White Sage is one of the most popular, highly regarded and revered of all Native American sacred herbs, with a characteristic sweet and powerful aroma. It is found in the coastal plains of California and Baja California and traditionally used by the Chumash people as a ritual and medicinal plant.
This aromatic subshrub of the chaparral grows 2 to 3 feet tall with light green to dusty grey foliage when young, turning almost white as the plants mature. They grow rapidly during the summer months, putting out silver-blue, woody flowering spikes reaching 4 to 6 feet, with small white to pale lavender flowers. This sacred sage attracts many beneficial insects, especially bees, hence its’ name apiana meaning “of or belonging to bees”. White Sage loves sandy soil in a dry, sunny location, and is drought tolerant.
In autumn, after flowering is over and the seeds have been harvested, the leafy stems can be trimmed back, dried, tied into bundles, and used for smudging. They burn with a thick, strongly aromatic smoke and are used ceremonially, often in sweat-lodges, to cleanse the spirit and purify the surroundings
Salvia apiana has antibacterial and antioxidant properties, so is a great remedy for colds and flus, either as a tincture or tea, or, due to its high Camphor and Eucalyptol content, as a steam inhalation bath to help clear congestion.
Seeds can be difficult to germinate with rates as low as 25-30% and taking between 2 to 3 weeks, often with flushes that can occur several weeks apart! Seeds may be scarified and then sprinkled over the surface of a predominantly sandy soil. Sparsely cover, tamp down well, and mist daily in full sun or bright light, at a temperature around 20-25C. Be patient!
If growing in zones 7 to 9, best practise is to grow apiana in pots and protect it from frosts; if growing in zones 9 and above, they are best planted out on the south side of a building or solid fence, a couple of feet apart, and with a deep layer of sand surrounding the crown.
An extremely potent plant to grow and get to know!