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This wonderful mint relative blooms for a long period of time in a wide spectrum of colors. The colors of salvias are diverse, as are the overall plant habits, which can vary greatly from short, low-growing plants to tall, sprawling plants. Salvias are also a great nectar source—if you plant them, pollinators (especially hummingbirds) will be sure to pay your garden a visit.
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From 1 to 8 feet
1 to 3 feet
You will have an easy time finding a salvia to fit your needs, with its many colors to choose from and diverse bloom times. These plants put on a spectacular show with hundreds of blooms at a time. Generally, the hardiest species tend to have one major bloom session, with potential for a second flush if blooms are cut back. More tender perennial salvias tend to have a spread-out bloom period and bloom more sparsely overall. Some species have somewhat showy bracts, or modified leaves, that can persist after the blooms have finished, further adding to the floral display.
Salvia Care Must-Knows
Salvias can survive pretty harsh conditions but don't tolerate wet feet, so make sure you plant them in well-drained soil. Once salvias are established, they can stand up to long periods of drought. Usually, a supplemental watering is necessary only on hot summer days after long periods of little rain. Salvias also prefer full sun, where they will put on their best floral show. Anything less than full sun causes the plant to stretch and become floppy.
When planting your salvias, allow plenty of room for the plants to grow, because many become large and start to sprawl. After the initial bloom period and if the plant is becoming too large, you can cut it back by about half to encourage a smaller, more compact plant and a second round of blooms. Perennial salvias can also be dug up and divided to make more plants. This is best done in early spring right when plants emerge—just be careful not to damage tender new growth.
Since salvia is such a diverse family of plants, there is so much room for botanical improvement. Right now, work is being done to upgrade winter hardiness, to make plants more compact, and to improve disease resistance. Along with these improvements, researchers are working on bicolor forms of perennial salvias.
garden plans for Salvia
More Varieties for Salvia
Salvia sclarea is a short-lived perennial or biennial grown for its colorful bracts of pink, purple, white, or lilac. Plants readily self-seed, so once you plant it, you may find plants popping up throughout the garden. Plants grow up to 2 feet tall but may need staking or pinching to prevent them from falling over. Zones 4-9
'Golden Delicious' pineapple sage
Salvia elegans 'Golden Delicious' is a more compact version of pineapple sage with yellow-green foliage. This shrublike perennial is hardy in Zones 8-11 and grows well as an annual in colder Zones. Plants grow 3-4 feet tall and bear spikes with brilliant red blooms beginning in late summer.
Salvia elegans is an outstanding hummingbird and butterfly plant because it produces tubular red flowers late in the growing season. Its name comes from the pineapple scent given off by the medium-green foliage. It is a shrubby plant that grows 3-5 feet tall. It is hardy in Zones 8-11 but can be grown as an annual elsewhere.