Ornamental Salvia-How to Grow the Plant For Everyone

March 6, 2024

First-Time Gardening-Plant Salvia!

If this were my first time planting flowers and I had a sunny spot, I would start with a little salvia plant! If I gardened with small children or had a sunny “zone of death” in my yard, I would have a little salvia plant! For something pretty, trustworthy, and easy to grow, a little salvia plant is a great start. Some gardeners use the expression “the salvia stage of gardening” to denote a plant that helps beginners get started. Here’s how to use it, care for it, and some of its benefits.

Discerning Gardener-Plant Salvia!

For an amazing level of diversity and ongoing ornamental value, add salvia to the garden. Salvia plants are available in wide ranges of sizes and colors and are native to almost everywhere in the world.

How To Use Salvia-The Plant For Everyone

If you want to plant something for a long period of color from spring to fall, consider Salvia. The spires are handsome, tall shape and maintenance requirements are modest. The plant is healthy, and options for color and size are great, which makes it easy to find a place in any garden. It is available to gardeners in many climates. For us, in tropical South Florida, it grows all year. In cold climates, some varieties are annual, and others come back each spring.

salvia plant in red

Some Salvia Attributes

Plant Name, CommonSalvia
Plant Name, BotanicalVarious
Significant AttributesColorful spikes of densely packed tubular flowers
ColorBlue, purple, red, pink, white, yellow.
Bloom PeriodMidsummer on. In warm zones all year.
Hardiness Zones4-10
Light RequirementsFull sun.
Soil RequirementsWell-drained, with compost, light, fertile, loamy, moist but with
Never wet.
Soil pHNeutral to slightly alkaline
Water RequirementsWater in AM. Regular water in summer, do not allow plants to stand
in soggy soil in winter
Plant TypePerennial, and annual versions. For zone 10 annuals last
several years.
Garden UsageBeds. borders, containers, cottage garden, cut flowers.
Size18:-5′. Check varieties
Planting Distance18-24″ apart.
Pollinators and WildlifeYes
Cautionsvery few pests and diseases.

What Is It Like-How Can We Use It?

Salvia is the largest Genus in the Lamiaceae (mint) family. It consists of over 1000 species and additionally has a large and constantly growing number of hybrid cultivars. You should find something you like here. They are varied, consisting of shrubs, herbaceous perennials, and many annuals. Color options are extensive.

You will notice mint-like features on this plant; the square stem, as well as the double-lipped, tubular blossoms. The scent of the foliage is aromatic and if crushed, will emit a mint-like scent.

Ways To Use Salvia

Consider these options:

  1. Container plantings
  2. Mass plantings
  3. Borders
  4. Bedding plants
  5. As cut flowers
  6. Cover a steep slope
  7. Pollinator attractors

Important Salvia Species

Autumn Sage-Salvia greggii

ColorPlanting ZonesHeightLight
Hot pink6-92-3′Full sun

Common Sage-Salvia officinalus

This is sage, the aromatic culinary herb that made your grandmother’s house smell like Thanksgiving. It is a low-growing, woody-stemmed perennial and is ornamental as well as edible. Use it in border or rock gardens.

It is rated for zones 4 to 8, which are temperate. In my South Florida garden, if I have reasonable success over our steamy summers, it lasts several years. If you have some in a container, you can move it away from the summer sun or indoors over the winter. I love to cook with it all year round, but it is a central ingredient of winter comfort food.

Try this article for more detail on this useful herb, “Sage for Cooking”. You will find a series of articles on culinary herbs and how to use them on this site. Here is the central link. “culinary herbs.”

ColorPlanting ZonesHeightLight
Gray/green foliage, lavender flower4-824″-30″Full sun

Mealeycup Sage-Salvia farinacea

Long-blooming period from May to frost.

ColorPlanting ZonesHeightLight
Blue, Purple, Lavender7-111′-3′Full, partial sun

Mexican Bush Sage-Salvia leucantha

ColorPlanting ZonesHeightLight
Purple, purple, and white8-102′-3′Full sun

Pineapple Sage-Salvia elegans

Pineapple-scented, shrubby, tender perennial.

ColorPlanting ZonesHeightLight
Scarlet8-103′-4′Full sun

Scarlet Sage-Salvia spendens

Tropical perennial, scarlet, but some cultivars come in salmon, pink, white, lavender, orange, and burgundy. This is a tropical perennial and is popular as an annual.

ColorPlanting ZonesHeightLight
Var as above10-1112″-24′Full, partial sun

Texas Sage-Salvia coccinea

Warm climate perennial can be grown as an annual.

ColorPlanting ZonesHeightLight
A red, pink, coral8-101′-2′Full, partial sun

Wood Sage-Salvia x sylvestris

Note the X in the Binomial name; this indicates that the plant is a hybrid.

ColorPlanting ZonesHeightLight
Pink, blue, violet4-818″-24″Full sun

Woodland Sage-Salvia nemerosa

A source of varying shades of purple and near white as well as low-growing varieties.

ColorPlanting ZonesHeightLight
Purple, lavender4-88″-24′Full sun

Categories Of Salvia

Annual Salvia

In some cases, this is a true annual, with its entire life cycle (seed to flower to seed) taking place within one year. In other cases, the plants are tender perennials that will survive winter in certain warm climates. (In our S. Florida climate, they last for several calendar years. until we have an unusually cold night.)

There are some hardy perennials. If you are buying a plant for an annual color, you can choose any. For perennial plants, check your USDA plant hardiness zone. At the bottom of the tables is a link to help you find your zone. You just enter your zip code to find it.

