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Tricolor Sage Plants


This photo shows the variegated type of salvia known as 'Tricolor' sage.

This photo shows the variegated type of salvia known as 'Tricolor' sage.

David Beaulieu

Plant Taxonomy of Tricolor Sage:

Plant taxonomy classifies Tricolor sage plants as Salvia officinalis 'Tricolor.' The cultivar name, 'Tricolor' derives from the fact that the plant's foliage boasts 3 colors: white, green, and purple.

Plant Type:

Tricolor sage is an herbaceous perennial herb at the colder end of its hardiness range (see below). In the warmer parts of its range, its foliage is evergreen.


Although Tricolor sage plants do put out violet-colored blooms, they are often grown more for their variegated foliage. The older leaves on this herb tend to be green in the middle, with an irregular white margin; the younger leaves are purplish. These fragrant plants reach a height of 1'-1 1/2' with a similar spread.

Planting Zones for Tricolor Sage:

Indigenous to southeastern Europe, Tricolor sage is grown as a perennial herb in planting zones 6-9. This variegated cultivar is not quite as hardy as plain old Salvia officinalis, though.

Sun and Soil Requirements:

Grow these herb plants in full sun and in a well-drained soil. Mix in compost to improve soil fertility. If the foliage fails to receive sufficient amounts of sunshine, there will be less purple in the tricolored mix. As with most herbs, special attention should be paid to the requirement for well-drained soil. Tricolor sage plants are drought-tolerant perennials once established.

Uses for Tricolor Sage:

Even though this herb is highly ornamental, it still has the same culinary applications as regular sage. Also like its less colorful counterpart, it is effective in organic ant control (the ants don't like its fragrance). But its main uses are, no doubt, ornamental: for example, in rock gardens and knot gardens. Another use for ornamental sage would be to line the outside of garden stepping stone paths; to fill the cracks between, though, use herb plants that can stand up to foot traffic, such as creeping thyme.

Care for Tricolor Sage:

Divide these herb plants every 3 years or so to keep them vigorous.

The Herb, Sage vs. the Flower, Salvia:

Sage (Salvia officinalis) and the annual, red salvia (Salvia splendens) share the scientific plant name, Salvia. But don't confuse them: the former is an herb perhaps best known for its culinary use in stuffing, while the latter is among our most popular flowers used as bedding plants.
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