Lyreleaf sage (Salvia lyrata) makes an excellent native groundcover in many soil types and in sun or part-sun. The dark-green leaves are tinged with purple and resemble ajuga leaves. The leaves become more purple-colored in winter. The name "lyreleaf" comes from the lobed shape of the lower leaves. Plants grow slowly to form a clump, but will seed in loose, sandy or loamy soils to form a groundcover. For more intense purple leaf color, try the cultivars 'Purple Knockout' or 'Burgundy Bliss'.
Photo courtesy of the Missouri Botanical Garden PlantFinder.
In late spring and early summer each plant sends up a flowering stalk that reaches about 1 foot tall. The flowers cluster at the top of the square-stemmed stalk. Like other plants in the mint family, the flowers form a small tube. Flower color ranges from light blue to violet. Butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees are attracted to the flowers. Songbirds such as goldfinches eat the seeds.
Lyreleaf sage is native to the eastern and central United States growing from Florida to New York and west to Texas and Missouri. In the wild it grows in both open, rocky woods and in wet to dry meadows. It is often found along roadsides. This range of environments where lyreleaf sage grows well makes it a hardy plant for your yard.
To get lyreleaf sage established as a groundcover, water the plants well to encourage good growth and seed production the first season. Allow the flower stalks to produce and disperse their seeds before cutting them off. Seeds need bare soil to germinate. The next year many new plants seedlings will fill in. After the plants are established, they can be mowed and will tolerate some foot traffic. Lyreleaf sage tolerates drought and over-watering.
Lyreleaf sage deserves a place in the herb garden as well. The young leaves have a mildly minty flavor and can be eaten in salads or cooked as a green. The seeds and leaves can also be brewed as a tea. The plant was used in the past to treat sore throats and colds, and astringents made from the roots were used for treating sores.