Salvia Cultivars

For example, the Profusion series may not survive my hot zone 10b summers. But it can be annual for most of the year. (I haven’t tried it). The Wish series will survive my winters and summers. If your like its features and your garden is in a colder zone, you can plant it as a warm-season annual.

If you find several plants with similar names, you are seeing a series of plants bred to be very much alike except for one feature, most often color. This allows you to select more plants suitable for your location and in new colors.

If I have used ditto marks in the table, the plant has the same features as the one above it.


Mystic SpiresBlue, tall, to 48″highly tolerant of heat and drought (Hardy in zones 7-10) often grown elsewhere as an annual.
leucantha (Mexican Bush Sage)Purple? Height 4-6′Won RHC Award Of Merit 1993,
Salvia azureAzure blue, 4′
Grandstand BlueBlue bicolor/red, 3′new varieties are compact, longer blooming more sturdy than original cultivars
Othe Grandstand varietiesblue, red, salmon, et.
Salvia spendens
(see species above)
Red, pink, salmon, purple, lavender, burgundy, orangeTechnically a tropical perennial, very popular in many climates as an annual.
Summer Jewel Pink
a cultivar of Texas Sage, see above Species,
pink flowers, 20″ height
Victoria Blue,
a cultivar of Mealycup Sage (see species above)
true blue, (many salvia blues have purple tones)Annual north of zone 7

Perennial Salvia

Windwalker Royal RedRuby red, 4′5-9
Wild Thing, Rasberry Delight
a cultivar of Autumn Sage, see above species.
Red/ pink hue., for Wild Thing, Rasberry Delight for darker pink. 24′-30″, Z6-106-10
MarcusDeep Purple/blue, compact 12′, 4-8
Azure SnowBlue and White, 18-20″, 3-8
Merleau BlueEarly, profuse flowers, 12-16″, 4-8
PlumosaDense Plume like, deep rose blossom, 18-20″, 4-8
Pretty in PinkBright lavender-pink, 18-20″, 3-8
Salvia nemorosa varieties and crossescapable of multiple reblooms, flowers are small but profuse
Violet ProfusionDark Purple/Blue, accepts Full sun, Part Sun, and up to 4 hours of shade. 14-16’H3-8
Pink ProfusionPink/Purple otherwise the same features, has darker pink Calix.
Perfect ProfusionIce Blue,
Violet RiotVivid violet blooms on mounded foliage work well in drifts.
Indiglo GirlDeep blue, huge flower spikes, ” dark indigo calyx. A Salvia nemorosa hybrid, the flowers are a little larger.
Azure SnowPale bicolor plant pale lavender and white. 18″-20″ Tall.
Pink DawnCotton candy pink
Back to the FuchsiaFuschia color, vivid bicolor, taller plant, a new variety for 2021
Wish Series of SalviaDeveloped by a prominent Australian salvia breeder who devotes some of the profits to her national “Make a Wish Foundation. These plants are subshrubs with some woody features.
Wendy’s WishMagenta, blooms May-October, 3-4′, Full Sun-Part Shade9a-11b
Ember’s WishCoral/Orange
Love and WishesPurple
Salvia “Golden Girl”Yellow-flowered salvia is unusual. This one has yellow flowers with dark pink Calix and some pink. 7-9
*Salvia are commonly interbred; some varieties are crosses between species.

Hardiness Zone: based on the lowest average temperature, the area is expected to receive in winter. Here is how to find your plant hardiness zone.

This page is a good description of Ornamental Salvia varieties divided by hardiness Zones. It is from Mountain Valley Growers, a plant farm that has an organic certification.

(In some cases, you can plant beyond your zone if you have a warmer-than-usual microclimate in your garden. This does take experience.)

Pollinators And Wildlife

Salvia is extremely attractive to pollinators, butterflies, honeybees, and also to hummingbirds. They have the additional value of being always in bloom. For pollinator gardens, you will provide nectar every day. Salvia is so dependable that the plant can allow your garden to have plants that you may love and look forward to every year but which have much shorter blooming seasons and still feed the pollinators.

Here is some information if you would like to plant for pollinators.

“What The Butterflies Want”

Butterfly List

Expect salvia to attract the following butterflies. Gulf Fritillary, Spicebush Swallowtail, Monarch, Cloudless Sulphur, Zebra Longwing, Orange-barred Sulphur.


Provide Salvia with well-drained soil to which you have added organic matter. Loosen the soil to a depth of about 12″ and dig the hole twice as wide as the plant pot. As an easy-growing plant with little pest and disease issues, they are desirable to introduce children to gardening.


When you buy the small plants they have been pinched by the grower for the fullness. After your initial spring, early summer bloom cut back any spent blossoms. I like to individually cut blossoms that are spent and leave the new ones. You can, alternatively just give them an allover haircut. This will bring you more new and vigorous blossoms.

At the season end cut the perennial Salvias low. Mulch them well for winter protection.

Water And Fertilizer

Salvia requires medium water; if the soil is dry to one inch below the soil, it is time to water. Salvia requires only well-draining organic soil. You can add fertilizer for blooms if required.

Pests And Diseases of Salvia

These are rare occurrences and normally occur in wet conditions or greenhouses. Look for stem and root rot, aphids, spider mites, and whiteflies.


Salvia is a garden staple because of its simplicity, versatility, and long season. When people talk about gaining confidence as gardeners they sometimes speak of being in the “Salvia stage of Gardening”. This means it is a simple kind of plant which can fill the garden with color and not be complicated.

I think it is a good idea to stay in the “Salvia stage”. Add new and more exotic ideas but never go beyond the Salvia. It brings us too much pleasure.

“Gardening is the purest of human pleasures”

-Francis Bacon