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Description

The native black sage is a woody shrub growing with a mounding to sprawling habit, 3-6 ft. tall and as wide. Dark green leaves have a wrinkled surface and are ver pungent when crushed. Tall stems bearing numerous whorls of pale blue to white flowers occur from late spring into early summer, and will brighten the landscape when backlit by morning or afternoon sun.

Black sage is a dominant species among the coastal sage plant community throughout California in both inland and coastal habitats, and is considered to be one of the best western native honey plants. It grows in habitats ranging from coastal bluffs to inland foothills, from northern to southern California and Baja California, where it is very tolerant of heat and drought stress. This species is sometimes used in ornamental gardens on slopes and mixed native plantings. Plant in full sun, on well-drained soils and provide low amounts of supplemental water.

Water Needs

Black sage is well adapted to sunny garden locations on well drained soils and with low amounts of supplemental water during summer. The chart shown below provides a recommended baseline guide to the monthly irrigation schedule and volume of supplemental water needed to maintain healthy growth throughout the average year. It should be noted there are several months indicated by an asterisk (*) when winter rains can provide sufficient moisture and irrigation is not needed. The high and low range of moisture indicates it can grow with varying amounts of water; it is desirable to have leaf litter and the top layer of soil beneath the stems to dry out between irrigation applications.

Irrigation Schedule and Graph

Low Water Use Plants

Irrigation Schedule 1

  Jan* Feb* Mar* Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov* Dec*
Runs per Month 0x to 2x 0x to 2x 0x to 2x 1x 1x 1x 1x 1x 1x 1x 0x to 2x 0x to 2x
Inches per Run 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1"
 
Inches per Month 0" to 2" 0" to 2" 0" to 2" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 0" to 2" 0" to 2"

Range of supplemental summer water: 7"
Range of supplemental winter water: 0"-10"

 
0"-2"
0"-2"
0"-2"
1"
1"
1"
1"
1"
1"
1"
0"-2"
0"-2"
  Jan* Feb* Mar* Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov* Dec*
For more information on how to use this Irrigation Schedule and Graph, follow this link.

For information how to calculate your irrigation system’s schedule and precipitation rate, please follow this link.

Plant Properties

Plant Type: Shrub, Native
Foliage Character: Evergreen
Habit: Spreading, Mounding
Growth Rate: Moderate
Height: 3 ft. - 6 ft.
Width: 3 ft. - 6 ft.
Water Needs: Low 1
Foliage Color: Dark green
Flower Color: White, Lavender
Flower Season: Summer, Spring
Soil Adaptations: Well-draining soil
Exposure Adaptations: Heat, Drought, Aridity, All day sun
Function: Wildlife value, Slopes, Restoration, Parks and open space, Hummingbird plant, Banks, Background plant, Attracts bees, Attracts butterflies

Maintenance

Pinch or prune back young plants regularly in the first year to encourage long-term development of a strong bushy structure. Don't worry about sacrificing flowers the first year, you will be repaid with more flowers and a longer lived better looking plant for many years in the future. Young plants allowed to develop too many long flower stocks without this pinching back in the first couple years commonly break apart under the weight of their own flowers (S). After spring / early summer flowering, can be headed back by removing as much of the new-ish growth as desired (1). Doing so immediately after the first bloom encourages subsequent blooms, but sacrifices the development of seeds for wildlife to eat (S). Remove dead seed heads in the Fall (October), and prune as necessary (1). Consider leaving some of the pruned dry seed heads in the garden for food, nesting material, and habitat for birds and other critters you want around (S). Cut back by 1/3 to 1/2 or more of the leafy part of the branches in Fall to keep compact form, just make sure to leave at least two leafy nodes per branch as plants might not push new growth if cut below leafy nodes into old wood (3). Older plants grow less each year, so may only need a light cut back and dead-heading if set-up to have a nice form when young (3).

References

Associations

Plant Lists