Marin Master Gardeners
University of California
Marin Master Gardeners

Plant Guide

Salvia sclarea

Common Name
Clary/Muscatel Sage
CA Native
Plant Type
3' - 4' x 3'
Flower Color
Bloom Time
  • Summer
Large, Leathery, Gray-Green
Deer Resistant
Rarely Damaged
Wildlife Value
  • Attracts Beneficial Insects
  • Bees
  • Butterfly & Other Insect Nectar
  • Hummingbirds
Growth Rate
Adverse Growth Factors
Special Features
  • Low Maintenance
  • Showy Flowers
Water Use
  • Drought Tolerant
  • Low
Soil pH
6.5-7.5 (neutral)
  • Full Sun
Soil Type
Not Particular
Good Drainage
Description and Cultural Plant Tips

This is a spectacular biennial salvia that produces foliage the first year and flowers the second. The spikes of 3' - 4' tall flower stems with pale lilac 1" long tubular flowers and very prominent rose-red to purple bracts appear in early summer to fall. It is a very large structural plant. Once it is done flowering, it will die pretty quickly and can leave a large open spot in the garden if you do not plant so that other flowers take its space. However, it reseeds if not deadheaded so you can always have one blooming in your summer garden.  Salvia Clary has a strong and unusual odor that is pleasant for some but not so with others. Muscatel oil which smells like ambergris is made from the flowering stems and is used in soaps and cosmetics. Looks good with Agastache 'Rosy Giant', Black & Blue Salvia and the pink Coneflowers.

Plant in full sun in well-drained soils in the back of your garden. Tolerates slightly acid to neutral soils. Fertilze lightly as too much fertlizer will stimulate leaf growth over flower development.

This is a bee and hummingbird magnet.

No serious diseases but chewing insects enjoy nibbling on the leaves. Since these are back of the border plants leaf damage is not a problem.

Master Gardener Comments

Even though this is a biennial, the incredibly beautiful, huge flower spikes make it a permenant fixture in my garden. As noted above, when it dies it will leave a hole in the border so make sure you plant it near other flowers, such as the tall Salvias or  Agastaches, that will fill in the space. I personally don't like the fragrance so I make sure it sits back from the garden walkways.


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