Clary sage – info, planting, care and tips

A flower of clary sage
A flower of clary sage (Salvia sclarea)

With the meter-high clary sage, you can bring eye-catching flower arrangements and spicy fragrance into the garden. This is how you plant and care for the biennial plant properly. This is the right way to plant and care for this biennial plant.

Profile of clary sage:

Scientific name: Salvia sclarea

Plant family: mint family (Lamiaceae)

Other names: clary wort, clary

Sowing time: spring (indoor), July (outdoor)

Planting time: spring

Flowering period: June to August

Harvest time: best before flowering

Location: sunny

Soil quality: stony to loamy, moderately nutritious

These information are for temperate climate!

Use as a medicinal herb: cramps, diarrhea, digestive weakness, eye disease, flatulence, gastritis, gingivitis, loss of appetite, menstrual cramps, pain, women’s diseases

Use as spice herb:

Use in: flowerbeds, single position, overgrowing, apothecary garden, flower garden, natural garden, prairie garden, rock garden, potted garden

Winter hardiness: hardy, USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 5 (-26 °C / -15 °F)

Bee and insect friendly: Yes

Plant characteristics and classification of clary sage

Plant order, origin and occurrence of clary sage

The clary sage (Salvia sclarea) is native to the Mediterranean region to Central Asia. Its natural habitats are rocky slopes, fields and roadsides up to 2,000 meters (6,500 ft) altitude with sandy, dry soils and plenty of sunlight. Like the common sage (Salvia vulgaris), it belongs to the mint family (Lamiaceae) and, like many representatives of the genus Salvia, has medicinal ingredients.

Characteristics of clary sage

Plant

With a growth height of 80 to 120 centimeters, the clary sage is an impressive appearance. It belongs to the biennial plants that form a basal leaf rosette in the first year and only develop panicle-like, branching inflorescence in the second year. In locations that suit it, the clary sage likes to seed itself and thus ensures its continued existence in the garden.

Leaves

The serrated and stalked leaves of the clary sage develop in the first year as a basal leaf rosette and in the second year also on the high inflorescences. They are very decorative thanks to their size and felt-like hairs.

Blossoms

From June to August, the clary sage adorns itself with pink to purple and white flowers that develop above purple or pink bracts. They sit close together on the richly branched flower panicles. The whole plant smells with the beginning of flowering. The scent is perceived individually from pleasantly citrusy to tart and spicy.

Fruit

The developing fruits are inconspicuous nuts. One should always let some ripen so that the clary sage can seed itself. Or you can collect the seeds specifically.

Leaves of clary sage (Salvia sclarea)
Leaves of clary sage (Salvia sclarea)

Clary sage – cultivation and care

Location

As in its natural habitat, the clary sage prefers full sunny, dry places. In the garden it is suitable for Mediterranean beds, gravel areas or stony places.

Soil

The clary sage needs a well-drained, loamy-sandy to humus-sandy soil. Gravel beds are ideal, but it can also be used in normal garden beds. It is important that it is not too wet in winter, otherwise it will die.

Planting clary sage

Clary sage (Salvia sclarea) can be planted out as a young plant in spring. As it becomes very wide, you should keep a minimum planting distance of 60 centimeters or use a maximum of two plants per square meter. In permeable locations such as a gravel bed or stony places, seed in July at the desired location. Otherwise, it is recommended to seed it in a pot and to winter the young plant in a sheltered place near the house.

Watering

As a prime example of a Mediterranean ornamental plant, clary sage has adapted excellently to a climate with little rain. Once the plant has established itself in the bed, it is content with the natural rainfall. Until then, however, the water requirement is at a higher level. This is how you do it right:

  • Keep freshly planted clary sage constantly slightly moist
  • Pour the water directly onto the root disc in the early morning
  • From the second year, water only when the soil has dried to a depth of 2-3 cm
  • Avoid overhead irrigation in bed and tub

As the substrate dries out more quickly in the bucket, there is a regular need for watering in this case. Check the moisture content of the potting soil daily, especially on warm summer days, so that you can water as required. Water until the first drops run out of the soil opening. After 10-15 minutes at the latest, any coasters should be emptied to prevent the formation of harmful waterlogging.

Fertilization

Experience has shown that the additional application of fertilizer is not absolutely necessary in sufficiently humusy soil. Especially if a little compost with horn shavings was added to the planting hole during planting, you can do without the application of fertilizer at least in the first year. When the mighty inflorescence thrives in the second year of life, the energy requirement increases.

If you notice deficiency symptoms in this phase, such as poor growth, pale flower colors or no spicy scent, add an organic fertilizer to the clary sage. Compost, horn shavings, guano, bark humus, horse dung or liquid stinging nettle swill can be used. Salvia sclarea, on the other hand, should be spared the effects of a mineral fertilizer such as blue grain. Stop fertilizing in September at the latest so that the plant can ripen before winter, which increases the chances of another blooming.

If clary sage thrives in the limited substrate volume of a tub, the plant cannot survive without repeated fertilization. Ideally, in the second year from March to August, you should administer a liquid herbal fertilizer every 3-4 weeks.

