Salvia 'Ostfriesland'

Salvias - Grow Guide

Discover all you need to know about growing salvias in our comprehensive guide.

The genus Salvia is vast and includes around 900 species.

The range of different salvias available to gardeners is huge, with flower colours from electric blue, bright red and lemon yellow to choose from. Flowers are tubular with a split lower petal. Foliage shapes and colours are also very varied and often scented when crushed.

Choose between annuals often used for bedding schemes, hardy herbaceous salvias or woody tender types. The herb sage is a salvia and has many culinary uses.

All of them enjoy a sunny spot and are attractive to both bees and butterflies. Salvias are highly praised for lasting flowers from mid-summer to autumn. 

Discover how to grow salvias in this comprehensive guide. 

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Planting position

All salvias enjoy a position of full sun. A south-facing aspect is ideal. They can cope in quite poor soils – in fact they prefer this to an unworked heavy clay.

Salvias are ideal for a coastal garden and are often a key plant in a drought garden.

Salvias of all types can be grown in containers. Some of the very long-flowering types such as Salvia greggii can be moved from the garden into the conservatory as flowers will continue into winter. Add horticultural grit to improve drainage and feed container-grown plants in spring. Plants grown in a garden soil don’t need feeding.


Planting technique

Add horticultural grit to a heavy soil before planting. Avoid planting these sun lovers too close to overhanging trees.

Salvias look spectacular when planted in a group. These wonderfully coloured flowering plants look at home in a tropical garden.

If growing tender types it may be easier to grow them in containers so they can be easily moved to a frost-free place before autumn frosts. 

Propagation

Salvia cuttings can be taken in April or in August or September. Remove non-flowering stems that are about 8cm long. Remove the lower leaves and trim each cutting just below a node. Insert cuttings into a pot of pre-watered cutting compost. Cover the pot with a clear plastic bag – try to avoid the bag touching the foliage.

Place cuttings in a cool greenhouse and put up shading to prevent scorching from strong sunlight. After three weeks cuttings should be ready to pot on. 

Troubleshooting

Pests and diseases are rarely an issue for salvia growers. However, keeping plants through the winter can be tricky. Gardeners that have heavy clay soil are likely to lose plants in persistent wet weather.

It's worth remembering that salvias are Mediterranean plants and require a well-drained soil and full sun.


Care

The care of salvias varies tremendously depending on the type you grow.

If growing annual types, they're simply lifted from a display before the first autumn frost and put on the compost heap. Hardy perennial types can be cut back hard in spring or autumn. Half-hardy herbaceous types can be cut back in autumn but must then spend winter in a frost-free place. If you're attempting to keep them outside, resist pruning until spring. Shrubby types should be lightly pruned in spring – prune these in autumn and new growth will form that can be hit by frost.

If you're not sure what salvia you're growing, leave pruning until spring. This will offer them some protection over winter.

Trug for harvests

Grow your own sage

Dried sage is often found for sale in the supermarket but fresh sage is seldom seen. Grow your own to enjoy a more vibrant taste. Sage and onion stuffing will taste so much better with fresh, home-grown sage. 

Salvia nemorosa 'Caradonna'
Salvia nemorosa 'Caradonna'

Salvias to grow

  • Salvia officinalis – the common sage has many culinary uses. Variegated forms are available. Evergreen, shrubby plant with scented foliage and blue summer flowers. Reaches a height of 75cm
  • Salvia greggii ‘Stormy Pink – soft pink flowers from July to November. Aromatic foliage. Reaches a height of 65cm. Semi-hardy plant that may survive in a very sheltered garden
  • Salvia involucrata ‘Bethellii’ – a half hardy salvia with large purple/pink flowers from August to late autumn. Unlikely to survive winter outside. Reaches an impressive height of 1.5m
  • Salvia farinacea ‘Victoria’ – a half-hardy perennial that is more often grown as an annual. Electric blue flowers from June to October. Plants reach 40cm

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