Age-Old Wisdom meets Modern Tools
How to Plant, Grow, and Care for Salvia
Salvia (also known as sage) flower for a long time; grow well in hot, dry conditions; and they provide a variety of bloom shapes, color, and fragrance. Here’s how to grow salvia plants in your garden!
Part of the mint family (Lamiaceae), salvias have square stems and velvety leaves. The culinary herb garden sage—Salvia officinalis—is actually a type of salvia; it’s a relative of the many ornamental species and has a few attractive ornamental varieties itself.
Hummingbirds and butterflies love salvia’s tubular flowers, so plant them if you wish to attract these pretty pollinators!
When to Plant Salvia
- Plant salvia after all danger of frost is past in the spring. See local frost dates.
Choosing and Preparing a Planting Site
- Salvias prefer full sun and well-drained soil. Many varieties will also do well in part-shade.
- Loosen the soil to a depth of 12 inches, removing any large stones or roots.
- Mix in a 3-inch layer of compost to provide nutrients.
How to Plant Salvia
- Dig a hole twice the diameter of the container the plant is in.
- Remove the plant from its container and place it in the hole so the top of the root ball is level with the soil surface.
- Space plants 1 to 3 feet apart, depending on the variety.
- Carefully fill in around the plant and firm the soil gently.
- Water thoroughly.
How to Grow Salvia
- Add a thin layer of mulch around the plant to retain moisture and control weeds.
- Keep soil moist through the growing season.
- Remove faded flowers to encourage continuous blooming.
- Wait until new growth begins in early spring to remove old stems.
- Divide perennial salvias every 3 years. The best time to divide is in early spring, before new growth begins.
There are over 900 species of salvias and many of the tender perennial species are popular as annuals in regions where they are not fully winter hardy.
The following common salvias are usually grown as annuals. They may be grown as perennials in warmer regions.
- Scarlet or Texas Sage (Salvia coccinea) – Scarlet sage has bright red flowers on 10-inch spikes. It is hardy in Zone 9 and higher.
- Pineapple Sage (S. elegans) – Pineapple sage has bright red edible flowers in late summer and the leaves have a pineapple fragrance.
- Bedding Sage (S. splendens) – The common bloom color is scarlet red but it also comes in purple, orange, lavender, yellow and white. Bedding sage has heart-shaped leaves.
The following salvias are usually grown as perennials.
- Azure Sage (S. azurea var. grandiflora) – Azure sage has aromatic foliage and sky blue flowers in late fall.
- Peruvian Sage (S. discolor) – The leaves of this sage are gray-green on the top and have white undersides. The flowers are dark purple.
- Autumn Sage (S. greggii) – Is drought tolerant and has brilliant colors. It blooms through the summer and into the fall.
- Hybrid Sage (S. x superba) – This group is perfect for colder areas. The plants are 12 to 24 inches tall and bloom in late spring to early summer. If faded blooms are cut back, they will re-bloom through fall. ‘Rose Queen’ has pink flowers.
Wit & Wisdom
- The ancient Greeks and Romans used salvia as a memory enhancer.
- The name Salvia comes from the Latin word salvere, which means “to heal.” Salvia is known for its healing properties.