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Salvia columbariae

About Chia (Salvia columbariae) Salvia columbariae is an annual plant of the Lamiaceae (Mint) family. It is commonly called Chia or Golden Chia. It grows in California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Sonora, and Baja California. In California it is found in the Coast Ranges and southern Sierras but is most most common in the southern part of the state from the coast into the desert. Its stem hairs are generally short and sparse in distribution. It has oblong-ovate basal leaves that are 2 to 10 centimeter long. The leaves themselves are pinnately dissected and the lobes are rounded irregularly. The rounded and awn-tipped leaves are located at the base; the flower stalk arises from the basal leaves, growing 10 to 50 centimeters high. There are usually 1-2 cluster of flowers within the flower cluster. The calyx is 8 to 10 millimeter long and the upper lip is unlobed but has 2 (sometimes 3) awns. The lower lip is about twice the size of the upper lip. The flower color can be pale blue to blue and purple tipped. The fruit of S. columbariae is a nutlet that is tan to grey in color and 1.5 to 2 millimeter in length and was formerly an important food for Native Americans. It is most often grown from seed, and the most difficult aspect of growing Chia is obtaining good germination (see propagation below).
Plant Description
Plant Type
Annual herb

Max. Height
0.33 - 1.6 ft (0.1 - 0.49 m)

Max. Width
1 ft (0.3 m)



Flower Color
Blue, Purple

Flowering Season

Native Status

Natural Setting
Site Type
Typically arid or semi-arid places on coastal Bluffs and plains, foothills, mountains and deserts


Elevation ?
-253' - 8103'

Annual Precip. ?
2.4" - 80.9"

Summer Precip. ?
0.14" - 3.69"

Coldest Month ?
30.5° F - 61.4° F

Hottest Month ?
57.6° F - 90.2° F

Humidity ?
0.29 vpd - 48.21 vpd

Soil Description
Prefers sandy, well drained soil but tolerates clay

Soil PH
6.0 - 8.0

Fast, Medium, Slow

Sunset Zones ?
7*, 8*, 9*, 10*, 11, 12, 14*, 15*, 16*, 17*, 18*, 19*, 20*, 21*, 22*, 23*, 24*

Companion Plants
Works with many other annual and perennial plants depending on locations within the state. Near the coast it can be used with coastal sage scrub and chaparral plants. In mountainous areas it can be used in openings of woodlands and montane chaparral. In the central valley and arid areas it can be used in open, sandy gardens with any Desert plants.

Landscaping Information
Ease of Care
Moderately Easy

Water Requirement ?
Extremely Low, Very Low
Extremely Low
Very Low
Moderate - High

Very Popular

Max. Summer Water ?
1x/month, 2x/month
No Summer Water
Keep moist


Propagation ?
For propagating by seed: No general recommendation possible as several ecotypes involved. Dry storage at 155°P for 6 mos.; then 1 mo. stratification gives 45-95% germination on seeds from five out of ten locations (Capon et al. 1978). Dry storage at 155°P for 1 wk. for desert-collected seeds gives good results (Capon and Van Asdall 1970). For specific treatments of seeds from 19 locations, see Capon and Brecht 1970. Addition of a small amount of charate over the sown seeds significantly improves germination (Keeley and Keeley 1982).

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

Nursery Availability
Available Through Seed Stores

Other Names
Botanical Names
Salvia columbariae var. columbariae

Common Names
Chia Sage

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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