There is nothing about the humble first year Clary (below) that even hints at what a spectacular show stopper (above) that this biennial herb becomes in its second year. If you have been hesitant to try biennials in your garden, Clary would definitely be the best one to start with.
In its first year, Clary has a cluster of large soft green fuzzy leaves. In the second year, those same leaves come back to life and burst into a beautiful flowering plant that holds its beauty for nearly the entire summer. Even when it begins to fade a bit, it is still a lovely sight as it goes to seed.
Clary is a soft leaved biennial that flowers in the second year. During the first year, there will be a cluster of soft leaves that can reach 12 to 18 inches tall. During the second year, Clary can easily reach three feet. In well nourished soil it can go as high as five feet. The second year plant can spread at least as wide as its height.
Clary prefers well drained dry soil and will thrive in full sun.
Clary is easily started from seed. Although it can be directly seeded in the garden, it does benefit from an early indoor start in jiffy pots.
Even in our lovely pocket of Zone 6, I have found it beneficial to heavily mulch Clary with a good thick covering of straw. Pull it back gently in the spring so as not to disturb the early growth.
If left standing over the winter, in mild years second year Clary can self seed..