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.
Some Salvia Attributes
|Plant Name, Common||Salvia|
|Plant Name, Botanical||Various|
|Significant Attributes||Colorful spikes of densely packed tubular flowers|
|Color||Blue, purple, red, pink, white, yellow.|
|Bloom Period||Midsummer on. In warm zones all year.|
|Light Requirements||Full sun.|
|Soil Requirements||Well-drained, with compost, light, fertile, loamy, moist but with drainage. Never wet.|
|Soil pH||Neutral to slightly alkaline|
|Water Requirements||Water in AM. Regular water in summer, do not allow plants to stand in soggy soil in winter|
|Plant Type||Perennial, and annual versions. For zone 10 annuals last several years.|
|Garden Usage||Beds. borders, containers, cottage garden, cut flowers.|
|Size||18:-5′. Check varieties|
|Planting Distance||18-24″ apart.|
|Pollinators and Wildlife||Yes|
|Cautions||very 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:
- Container plantings
- Mass plantings
- Bedding plants
- As cut flowers
- Cover a steep slope
- Pollinator attractors
Important Salvia Species
Autumn Sage-Salvia greggii
|Hot pink||6-9||2-3′||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, How To Cook From The Garden. You will find a series of articles on culinary herbs and how to use them on this site. Here is the central link. “Aromatic Culinary Herbs.”
|Gray/green foliage, lavender flower||4-8||24″-30″||Full sun|
Mealeycup Sage-Salvia farinacea
Long-blooming period from May to frost.
|Blue, Purple, Lavender||7-11||1′-3′||Full, partial sun|
Mexican Bush Sage-Salvia leucantha
|Purple, purple, and white||8-10||2′-3′||Full sun|
Pineapple Sage-Salvia elegans
Pineapple-scented, shrubby, tender perennial.
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.
|Var as above||10-11||12″-24′||Full, partial sun|
Texas Sage-Salvia coccinea
Warm climate perennial can be grown as an annual.
|A red, pink, coral||8-10||1′-2′||Full, partial sun|
Wood Sage-Salvia x sylvestris
Note the X in the Binomial name; this indicates that the plant is a hybrid.
|Pink, blue, violet||4-8||18″-24″||Full sun|
Woodland Sage-Salvia nemerosa
A source of varying shades of purple and near white as well as low-growing varieties.
|Purple, lavender||4-8||8″-24′||Full sun|
Categories Of 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.
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 Spires||Blue, 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 azure||Azure blue, 4′|
|Grandstand Blue||Blue bicolor/red, 3′||new varieties are compact, longer blooming more sturdy than original cultivars|
|Othe Grandstand varieties||blue, red, salmon, et.|
(see species above)
|Red, pink, salmon, purple, lavender, burgundy, orange||Technically 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|
|Windwalker Royal Red||Ruby 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″, Z6-10||6-10|
|Marcus||Deep Purple/blue, compact 12′,||4-8|
|Azure Snow||Blue and White, 18-20″,||3-8|
|Merleau Blue||Early, profuse flowers, 12-16″,||4-8|
|Plumosa||Dense Plume like, deep rose blossom, 18-20″,||4-8|
|Pretty in Pink||Bright lavender-pink, 18-20″,||3-8|
|Salvia nemorosa varieties and crosses||capable of multiple reblooms, flowers are small but profuse|
|Violet Profusion||Dark Purple/Blue, accepts Full sun, Part Sun, and up to 4 hours of shade. 14-16’H||3-8|
|Pink Profusion||Pink/Purple otherwise the same features, has darker pink Calix.||“|
|Perfect Profusion||Ice Blue,||“|
|Violet Riot||Vivid violet blooms on mounded foliage work well in drifts.|
|Indiglo Girl||Deep blue, huge flower spikes, ” dark indigo calyx. A Salvia nemorosa hybrid, the flowers are a little larger.||“|
|Azure Snow||Pale bicolor plant pale lavender and white. 18″-20″ Tall.||“|
|Pink Dawn||Cotton candy pink||“|
|Back to the Fuchsia||Fuschia color, vivid bicolor, taller plant, a new variety for 2021||“|
|Wish Series of Salvia||Developed 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 Wish||Magenta, blooms May-October, 3-4′, Full Sun-Part Shade||9a-11b|
|Love and Wishes||Purple||“|
|Salvia “Golden Girl”||Yellow-flowered salvia is unusual. This one has yellow flowers with dark pink Calix and some pink.||7-9|
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.
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