Clary sage is a beautiful biennial flower. Have you ever heard the saying, “Good things come to he who waits?” That’s clary sage. It took me two years to grow the plants from seed to flowering. It was worth the wait.
About Clary Sage
Clary sage (Salvia sclarea) is also known as ‘clear eye’. Herbalists in the past used the sticky seeds this plant to remove foreign objects from the eye (don’t try this at home). Today, you probably know it from the essential oils community where the scented oil is quite popular.
Like many sage varieties, including our common culinary sage, it is native to the Mediterranean basin, including North Africa, as well as to parts of Asia. It is an herb with a long history of use, with mentions in the herbal and medical literature dating back to the 4th century B.C.
Growing Clary Sage
I grew clary hoping its scent would mimic the oils. It doesn’t, but that does not detract from this lovely garden plant.
Growing clary sage is not for the impatient gardener. It takes a while for the seeds to germinate, and once they do, you must nurture them along inside the house and then transplant them to the garden.
During the first year, the leaves remain close to the ground. They die back over the winter. In the second year, the plant sends up a tall central stem. The stem is square and covered with fine hairs. Finally, the stem unfurls into the lovely lavender and blue flowers you see here.
I planted my seedling in three areas: a sunny, hot spot in the perennial garden near the driveway with very poor soil, a second spot lower in the perennial garden, and a third spot in a garden we planted on top of our septic field.
The flowers that bloomed first were those from the hot sunny spot with poor soil, a clue as to what this plant likes – hot, sun, rocky soil.
Growing Clary Sage
I found growing it quite tricky but rewarding. Clary:
- Grows well in zones 6B through 10.
- Purchase seeds from a good grower or herbal catalog.
- Requires a period of cold/freezing in order to germinate. Pop the package into the freezer for a few weeks before planting.
- Needs total darkness to germinate, so plant them 1/2 inch deep in the soil.
Once the seedlings are a few inches high, transplant to a sunny, well-drained location.
Do not fertilize this plant; it doesn’t want it. It thrives on stony, sandy ground, in places where other plants don’t do well, and it shrugs off challenges as if they were nothing.
It really is a beautiful addition to the garden. I am glad I planted it. Good things do indeed come to the gardener who waits!
BUY SEEDS AND PLANTS
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Buy Clary Sage Seeds: Clary Sage – 100 Seeds – Organically Grown – NON-GMO
Clary Sage Essential Oil: Plant Therapy Clary Sage Essential Oil 100% Pure, Undiluted, Natural Aromatherapy, Therapeutic Grade 10 mL (1/3 oz)
Jeanne Grunert is a certified Virginia Master Gardener and the author of several gardening books. Her garden articles, photographs, and interviews have been featured in The Herb Companion, Virginia Gardener, and Cultivate, the magazine of the National Farm Bureau. She is the founder of The Christian Herbalists group and a popular local lecturer on culinary herbs and herbs for health, raised bed gardening, and horticulture therapy.