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Thistle Sage
Salvia carduacea

About Thistle Sage (Salvia carduacea) Thistle Sage (Salvia carduacea) is a native annual herb in the Lamiaceae (Mint) family that grows in southern and central California, primarily in hot, dry inland areas. It comes closest to the coast in northern Santa Barbara County. It tends to grow in sandy or gravelly places, at elevations from 0-4500 feet. It has a distinctive thistle appearance but is not related to true thistles. It is more closely related to Chia (S. columbariae). It is almost always grown from seed and is sometimes included in desert seed mixes.
Plant Description
Plant Type
Annual herb

Max. Height
0.33 - 3.3 ft (0.1 - 1 m)

Max. Width
1 ft (0.3 m)


Flower Color

Flowering Season

Native Status

Natural Setting
Site Type
Sandy or gravelly places of inland plains, valleys and hills in the southern half of the state


Elevation ?
1' - 6599'

Annual Precip. ?
3.9" - 29.4"

Summer Precip. ?
0.14" - 1.91"

Coldest Month ?
38.8° F - 57.1° F

Hottest Month ?
59.7° F - 85.9° F

Humidity ?
0.68 vpd - 36.75 vpd

Soil Description
Typically fast draining such as desert sand or decomposed granite

Soil PH
6.0 - 8.0

Soil Toxicity Tolerance
Tolerates Sodic Soil


Cold Tolerance(° F)
Tolerates cold to 5° F

Sunset Zones ?
7*, 8*, 9*, 11*, 14, 15, 16, 18*, 19*, 20*, 21*, 22, 23, 24

Companion Plants
Use with Saltbush (Atriplex sp.), Brittlebush (Encelia farinosa or actonii), Buckwheat (Eriogonum sp.), Lupine (Lupinus sp.), Chuparosa (Justicia californica), Bladderpod (Peritoma arborea), and various cactus and succulent species. Also can be mixed with other annuals herbs.

Wildlife Attracted
Insects and hummingbirds are attracted to the flowers. Various other birds and small mammals are attracted to the seeds

Landscaping Information
Water Requirement ?
Very Low
Extremely Low
Very Low
Moderate - High

Seldom Used


Propagation ?
By seed

Common uses
Hummingbird Gardens, Bird Gardens, Butterfly Gardens, Bee Gardens

Nursery Availability
Sometimes Available

Sources include: Wikipedia. All text shown in the "About" section of these pages is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. Plant observation data provided by the participants of the California Consortia of Herbaria, Sunset information provided by Jepson Flora Project. Propogation from seed information provided by the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden from "Seed Propagation of Native California Plants" by Dara E. Emery. Sources of plant photos include CalPhotos, Wikimedia Commons, and independent plant photographers who have agreed to share their images with Calscape. Other general sources of information include Calflora, CNPS Manual of Vegetation Online, Jepson Flora Project, Las Pilitas, Theodore Payne, Tree of Life, The Xerces Society, and information provided by CNPS volunteer editors, with special thanks to Don Rideout. Climate data used in creation of plant range maps is from PRISM Climate Group, Oregon State University, using 30 year (1981-2010) annual "normals" at an 800 meter spatial resolution.

Links:   Jepson eFlora Taxon Page  CalPhotos  Wikipedia  Calflora

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