The Salvia genus is vast and includes around 900 species. The range of different salvias to grow is huge, with flower colours from electric blue, bright red and lemon yellow available.
Salvia 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.
How to grow salvias
Grow salvias in well-drained soil in full sun. Cut back spent blooms to prolong flowering and take summer cuttings to insure against winter losses. In mild regions, mulch perennial salvias annually with well-rotted manure or compost. Alternatively dig up and pot up indoors for winter.
More on growing salvias:
All of them thrive in full sun and are attractive to both bees and butterflies. Most varieties flower from mid-summer to autumn.
Where to grow salvias
All salvias thrive in 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. They look spectacular when planted in a group, and many species look at home in a tropical garden scheme.
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 the compost to improve drainage and feed container-grown plants in spring. Plants grown in a garden soil don’t need feeding.
How to plant salvias
On heavy soils, add horticultural grit before planting, to aid drainage. Plant your salvia at the same depth it was in the pot, backfill and water well.
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.
How to care for salvias
The care of salvias varies tremendously, depending on the type you grow. If growing annual salvias, simply lift them before the first autumn frost and put on the compost heap.
Hardy perennial salvias 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 are growing then leave pruning until spring. This will offer them some protection over winter.
Salvia cuttings can be taken in April, 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.
Here, Monty Don explains how which salvia shoots make good cuttings, what compost mix they need to root successfully, how to trim the cuttings and the best conditions to aid root development:
Growing salvias: problem solving
Pests and diseases are rarely an issue for salvia growers. However, keeping plants through the winter can be tricky. Gardens with heavy clay soil are likely to lose plants in persistent wet weather. Taking cuttings in summer can insure against winter losses.
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.
Great 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 nemorosa ‘Caradonna’ (pictured) – a hardy perennial with spires of electric blue flowers in July to early September. Reaches a height of 50cm
- 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
- Salvia nemorosa ‘Ostfriesland’– a hardy perennial which is extremely popular with pollinators. Tall spikes of purple flowers from June to September. Plants reach 75cm
- Salvia ‘Amistad’ – a half-hardy perennial. Long-flowering and particularly floriferous with rich-purple flowers. Often still blooming when first frosts arrive, and a good food source for late-season pollinators. Plants reach 1.2m