The sages are a very large genus of some 900 species and many cultivars. It is a varied genus comprising shrubs, annuals and perennials. They are grown mainly for their flowers but some of the shrubby forms are more important for their foliage, especially S. officinalis that is used as a herb.
The shape of flowers is very similar in most species. It is tubular with a hooded upper lip. The colour varies considerably but there is a preponderance of reds and blues, both often very bright with wonderful scarlets and deep true blues. There is also a wide variation from pink to purple as well as some whites and some yellows. None are very long-lived in the garden, they particularly dislike winter wet and gardeners with heavy soils should always overwinter a few cuttings of each plant to insure against loss. They do better on free-draining and lighter soils, although the soil should be reasonably fertile.
Others, in particular those used as bedding plants, are tender and these need to be started from seed or cuttings every year. Most salvias can be used in mixed or herbaceous borders, while the annuals are usually used as bedding plants.