Salvia 'Ostfriesland'

How to grow salvias

Discover all you need to know about planting, propagating and caring for salvias in our expert Grow Guide.

A table displaying which months are best to sow, plant and harvest.
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Plant
Plant

Do not Plant in January

Do not Plant in February

Do not Plant in March

Do Plant in April

Do Plant in May

Do not Plant in June

Do not Plant in July

Do not Plant in August

Do not Plant in September

Do not Plant in October

Do not Plant in November

Do not Plant in December

Flowers
Flowers

Plant does not flower in January

Plant does not flower in February

Plant does not flower in March

Plant does not flower in April

Plant does not flower in May

Plant does flower in June

Plant does flower in July

Plant does flower in August

Plant does flower in September

Plant does flower in October

Plant does flower in November

Plant does not flower in December

Prune
Prune

Do not Prune in January

Do not Prune in February

Do not Prune in March

Do not Prune in April

Do not Prune in May

Do not Prune in June

Do not Prune in July

Do not Prune in August

Do not Prune in September

Do Prune in October

Do not Prune in November

Do not Prune in December

Cut back
Cut back

Do not Cut back in January

Do not Cut back in February

Do not Cut back in March

Do Cut back in April

Do Cut back in May

Do not Cut back in June

Do not Cut back in July

Do not Cut back in August

Do not Cut back in September

Do not Cut back in October

Do not Cut back in November

Do not Cut back in December

The Salvia genus 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 can be selected.

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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.

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

Where to plant salvias

Salvia coccinea 'Hummingbird Mixed'
Savlia coccinea ‘Hummingbird Mixed’

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.

How to plant salvias

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Salvia ‘Mulberry Jam’

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.

Propagating salvias

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Taking leaf cuttings

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.

Savlias: problem solving

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Salvia patens ‘Cambridge Blue’

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.

Caring for salvias

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Cutting back salvias in autumn

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 are growing then leave pruning until spring. This will offer them some protection over winter.

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. 

Trug for harvests
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Salvia nemorosa ‘Caradonna’

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
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Browse more great varieties to grow here