Pruning

Although clary sage is not prone to lignification, like common sage, a cut at the right time has a lasting effect on vitality, habitus and lifespan. On these occasions, you should cut a Salvia sclarea professionally:

  • Prune seedlings 1 time after 6-8 weeks for compact growth and lush branching
  • Cut leaves for use as a spice in spring and summer until shortly before flowering
  • In favor of self-seeding, cut the wilted inflorescence close to the ground only in January/February
  • Optionally cut clary sage before seed formation, if self-sowing is not desired

Shortly before flowering, the aroma content of the leaves is at its highest level and then drops off significantly. Although the taste of clary sage takes on a tart to bitter note after flowering, the leaves that are then cut can be used for medicinal purposes.

Propagation of clary sage

Characteristic for biennial perennials is the eager effort to propagate numerously by means of self-sowing. Salvia sclarea is no exception in this respect. In spring, look for seedlings that sprout from the ground. If the tiny seedlings have not yet fallen prey to the rake, dig them out to assign them an adequate location.

Alternatively, collect the ripe seeds in autumn to sow them in spring under controlled conditions. If these are the seeds of a cultivated hybrid, the later appearance of the plant is not certain. If you don’t like surprises in this respect, use certified seeds from specialist shops for sowing. The ideal time window for sowing behind glass opens at the end of February/beginning of March. This is how you proceed step by step:

  • Fill small pots with a mixture of peat and sand or standard seed soil
  • Press 2 seeds per pot into the substrate, cover thinly and moisten with fine spray
  • Keep constantly humid in the heated greenhouse or on the warm windowsill at 18 and 22 °C / 64 and 72 °F
  • germination starts within 3-4 weeks
  • After another 4-6 weeks, the seedlings are separated if they have at least 2 pairs of leaves

The seedlings are ready for planting in the bed when they have fully rooted their pot. Removing the tops once or twice during this phase promotes compact growth and lush branching.

Diseases and pests

Unfortunately, snails love the large juicy leaves of clary sage and must be fought accordingly. If you want to avoid the use of slug pellets, you should collect the snails every evening. Otherwise the plant shows no susceptibility to diseases and pests.

Wintering

Since clary sage is assigned to the winter hardiness zone Z5, the adult plant can tolerate temperatures of up to -26 degrees Celsius / -15 Fahrenheit. In the year of planting, this frost hardiness has not yet fully developed, so that the following precautions are recommended:

  • Cover clary sage before the first frost with leaves and coniferous brushwood
  • Alternatively protect with a layer of reed mats or breathable fleece
  • In case of black frost on a mild day, water from time to time

If a clary sage thrives in the tub, wrap the pot in bubble wrap or winter fleece and place it on a block of wood or a polystyrene plate. Ideally, a frost-free, bright winter location with temperatures between 5 and 10 °C / 41 and 50 °F is available. As the winter green leaves continue to evaporate moisture, continue watering so much that the root ball does not dry out completely.

Use in the garden

Clary sage can be used similarly to lavender and is also a good choice in combination with this Mediterranean half shrub. In gravel beds it serves as an exciting gap filler. When planting, its size should be taken into account and it should preferably be placed in the background. In large tubs, it is also an extraordinary decoration for balcony or terrace.

Varieties

  • Piedmont’ is an old clary sage variety from Northern Italy. Its dark purple bracts are a striking feature.
  • Salvia sclarea var. turkestanica ‘Vatican White’ is a white flowering clary sage. Already its hop-flowered buds are very decorative. They open to flowers that sit above large, glossy white hypsophylls.

Use as a medicinal herb / as a spice herb

Tea

To prepare a clary sage tea, pour a cup of boiling water over one or two teaspoons of clary sage flowers/leaves and let it steep for 10 minutes. Then strain and drink in small sips.

Drink one to three cups of this tea daily.

As with all strongly effective medicinal herbs, after six weeks of continuous use, one should take a break and temporarily drink another tea with similar effects. Afterwards, you can drink clary sage Tea again for six weeks. This break prevents possible undesirable long-term effects and the desired clary sage effectiveness is maintained and does not diminish through habituation.

As mouthwash e.g. against gum inflammation, clary sage tea can be used as often as desired.

Externally

In massage oils, ointments and creams. Very good for the skin, against skin impurities and minor skin inflammations.

Kitchen

Young fresh leaves and flower shoots make food and drinks more aromatic and easier to digest.

The fresh and delicate flowers are suitable for garnishing dishes.

Harvesting

Harvest leaves to be dried directly before flowering.

Let the flowering shoot tips wilt or dry before processing.

Clary sage can be used for these ailments and diseases

  • cramps
  • diarrhea
  • digestive weakness
  • eye disease
  • flatulence
  • gastritis
  • gingivitis
  • loss of appetite
  • menstrual cramps
  • pain
  • women’s diseases

Medicinal properties

  • analgesic
  • antibacterial
  • astringent
  • antispasmodic
  • digestive
  • menstruation-promoting
  • tonifying

Side effects

Not known.

Disclaimer:

Ask your doctor or pharmacist. Visiting this page can not replace the visit to the doctor. For serious or unclear complaints, consult your doctor.

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