Veronica and Salvia (also known as Speedwell and Sage) are colorful, easy to grow herbs with great flowers. However, because of their similarities in appearance, sometimes it seems hard to tell them apart.
Hence, what are the differences between veronica and Salvia? Veronica is slightly smaller than salvia and presents slightly more elongated and broader leaves. Salvia has a larger flower but with a similar color to veronica. Salvia is often used as a culinary spice, while veronica is mostly used for medicinal purposes.
Deciding whether you should grow salvia or veronica, depends on what you are aiming for. Something to add to your plate, something colorful? Let’s dive in!
Understanding the main differences between salvia officinalis (also called sage) and veronica (Veronica officinalis) will help you to learn more about both herbs; not only about how to tell them apart but how to use them and what both herbs are good for.
Let’s analyze the differences in their appereance, taste, nutrional value and culinary use.
Size, stems. and leaves are different between salvia and veronica. Flowers, on the other hand, are kind of similar. For simplicity in the explanation, the photos here reported are Salvia Officinalis and Veronica Officinalis, the most common variety of these two herbs.
Salvia is a member of the Lamiaceae family. Yes, the same family of mint. The plant can grow 24 inches and more (depending on the species). Veronica is a part of a Scrophulariaceae family. Veronica is slightly shorter than Salvia and grows up to 18 inches.
Salvia stem has a square section and it is covered with soft hairs while veronica stem is round.
Salvia officinalis (sage) leaves are blue-Green with a velvety texture. They are darker in color. Veronica leaves are bright green, and a bit hairy, and (depending on the variety) slightly glossy. Veronica leaves are slightly more elongated than salvia ones.
Salvia flowers come in various colors: from different shades of purple to pink and white. Salvia’s flowers have large lobed petals; typically four to six on long spikes. Veronica flowers are very similar in color to Salvia ones. They come in blue, purple, pink, and white, arranged in small five-petaled blossoms.
Both veronica and salvia form tall spikes but veronica blooms from bottom-up, so you will often see green tips on the top of the bloom, with colorful fully-bloomed flowers below.
Veronica and salvia are both edible. However, when it comes to taste, these plants are quite different.
Salvia, or more commonly known as sage, is well known for its taste and use in the cuisine for hundreds of years. Being a part of the mint family, Salvia has a refreshing earthy and slightly peppery flavor. This is a good combo with meat-based dishes.
Veronica, on the other hand, because of its sharp, bitter taste is mainly used for medicinal purposes. Mostly, veronica is used as a cough medicine, but also for the urinary issue or for healing cuts and wounds.
Salvia goes well with other essential herbs like oregano, rosemary, or thyme. It’s paired well with all sorts of food: meat, cheese, fish, pasta (check the recipe below!), or as a salad dressing, all depending on the region and cuisine.
In Italy and other European countries, Sage is very popular for making a Saltimbocca – the dish made initially from veal wrapped with sage. (Today, different kinds of meats are used for the same recipe). In this region, sage is commonly used with fish, or as a salad dressing with other greens.
In America, probably the most well-known dish with this herb is a Sage and onion stuffing for a roast turkey for Thanksgiving dinner.
What are good sage replacements? In case you are dealing with a meat dish, you can use a spice blend instead of dried or ground sage, like poultry seasoning. Otherwise, single herb alternatives are rosemary, marjoram, or thyme. All of these have a nice woody flavor that matches greatly with meat.
Veronica is known for its healthy and healing purposes. The most common use is cough remedy tea made from its flowering tops. The simplest recipe here: 1-2 teaspoons of dried herbs in hot water. Then add honey to make it tastier and for its antiseptic properties.
Because of its healing purposes, veronica is often used as an organic extract for tinctures and remedies. Veronica can be mixed with greens in salads, lemon dressing, or used as an addition for a healthy smoothie.
Just a last note: salvia can be toxic if used in large amount and avoid it during pregnancy.
Salvia and veronica are used for different purposes. Salvia is used mainly in the kitchen and so, for such herb, data on its nutritional content are available as shown below. What struck me is that 100g of this herb can provide more than 3 times the iron intake a healthy person needs. Hence, a good idea to use it in more dishes for those with iron deficiencies.
Bear in mind that not all salvias are edible. Among hundreds of members of the Salvia family, only a few are edible. The most used one is Salvia officinalis. Ornamental salvias, like “May Night” are not poisonous but have no nutritional value (or preferred taste).
