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Salvia is a genus of about 900 species of medium-sized, aromatic perennial herbs in the Lamiaceae, or mint, family, and native to parts of the northern hemisphere. Sage can be kept equally well as a houseplant, in a container garden, or in a garden bed. Many species in this genus have a pungent taste and are used in cooking savory dishes. Salvia pratensis and Salvia verticillata, both also known as meadow sage or meadow clary, are two popular species in this genus that gardeners use in landscaping to attract wildlife to the garden. The plant resists most diseases and requires minimal care.
Meadow sage is native to Europe, west Asia, and north Africa. It grows best in U.S. Department of Agriculture zones four to nine, and will tolerate temperatures as low as 25° Fahrenheit (-3.8° Celsius). The plant prefers full sunlight or partial shade. These are fairly drought-tolerant plants. Meadow sage plants grow best in well-drained soil that has a mildly acidic, neutral, or mildly alkaline pH level.
Depending on the environmental conditions, plants in this genus grow to be 12 to 36 inches (30-90 cm) tall and up to 18 inches (45 cm) wide. Meadow sage blooms repeatedly from the middle of spring until late summer, with spikes of one-inch (2.5 cm) blue-violet flowers. Its foliage is slightly ruffled with jagged, toothed edges.
Some chefs keep a pot of meadow sage in the window sills of their kitchen. When a recipe calls for fresh sage, they pinch off a bit to season savory dishes. Stuffing, sage-roasted potatoes, or meat dishes with a high fat content are some of the dishes that include sage in their recipes.
Gardeners who want to attract birds, bees, or butterflies to their gardens plant meadow sage amongst their bedding plants. Meadow sage can be used as an accent plant along the edges of a garden and works well in dry climates with a limited water supply. It can grow without much water and is often used in "xeriscaping" — landscaping designed to reduce or limit the amount of irrigated or additional water needed to maintain plants.
Sage is susceptible to powdery mildew, rhizoctonia, and verticillium wilt. Fungal diseases can be controlled by using a commercial fungicide approved for use on meadow sage plants. Some gardeners make their own fungicide with baking soda, vegetable oil, castile soap, and water. The latter mixture can be sprayed on both sides of the leaves and on the dirt around the plant at the earliest signs of mildew. The plants should also be checked periodically for slugs and snails.
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