White Sage (Salvia apiana; or Bee Sage) is a perennial shrub native to the Southern West Coast of the United States. While it is commonly used for smudging/incense (its leaves have a distinct aroma when burned), the indigenous tribes of the region have developed multiple uses for it as both a food and medicine.
White Sage (Salvia apiana; or Bee Sage) is a perennial shrub native to the Southern West Coast of the United States. While it is commonly used for smudging/incense (its leaves have a distinct aroma when burned), the indigenous tribes of these regions have developed multiple uses for it as both a food and medicine.
Large mammals such as deer, antelope, elk, mountain sheep, and rabbits will eat the young foliage, and the small white to pale lavender flowers attract hummingbirds, butterflies, bees, and other insects. Small mammals such as squirrels and rabbits, and birds such as sparrows, grouse, and quail will eat mature seeds.
White Sage can reach between 3-4 feet tall, but when in flower, plant stalks can reach well over eight feet. It may take multiple years for plants to reach this height, but soil type and climate helps the plant reach its ideal. White Sage is also drought tolerant. In fact, over-watering can kill or cause plants to lodge (tip over) from the center.
We’ve worked with our own white sage seed for more than a decade, and this has improved the germination rates compared to wild harvested seed. However, because white sage is still a genetically wild plant, expect seeds to display a fair amount dormancy, meaning they may not sprout evenly or all at once like a typical garden vegetable.
We’ve heard that using a light, sandy-textured soil medium. Sand can be useful for starting sage seeds, but we’ve always started ours with a typical garden soil. Sow 3-5 seeds per cell for every single plant desired. Keep seeds consistently moist throughout their germination period.
Baby seedlings are green, with foliage turning to the iconic silvery grey as it mature. Transplant seedlings outdoors when they reach two to three inches in height. White Sage is drought tolerant, but moderate watering toward the beginning of plants lifecycle helps them get established. As the plants mature, gradually reduce waterings to 1-2 times a week. Overwatering can kill or cause plants to lodge (tip over) from the center.
White Sage will produce harvestable foliage about 120 days from seeding under ideal conditions. Plants can reach between 3-4 feet tall but plant stalks can reach well over eight feet when in flower. It may take multiple years for plants to reach this height and your results may vary based on soil type and climate.
For container growing, continually pot up as needed and bring indoors with an equivalent full sun plant light setup when substantial frosts occur. As substantial outdoor frosts will kill plants, so if you are in a region with cold winters, consider growing the plants as an annual.
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