Salvia – Constant Color for the Novice Gardener

salvia - puple
salvia - puple
Salvia nemorsa or Sage

Salvia or Sage is a very important plant for western gardens because of it unfussiness about growing in hot, dry desert-like conditions. It thrives in colder, more Northern gardens and is even salt tolerant. It starts blooming in late spring or early summer and is one of the longest blooming perennials provided it is deadheaded (spent blooms trimmed back). Shear Salvia when it first starts to set seeds. Terminating the forming of seeds will cause the plant to shift into high production gear to try and set seeds again thus, Salvia will re-bloom, usually until frost. This is a perennial that becomes more attractive, larger in size and even more robust with maturity. Allow this powerful perennial time to really show what a gorgeous plant it is.

salvia nemorsa
Salvia blooms in a traditional dark blue color but also blooms in light blue, pink, and white.

The dark blue blooming salvias are fragrant, clump forming and heavy blooming Perennials. All parts of the plant are fragrant–from the stems to the blooms. Brush against it, and it will fill the air with an aromatic cloud of an herb-like scent. This is the key factor that turns wildlife away from nibbling on its flowers.

white salvia
Photo: Walters Gardens

White Salvia seems to be more winter-hardy in higher-elevation gardens and grows shorter in height. It is not as quick to bloom again after deadheading but will start to flower again in August. White Salvias look stunning at the front of a perennial bed or when mixed in with blue Salvia.

pink salvia
Photo: Walters Gardens

The pink Salvias, like all Salvias, are very free flowering, well branched, and compact with tons of tiny two-lipped flowers the pollinators adore. Their tall narrow spikes stand upright above lance-shaped foliage leaves. The leaves are soft and felted with fine hairs covering the leaves, stems and even the flowers. These fine hairs reduce water loss giving Salvias their superb drought tolerance.

salvia mixed colors
Light blue salvia. Photo: Walters Gardens

Hybridization of this species, like that of most perennials is introducing new colors of Salvia. Many of these new cultivators have lost their zone-three and -four hardiness, so check this before you buy the new colors of the plant.

How to Deadhead (prune) Salvia

As mentioned, to keep your plants blooming, deadheading is critical. It’s also a job that even a novice can manage.

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