Advanced Search Map Locator
View Settings
Nurseries Carrying this Plant Add Current Plant To List Edit Current Plant
Show all Photos

Butterflies My Plant Lists Nurseries Planting Guide Contact Calscape About Calscape
Tap map to see plants native to location
Order by Popularity Order by Common Name Order by Scientific Name Order by # of Butterflies Hosted
Show nursery cultivars Hide nursery cultivars
Show plants not in nurseries Hide plants not in nurseries
Grid view Text view
Black Sage
Salvia mellifera
About Black Sage (Salvia mellifera) Nurseries Show All Photos Black sage is the most common sage in California, and one of the keystone species of the coastal sage scrub plant community in the southern half of the state. Black sages grows quickly up to 3 feet in height, but mature specimens can reach up to 6 feet in height and 10 feet in width. The plant has attractive dark green leaves, with raised texture that looks somewhat like a fingerprint pattern when viewed closely. The leaves are 1-3 inches long. The upper surface of the leaf is somewhat smooth, while the lower surface of the leaf is hairy. It is semi-deciduous, depending on the location and severity of drought. Leaves curl during the summer drought instead of dropping off. The plant is highly aromatic. Flower occurs in.5-1.5" wide clusters. Flower colors vary from white, to pale blue, to lavender, or rarely to pale rose color. The plant flowers are an important food source for butterflies and hummingbirds. The seeds are an important food for quail and other birds.

Black sage is able to grow on a variety of different soils, including sandstone, shale, granite, serpentinite, and gabbro or basalt. It requires a minimum of 15" and a maximum of 40" of rain per year. In the drier part of its range, black sage is happier on flats, mesas or slope bottoms where there is slightly more moisture retained in the soil. Black sages tend to turn yellow and eventually die in poorly draining sites. The plant prefers sun, but tolerates part shade. The normal form of black sage can get very large. Prostrate forms of black sage grow to just 1-2 feet tall by 6 feet in width and tend to be denser than the normal form, making an excellent ground cover.
Plant Description
Plant Type

Max. Height
3 - 6 ft (0.9 - 1.8 m)

Max. Width
10 ft (3.0 m)


Fragrant - Pleasant

Growth Rate

Evergreen, Summer Semi-Deciduous, Summer Deciduous,

Flower Color
Blue, Lavender, White

Flowering Season
Spring, Summer, Winter

Native Status

Natural Setting
Site Type
Flats, mesas, foothills, canyons, shallow slopes, and slope bottoms as part of coastal sage scrub and chaparral


Elevation ?
-18' - 6692'

Annual Precip. ?
4.5" - 51.2"

Summer Precip. ?
0.14" - 2.64"

Coldest Month ?
34.4° F - 60.4° F

Hottest Month ?
58.6° F - 88.3° F

Humidity ?
0.41 vpd - 42.82 vpd

Soil Description
Tolerates a variety of soils although it is happier with good drainage

Soil PH
4.0 - 8.0

Soil Toxicity Tolerance
Tolerates Gabro Soil, Tolerates Serpentine Soil

Fast, Medium

Cold Tolerance(° F)
Tolerates cold to 30° F

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

Wildlife Attracted
Insects, especially bees and butterflies, and hummingbirds are attracted to the flowers. Quail, Towhees and other birds are attracted to the seeds.

Landscaping Information
Ease of Care
Very Easy

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

Moderately Popular

Max. Summer Water ?
No Summer Water
Keep moist

Organic with Rocks

Propagation ?
For propagating by seed: No treatment; sow outdoors in early fall. Germination may be poor. The following alternative treatments may improve germination: stratify 3 mos. or soak in 400 ppm GA3 1 hr., then dry and sow (Betty Atwater, personal communication 1981).

Common uses
Bank Stabilization, Groundcovers, Hedges, Deer Resistant, Bird Gardens, Butterfly Gardens, Bee Gardens

Nursery Availability
Commonly 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

Sign in to your Calscape Account X

Once signed in, you'll be able to access any previously saved plant lists or create new ones.

Email Address

Sign In