A Sage In Every Garden Campaign

We are partnering with organizations and event holders to add over 2,000 native White Sage plants to Orange County Gardens. One FREE plant per household. Our goals are to increase nature-beneficial gardening in every neighborhood, conserve water use in cities, and protect white sage in public wildlands.   

Local Sages with a Spotlight on White Sage

A dozen species of Salvia sage are native to Southern California. They are beneficial to bees and hummingbirds as well as having value to other birds (seed eating, insect gleaning), several moths and their caterpillars, and more wildlife. Most local sages require minimal water to survive. Some sages are key components of local vegetation communities - for example Coastal Sage Scrub that is greatly reduced in area due to human land uses. Several sages and their hybrids are used in gardens.

WHITE SAGE, Salvia apiana, has all the positive Salvia features mentioned above. It is aromatic, easy to grow, drought tolerant, wildlife benefiting, and changes through the seasons. It is native to Southern California and Northern Baja California. It grows NOWHERE else in the wild.  |  SIZE: 3-6 ft tall x 4-6 ft spread. FLOWER SEASON: May-July. SUN: Full. WATER: Low. 

Cultural Uses 

Indigenous Communities have used and still use sages for food, medicine, and ceremonial purposes. Locally recognized cultures are the Acjachemen and Tongva. One ceremonial practice is  "smudging" that uses the burning of sacred herbs to cleanse or purify. Many types of herbs and plant parts have been used across the Americas and beyond. In southern California and northern Baja California, local White Sage became a principal smudging herb. 

Unexpectedly, smudging has grown into a worldwide fad. Media and sales sources minimize the actual cultural significance. They present only White Sage and ignore other smudge plant options. This has led to unsustainable, illegal harvesting from our local wildlands that is further destructing coastal sage scrub ecosystems.   

Protecting White Sage

DO  grow your own native sage for nature benefits, low water use, and potentially other uses.
DO  be intrigued by and respectful of varied cultural practices. Be wary of media and sales channels that present misleading, whitewashed stories.
DO  buy white sage plants from reputable local nurseries.

DO NOT  buy "wild-sourced" white sage products including smudge bundles, incense, and oils.

White Sage in wildland

Planting and Care for White Sage

1. Dig a hole in a sunny spot twice the width of the pot.
2. Fill the hole with water and let it drain. Repeat one more time.
3. Gently remove the plant from the pot and place it in the muddy hole. The plant should be slightly raised above the soil level.
4. Back-fill around the plant with garden soil. Firmly press the back-filled soil around the plant to remove air pockets. Do not add fertilizer.
5. Water your new white sage very deeply, at least one gallon.
6. Place a rock near the plant. This "nurse rock" helps the soil hold moisture.
7. Add a 2" layer of leaves or bark around the sage. Mulch should not touch the stem.
8. After the sage is installed, water 1-2 times a week until winter rains arrive.
9. Establishment can take six months to a year after planting – the plant will triple in size. As the plant gets larger, reduce watering frequency. After the plant is fully established, water once a month at most. 

SEASONS: Winter leaves are fresh light green. Spring stalks shoot upward surrounded by white flowers. Hummingbirds and bees love these flowers. In early summer, leaves turn gray-white. Seed foraging birds visit. By late summer, leaves decrease in size and some will fall. Mid autumn is the best time to prune extended flower stalks back to the main shrub form.      

More Sages and Companion Plants for Your Garden

Companion plants for White Sage are species found in coastal sage scrub, inland sage scrub, and chaparral communities. High nature-value garden plants include: 

  • California Buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum): Must have evergreen shrub.
  • Scrub Oak (Quercus berberidifolia): Small for yards. Oaks are nature treasures.
  • Cleveland Sage (Salvia clevelandii): Popular garden sage from San Diego County.
  • Black Sage (Salvia mellifera): Most common sage in California.
  • Thick Leaf Ceanothus (Ceanothus crassifolius): Butterflies, bees, birds, beetles...
  • Narrow Leaf Milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis): Larval host for saving Monarch Butterflies!



Gallery - White Sage and One Cleveland Sage

Cleveland Sage in garden

Cleveland Sage

This campaign is supported in part by a donation from,