Salvias are a plant that have a lot to offer the gardener, with both ornamental and culinary species for sale, these are one of the most widely grown perennial plants of all.
They have great flowers, attract hummingbirds to the garden, are used in cooking and some have medicinal uses.
Characterised by ‘square’ stems and fragrant foliage as well as large clusters of flowers forming on spikes or as rounded flowers heads.
A member of the mint family (Lamiaceae), and commonly called sage, huge range of foliage types and flower colors (see picture right).
General Salvia Information
Salvias can be neat and compact or wild and straggly, however hay are easy to care for, prune and keep in shape.
Nearly all species and cultivars are sun lovers, they grow well in full sun and a well drained soil, and many cope in poor soil conditions as well. With both low growing salvias such as some of the Salvia leucophylla cultivars and taller plants such as some of the Salvia adenophora and longispicata cultivars it is fairly easy to find the right size plant for any garden design. And as for co lour, flowers vary from white through to deep purple.
In colder climates salvias will need to be over wintered in a greenhouse, or you can simply collect the seeds for next season
Salvia plants are easy to find as they are stocked by many nurseries. However if you are looking for variety and some of the rarer Salvia plants these may be purchased by mail order and are available for sale from many specialist nurseries.
Regarded as a drought tolerant plant this is true of many (most) species but not all).
In general a humus rich well drained soil
A sunny position is best. As for salvia zones, this will depend on the species, some tolerate frost and cold, other do not.
Salvia plants have a low water requirement.
Salvia plants flower from summer through to fall love the sun and attract birds, so why wouldn’t you want some in your garden?
Best Salvia Varieties
Salvia varieties for flowers.
This is where it becomes really difficult, with literally hundreds of garden worth varieties your choice could depend on height, flower color or flowering time. Here are the varieties that we think are among the best :
- Salvia Vanhouttei – Very attractive red flowers and long flowering, exceptional in a temperate climate. (pictured right)
- Salvia nemorosa – Deep purple to violet flowers for long period.
A number of cultivars including :
S. nemorosa ‘Mainacht’ or May Night.
S. nemorosa ‘Ostfriesland’
S . nemorosa ssp. tesquicola – Wonderful violet purple flowers.
- Salvia x sylvestris ‘Schneehügel’ or ‘Snow Hill’ – Probably the best white flowering variety for general use.
- Salvia greggii – With dozens of cultivars, S. greggii is well worth exploring
- Salvia guaranitica – These seen to be the best flowering types to attract hummingbirds look for : ‘Black and Blue’ ‘Omaha Gold’ ‘Argentina Skies’ ‘Purple Majesty”
- Salvia leucantha – Very neat habit dark purple flowers and look like lavender.
Low Growing Salvia Varieties
- S. nemorosa ‘Lubecca’ – Violet blue flowers
- S. nemorosa ‘Marcus’ – Very cold hardy, violet blue flowers on spikes above the foliage.
- S. buchanii or ‘Buchanan’s sage – This species will reach around 50cm, cerise to hot pink flowers.
- S. farinacea – Not really a dwarf variety, but very shrubby with dense foliage close to the ground. Look for : ‘Victoria’ ‘ Strata’
Salvia varieties for foliage
Foliage is another aspect often overlooked, and some salvias have wonderful textured, or large leaves that demand attention in the garden.
- Salvia melissodora with its large green textured leaves.
- Salvia ampelophylla has green leaves as well, but huge leaves.
- Salvia argentea with huge textured silvery gray green leaves, a standout. We think might be the winner for foliage.
- Salvia apiana also known as ‘White Sage’,(pictured right) attractive grey / green / white foliage.
Medicinal Salvia varieties
- Salvia miltiorrhiza Bunge is used in Chinese Medicine.
- Salvia divinorum is not found widely in nurseries.
Salvia Types Culinary sage varieties
The culinary salvias are best known for Salvia officianalis or common garden sage. However a few other varieties also have uses in the kitchen.
- S. officianalis itself comes in a number of forms with S. officianalis ‘tricolor’ being one. Green, cream and purple leaves distinguish it.
- S.officianalis icterina has variegated golden green foliage, it only live for 2 – 3 year before needing replacing.
- We also have S.officianalis purpurea, new foliage is an attractive purple.
Other culinary sages include :
- Salvia elgens, commonly called pineapple sage. Used in salads, cool drinks and also cakes.
- Salvia fruticosa, also known as Greek sage. Very similar to garden sage, but with a more pungent flavor.
- Salvia melissordora, this is the grape scented sage. Used to make a tea, also used as a garnish.
- Salvia officianalis ssp. lavandulifolia, also known as spanish sage, used in the same way as common garden sage.
Nearly all are easy to propagate by division of established clumps in early spring as new growth commences.
Some varieties are easy by seed, others very difficult.
Where to buy
Salvia plants are available to buy from the following nurseries and growers
DIGGING DOG NURSERY – phone (707) 937-1130
PO Box 471 Albion CA 95410
SEQUIM RARE PLANTS
500 N. Sequim Ave. Sequim, WA 98382