Jerusalem Sage – Feel Good Phlomis

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Jerusalem Sage (Phlomis fruticosa) is one of those soft and fuzzy, pleasantly tactile plants that make you feel comfortable while discouraging the deer and rabbits from browsing in the garden. Eye-popping yellow blooms that have a unique shape, as well as its hardiness and resilience make this plant an all-around winner in the sunny garden.

As an interesting bit of lore, its genus name Phlomis is Greek and translated means flame. This may be referring to the fact that in ancient times its leaves were used as lamp wicks. The species name, fruticosa, means shrubby and short, and this refers to its growth habit. The plant’s height varies from 2-4 feet and spread 3-5 feet, so it’s not overbearing in the garden. These low-water, shrubby perennials originate in the Mediterranean to Eastern Asia and China parts of the world.

Even more to love about this plant is that the flowers tiered along the upper half of the stem tips look similar to snapdragons and attract bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Jerusalem sage will rebloom once or twice more if  you keep it appropriately watered and deadhead lightly as flowers fade. After the final bloom of the season, prune this shrubby perennial back keep the desired shape.

While Phlomis can handle the high heat in summer, and performs best in full sun it may get leggy and droopy in too much shade. So remember : “KNOW BEFORE YOU GROW” and “RIGHT PLANT IN THE RIGHT PLACE”. The flower stalks and dried seed heads keep interesting textures in dried arrangements inside as well as provide food for birds outside as they dry and turn brown in late summer.

There are other Phlomis species with pink to purple blooms as well, but the yellow is my favorite pick for an ever-ready, double or triple-duty selection for a border, container, cottage garden, cut or dried flower garden. Other than leafhoppers, the pests and diseases pretty much leave this plant alone, and isn’t that a nice switch?

Minda Daughtry is the Horticulture Agent for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County.