This is one part in a weekly series featuring the UC Davis Arboretum’s “Garden Gems” series – 45 can’t-fail, easy-care, low-water plants well adapted to our region and that add sparkle to drought-tolerant landscapes.
Size: Varies with variety, but most are under 3 feet tall and 5 feet wide; dwarf forms also available.
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Bloom season: Early spring through mid-summer, pale blue flowers in tightly packed shish kebab-like whorls.
Exposure: Full sun.
Pruning needs: None.
Water needs: Low to very low; once established, water deeply once a month if at all.
Snapshot: Black sage is a very tough California native that can make itself at home in the most difficult garden spaces. Native to steep and sunny slopes in the Coastal Range from San Jose to Baja, this salvia can tolerate a wide range of soils from gravelly sand to hard clay. Its dark emerald green foliage stays pretty year round and requires little water to keep looking good. Black sage is a great choice for low- or no-irrigation areas such as steep banks, dry slopes and wildlife areas. With its low and spreading habit, it can be used as a ground cover for dry areas, too. From March to July, this sage is covered with whorls of pale blue, almost white flowers that are much beloved by native bumblebees and butterflies. Quails love its seed.
For more on “Garden Gems,” click on arboretum.ucdavis.edu.