For 100g Salvia (dry, spice)
315 kcal (2000 daily intake)
10.6g (50g daily intake)
60.7g (250g daily intake)
1652mg (1000mg daily intake)
28mg (8mg daily intake)
428mg (400mg daily intake)
1070mg (3900mg daily intake)
However, salvia officinalis is well-known for other important properties due to its bioactive compound in the context of chronic diseases as discussed in this study.
Veronica, differently from salvia, is exclusively used for tea and medicinal purposes. Hence, no information on its calorie, protein content was found. However, it is plenty of resources if you want to understand its deployment.
Veronica is an herb that is found of interest in the scientific community due to its potential ability to help in the treatment of cough (already commonly used for this purpose in the Balkans) and has an antioxidative and antimicrobial agent.
Salvia and Veronica can grow together. Both plants love the sun; they need fast-draining soil, and do not need much watering; so they both thrive in a similar, low maintenance environment.
Here a few quick tips to take care of saliva and veronica if you decide to go for them:
- Planting season: spring or early fall;
- Location: windowsill or sunny area of your garden;
- Soil: both plants do not need rich soil; they are clay and sand resistant and grow well in different pH values. Salvia can grow in very alkaline soil, differently from veronica that can tolerate only slightly alkaline conditions. The soil has to be well-drained and does not need much fertilizer. When planting in pots use a mix of garden soil mixed with perlite to ensure rapid drainage;
- Sunlight: both veronica and salvia require a lot of sunlight, at least 6 hours a day;
- Drought tolerant: once established both plants are tolerant of drought, but they will look better with occasional watering. I do usually water them once a week or more often during the hot summer days.
Veronica and salvia are reasonably easy to propagate by cutting. This means that a small stem of the herb if cut in the property point, can originate a whole new plant. You are cloning the plant!
For propagation, you have to cut the stem just above the nodes (this is where a new pair of leaves is coming out). Make a nice, clean-cut. Ideally at a 45-degree angle to increase the chances of rooting, but no problems if you managed a normal horizontal cut. Use sharp and clean shears. Take off the lower leaves and growing tips. Put a few inches of water into a glass and just wait for the roots to develop.
To increase the chances for the cutting to develop roots, you can boost the whole process through the rooting hormone, a chemical that increases the production of those chemicals within the plant responsible for the root development. Here a detailed guide on the matter (and here my best rooting hormone). You can also place the cutting in a solution of 50/50 of perlite and vermiculite (here more on how perlite and vermiculite can enhance your indoor garden).
After a few days, place the container in the sunny area, and once the roots start to show the plant is ready for planting. Be gentle and careful with the new roots.
Of the 500+ types of veronica, the majority of them are perennial. This means that they last multiple seasons with a long blooming period (from spring to fall).
To make your veronica blooming for longer you should make sure that the plant has enough sun and that the soil is moist, but not waterlogged. As always, if unsure, be on the dry side and on the moist side as it is way easier to recover an under-watered plant than an overwatered one.
Divide plants every few years in autumn or spring.
Salvias can be perennial or annual, depending on the variety (there are over 900 varieties of Salvia). They bloom for weeks from late spring and summer. For the best care follow the same advice: keep the soil moist, cut the stem in the early spring, remove faded flowers for the longest bloom. Perennial Salvias should be divided in early spring every couple of years.
If you have decided to grow a perennial garden, veronica and salvia will fit well together. Do not forget the variety of colors to mix and match. Check the seed packaged if you buy them from seeds.
Here is the list of few more perennial plants, of different heights and colors that will grow well in the same conditions as these two plants.
You should add some lower plants to fill the garden while taller ones should be used for sides and edges, both in case you grow them in a large planter indoors close to the windowsill or outdoors.
Colors and height
red, orange, yellow
Full SunWell-drained soil
1-3 inchesblue, white
Full SunWell-drained soil
0.5-1 inchespink, light blue, white
Full Sun or partialWell-drained soil
1.5-5 feetred, pink, purple, white
Full SunWell-drained soil
1-2 feetorange, yellow
Full SunWell-drained soil
You will get the best results pairing annual and perennial plants. Make sure to care about your perennial plants like salvia and veronica in terms of spacing, as if not taken care of properly ( trimming and cutting down) these can quickly take over too much of your garden.
- Stem and leaves are the main factors to identify the differences between a salvia officinalis (sage) and veronica.
- Both salvia and veronica are edible despite veronica less used in the kitchen and more as an herbal remedy
- Salvia is a good match with meat-based plates and can be replaced by woody-like herbs such as thyme and rosemary.
Is salvia officinalis (sage) invasive? Salvia officinalis can be invasive in specific areas with favorable conditions such as sandy and loamy soil conditions and in absence of other plants in the surrounding.
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