Scientific Name: Salvia cacaliifolia
Common Names: Guatemala blue sage, blue vine sage
Plant Type: Shrub
Environment: Prefers shade, moderate water and well drained soil
Bloom: Gentian blue flowers appear almost year round
Uses: Works well as a medium-sized shrub; good as an understory planting or placed at the edge of a wooded area
Other: Salvia, like all mint family plants, have square stems and opposite, fragrant leaves
There are 900 species of Salvia (sage) growing everywhere in the world. Five hundred are found in Central America alone, the home of Guatemala blue sage. All salvias have three similar characteristics: the flower structure is double lipped, the stems are square and the leaves opposite. The flowers of this particular salvia are a gentian blue and cover the shrub in fall, the peak time for Mesoamerican Cloud Forest plants to bloom. Its leaves are distinctive: a grass-green color, triangular with three points, and covered with gland-tipped hairs. It is not a hot-sun lover like other salvias, but thrives in high shade under neighboring trees plus it likes regular watering. It can develop into a twining vine if not pruned each year.
Salvias are the quintessential California plant! The state has 17 different salvias, all drought-tolerant, aromatic, long lived and handsome. As one botanist put it, "sage is to California what lavender is to France." Some thrive in the deserts, others by the sea, in the Sierra, as well as the state's hot inner valleys, The chemicals in their leaves create various fragrances which in turn discourage predators like deer and chewing insects. Hummingbirds adore salvias as do bees. The seeds of Salvia columbariaeor "chia", as it is commonly known, were sought by the indigenous people as food, and still are eaten today as a nutritious supplement. Salvias (sages) enhance gardens with their varieties of color, sturdiness and fragrance. Well drained soil and limited watering are essential to their well being.
Many of the Salvias in Central America grow between 5000 and 8000 feet yet adapt well to lower altitudes. England took the lead in plant exploration, and brought many interesting salvias from distant places in the world to propagate and spread to Europe and America. Guatemalan blue sage was one of those.
IN BLOOM CONTRIBUTORS:
Text by Kathy McNeil. Photos by Joanne Taylor. Profile by David Kruse-Pickler.