Learn How To Grow Salvia Leucophylla

Purple Sage, botanically called Salvia Leucophylla (SAL-vee-uh, loo-koh-FIL-uh), is a perennial evergreen shrub and part of the Salvia plant genus. 

It is a member of the mint family Lamiaceae and is native to the Peninsular Ranges, stretching from Southern California to Baja California. 

purple flowering Salvia leucophyllaPin

Some species of the plant are native to the United States, including Utah. 

The flowering plant was discovered by David Douglas (a Scottish botanist) near Santa Barbara, California, and was named by an American botanist – Edward Lee Greene in 1892.

The plant has two common names which are as follows:

  • The San Luis purple sage
  • Gray sage

Salvia Leucophylla Care

Growth and Size

Purple sage has a medium to fast growth, standing up to 1.5’ – 2’ feet tall and 1.5’ feet wide. 

Under dry, hot conditions, the plant enjoys a long lifespan (9 to 10 years). 

The plant develops in an upright stature and produces oblong leaves. 

These leaves are originally smoky purple but as they mature they turn grayish-green. 

The intense purple stems are hardy at the base but velvety at the tips.

Flowering and Fragrance

As the name implies, purple sage has bright, showy purple flowers blooming multiple times in a single growing season.

Shrub-like and highly fragrant, these flowers’ typical bloom time is in the mid-summer and spring. 

This plant type has rich, vertical flower spikes. 

When grown in ideal conditions, they fill gardens with their vibrant color and pleasant smell.

Light and Temperature

Purple sage prefers full sun or part shade for healthy growth. 

Its seeds usually take approximately 20 days to germinate at 70° degrees Fahrenheit (21° C). 

The summer-loving plant tolerates cold to some extent, usually from 0° to -10° degrees Fahrenheit (-18° to -23° C).

The plant is hardy to USDA hardiness zones 5 – 9.

Watering and Feeding

The perennial plant is drought-tolerant by nature. 

It has the potential to tolerate light watering for up to two months in the summer.  

The plant needs little water to perk up, even when the leaves are dry and wilted.  

In other words, the plant requires extremely low moisture. 

Purple sage plants are well off without fertilizers. 

However, if the soil turns acidic, due to the rotting of the organic matter or water leaching, apply a good-quality acidifying fertilizer.

Soil and Transplanting

  • Salvia Leucophylla grows well in various soil types. Either light or heavy, it enjoys lime, clay, sandy, and average soil. 
  • However, the ground needs to be rich and well-drained to ensure the plant’s satisfactory growth. 
  • Transplanting of purple sage must take place on a cool, sunny day. 
  • Make sure the weather condition is neither too cold nor hot. 
  • Dig a deep hole using a spade where the plant receives full sun or part shade. 
  • Next, transplant the whole plant. Prune excess roots and gently place it in the hole. 
  • Cover the plant with soil and mix it with potting soil. 
  • Water the ground to make the soil moist and well-drained.

Grooming and Maintenance

  • Purple sage is a relatively low-maintenance plant. 
  • It requires light pruning in early spring or late winter. 
  • Trim branches, using hand pruners, to give the plant a neat, groomed appearance. 
  • Add a layer of mulch, such as chopped bark or shredded bark, around the plant to make it appear more neat and tidy. 
  • Occasional watering helps keep destructive pests at bay.

Related: Growing Salvia Nemorosa the Woodland Sage

How to Propagate Purple Sage

  • Purple sage is popularly propagated from cutting stems. 
  • Clip a small tip of a stem and dip it in the rooting hormone
  • Next, plant it in light or heavy sand. 
  • New roots will spring up within two months. 
  • Transfer the soil to a small container and wait until the root system forms. 
  • Then transfer the new plant to a large container.

Purple Sage Pests and Diseases

Salvia Leucophylla is susceptible to quite a few pests and diseases. 

If the plant is not properly fertilized, it may get infected by insects like whiteflies, aphids, spittlebugs, and mites but is deer resistant.

These insects spoil the leaves of the plant by making them yellow and droopy.

Purple sage suffers from two of the most common fungal and bacterial diseases – crown gall and mint rust. 

These diseases often enter through the wounds of the plant.

Salvia Leucophylla Uses

Purple sage has landscape, edible, and Native American medicinal purposes. 

A herbal liquor of the plant’s seeds and stems helps treat colds, coughs, headaches, stomach aches, and chest congestion.

The seeds of the native plant are also cooked and grounded into powder to be used in a wide variety of dishes. 

They are added to soups and stews to make them flavorful. 

Purple sage also gives a savory flavor to cheese and butter spreads.

The beautiful plant is also used for ornamental purposes. 

They help accentuate the garden design, border edges, driveways, alleyways, patios, fences, small spaces, herb gardens, etc. 

When planted in gardens and yards, they help attract pollinators such as hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees.

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