Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Lovely Salvia sclarea var. turkestanica

Click the picture for the full image (it's cut off).

About two years ago I was searching for free outdoor plants. The owner of one house ended up offering me some datura seedlings and one plant that I have struggled to identify ever since - until today that is! After a few twitter retweets, Mary Butterfield, of the VanDusen Botanical Garden (Vancouver) suggested a plant with very similar flowers. The leaves were too different to be in the same genus so I looked up the broader family 'Lamiaceae' which put me on track to finally identifying it.

The common name of Salvia sclarea var. turkestanica is Vatican Clary Sage. Individual plants grow up to 3ft and in some cases 4ft tall with a spread of about 2ft. They tend to end up in large clumps, dropping new seeds every year which vigorously grow the next spring. They don't generally bloom the first year from seed and die to the ground with freezing temperatures.

They grow best in full sun, have average water needs, and seem resistant to all pests. I haven't seen a single munched on leaf! Between the seeds and pest resistance it can be a little invasive even in a zone 5 garden (allegedly hardy to zone 4). I would recommend growing it either in a pot or surround by stones so it's a bit easier to handle.

The mature flowers will be vertical with the bracts spread much farther apart. The young blooms really are lovely, almost spilling over from the foliage in a white waterfall with light pink edges (many plants are more purple). I hope you enjoy this plant as much as I do!


  1. Oh, this plant is breathtaking!!! I am so glad you were able to I.D. it! I will look it up to see if it will grow in zone 10!!! Thanks!

  2. It looks lovely indeed. I have never seen this plant around here but I will keep my eyes open!

  3. @Julie, Good luck! I'm worried that it grows so well it might be considered a weed or invasive in warmer climates. Apparently they use it for essential oils.

    @CollegeGardener Hopefully you can find it. I'd cut off ALL the dead flowers so that you can control the growth of new plants.

  4. Beautiful plant. Can be grown here until it gets too hot, which is right now in the south.

  5. That is a really cool plant!

  6. @CompostInMyShow, it does seem to wilt a bit on the hottest days, so that doesn't surprise me.

    @Dan, it's great isn't it? You should see the more recent one in full bloom.

  7. Great plant thriving in my garden near Montopoli di Sabina. Happy to share seeds with others living in Italy.

  8. @NedMueller, thanks for offering. Hopefully someone else from Italy drops by.

  9. Is it possible that this beautiful plant would bloom in the first year? If grown from seeds already in February or March? Thanks for a nice blog. :)

    1. I think it would be unlikely, but if the plant is really happy and has a long growing season it is possible.


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