Spanish Sage, Salvia Lavandulifolia
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Hardier, lower maintenance, longer lived, and colder tolerant than common garden sage, yet it can be used in the same recipes in the same way.
- Cold hardiness zones: 4 – 8 (can withstand cold to -30° F, -37° C)
- Soil PH: 6.0 to 6.5 preferred,i but will also grow in higher alkaline soils. (≈ 6.0 – 8.5)ii
- Watering needs: Low. Don’t overwater.
- Blooming Season: Late spring to early summer
- Harvest season: Before the plant flowers
- Harvest age: ≈ 8 weeksiii
- Pollination for Seed: Unknown,iv but each plant has both male and female organs, so if there are at least two plants, pollination is very likely, whether because both are self-fertile, or whether they require each other to pollinate.
- Size at maturity: 12 – 18 inches (.3 – .5 meters), and though it is fully mature at this age (and may stay this height), it can continue to grow year after year, to the height of 4 feet (1.3 meters) after 2 – 5 years.v
- Sun needs: Full sun. Will not grow well at all in full shade.
- Preferred habitat: Dry, stony soils.vi
- Growth rate (vigor): Medium
- Natural reproductive rate (and methods): Medium, mostly by seed.vii
- Propagation method: Rooting branch cuttings.viii
- Average life span: Unknown, though most sages live 10 years or less.
- Plant family: Lamiaecea (mint family)
Spanish sage is an perennial evergreen, so it can be harvested all year—though, as mentioned, the best tasting leaves are those harvested before the plant’s spring flowering. A very good pollinator species, and a favorite among honeybees.ix In the right climates (such as Mediterranean-like climates), it is a good zero maintenance plant.
As opposed to commonsage (Salvia officinalis, also called garden sage), which can be grown down to zone 5 (though it may perhaps survive zone 4 with some protection), Spanish sage should grow without a problem in zone 4, and thrives in dry, desert-like conditions. But like common sage, Spanish sage can be used for food in all the same ways common sage is used.
Sage is the key flavor ingredient in poultry seasoning, which is the primary flavoring for poultry stuffing. When you smell a seasoning bottle of dried sage, it smells like stuffing. And while Spanish sage does have a slightly milder flavor than common sage, it can be used the same, and has a very nice flavor.x
Spanish sage does have some medicinal qualitiesxi (the medical field is researching it’s use in the treatment of high blood pressure, diabetes, and Alzheimers)xii, but its real benefit seems to be in its use as a health-promoting food. It is said to have positive effects on memory, alertness, attention, and mood. xiii