactus mix, or the like.
- Just barely cover the seeds with soil, and keep the potting medium slightly damp until seeds begin to grow.
- When the seedlings are large enough, transplant them into individual pots.
- Transition them to outdoors after all danger of frost has passed.
Jerusalem Sage can also be propagated via cuttings or through the use of the layering method.
Phlomis Fruticosa Pest or Disease Problems
For the most part, these easily naturalized plants are disease and pest free.
They are especially resistant to oak root fungus.
Occasionally, leafhoppers may be problematic.
Is This Plant Toxic Or Poisonous?
Far from being toxic, Phlomis has many culinary and medicinal uses.
It is used in a wide variety of soups, stews, pasta, and meat dishes.
In folk medicine, it is valued for its antimicrobial and antioxidant benefits.
Is This Plant Invasive?
Jerusalem Sage has easily naturalized to many parts of California.
Although it is not listed as being invasive, it could easily adapt and become so.
When growing it, take care to keep it contained in your garden.
Suggested Jerusalem Sage Uses
Phlomis is attractive to all pollinators, but especially to bees.
It is also resistant to deer and rabbits.
For this reason, it’s an excellent addition to your butterfly and pollinator garden, and it also makes a good naturalized addition plant for open meadows and habitat gardens.
Jerusalem Sage is also fire resistant, so it is desirable in areas prone to summer fires.
It does well planted on slopes and looks nice mixed in with ornamental grasses.
Because it is an edible herb, it is a logical and natural addition to your herb or vegetable garden.
The attractive seeds and flower heads are often dried and used in arrangements.