Salvia

Basic Facts:

A very large and varied genus of plants that includes the culinary herb sage as well as exotic tender plants from the new world. They grow in a wide range of conditions, soils and situations: there is a Salvia for everyone! Care instructions are covered under each variety.

Garden Use:

Most Salvia flower in flushes. The tender, New World types can flower throughout the winter in a warm conservatory or heated greenhouse. Winter conditions can also influence how early flowering starts. For example, after a mild winter S.elegans can start flowering in late May, but after a cold winter when it dies back to its underground root stock, flowering might not start until late July.

See pictures of Salvias in bloom in our Garden Notebook entry for October 2008.

Wildlife Interest:

Great bee plants.

Cut Flower Use:

Reasonably long lasting

Cultivation:

See each type as growing conditions vary.

Salvias vary in hardiness and winter care is covered for each variety, but please bear in mind that it is not only cold but wetness that can kill a plant over winter. Many Salvias are very cold hardy but this is because they are covered with a blanket of snow in winter that keeps the roots dry. Others withstand cold winters in mountains which again present very different conditions to the garden. In our details we state how hardy the plants have proved to be in our garden.

Some Salvia prefer warm but slightly shaded spots, but as a general rule in the UK you can't go wrong by putting a Salvia in the sunniest position possible. New World species and cultivars are best if given a warm sheltered spot for winter. These types also tend to break easily in strong winds, so a leeward of a wall, fence or taller plant is beneficial

Propagation:

Most can be propagated from cuttings, seed (for species) or by careful division.

Read about taking cuttings of Salvias in our Garden Notebook entries for October 2009 and November 2009.

Pests and Diseases:

The only pests that trouble them in our garden are capsid bugs which make blackened holds in the topmost leaves leading to distorted growth. Not a major problem and damage growth can be pinched out. I don't know of any organic preventive measure; we use a systemic insecticide if really bad damage is occurring.

History:

A member of the Lamiaceae family (Dead Nettles).

Perfect Partners: Salvias Schneehügel (white, lower left) and East Friesland (blue, centre) contribute to this June planting in our garden The bright pink Dianthus Devon Wizard and scarlet Lychnis chalcedonica also contribute the fresh-coloured scene.

Salvia argentea

Large sliver grey leaves and lilac flushed, white flowers held in whorls around 2ft 6In / 75cm tall stems. Will self seed, but will be short lived (i.e. usually dies!) if allowed to set seed freely.

Pretty hardy, although the leaves are killed by frost. Its best to cut them away when the weather warms up to avoid rotting of the rootstock. In hard winters about 75% of ours come okay in well-drained soil.

The plants need sharp drainage and a sunny spot. Watch out for slugs under the large leaves - if you find any, you know what must be done!

The plants are native to southern Europe from Portugal through to Bulgaria.

RHS Award of Garden Merit (H3).

Price £4.50 (9cm pot)

Salvia flava megalantha

Attractive crinkly, ground hugging leaves and spikes of purple-lipped yellow flowers. Lovely! A hardy clumper. Also (incorrectly) called Salvia bulleyana and trade named as "Blue Lips" - which doesn't do it for us!

Price £4.50 (9cm pot)

Salvia gregii Icing Sugar

Hardy New World Salvia growing into a neat woody-based bush aobut 2ft tall. Two-tone pink flowers from June right into the autumn - mid-November here.

Price £4.50 (9cm pot)

Salvia guaranitica

Lovely plants with rough, slightly aromatic leaves and spires of usually blue or purple, hook-lipped flowers from mid summer onwards right into October and beyond in mild areas. They grow from tubers and can be treated a bit like Dahlias - I leave mine in the ground over winter in my free-draining soil but you can dig them in early winter, pot up (don't store dry) and keep frost free and very slightly moist.

About 2ft 6in to possibly 3-4ft tall (depending on variety) in flower. They seem to like sun or very lightly shaded spot and moisture in summer.

Propagate by careful division of tubers, cuttings or (if patient) seed.

Salvia guaranitica Blue Enigma is used to great effect in late summer herbaceous borders.

Salvia guaranitica Black and Blue

Dark blue flowers and black calyces make a bold and dramatic impact in the border. About 3-4ft tall in flower. July-October.

Price £5.00 (9cm pot) Available to order for spring delivery

Salvia guaranitica Blue Enigma

Royal blue flowers with green calyx.

About 2ft 6in to possibly 3ft tall in flower. July-October.

Price £5.00 (9cm pot)

Salvia macrophylla Pink Blush

One of our favourite "woody" Salvias with brilliant pink flowers from early June right through to early winter. As with all macrophylla types the leaves are aromatic. It will grow well in part shade through to full sun and prefers moist to dry conditions but not boggy in winter. Completely hardy for us in well-drained soil, even in cold exposed positions.

It will grow into a good sized bush if left unpruned but it is best to cut back (even almost to the ground) in late winter to encourage fresh, green growth that will produce more flower and grow to not more than 2ft tall in a season in our garden.

The plants will, once established, sucker producing fresh stems from under the ground. These are easy to detach to produce more plants.

RHS Award of Garden Merit

Price £4.50 (9cm pot)

Perfect partners: Pink Blush tones so well with Nepeta Amelia in our garden in June. Both thrive in dry soil in full sun and both are magnets for bees.

In close-up the brilliant colour of Pink Blush shines out.

Salvia nemorosa Amethyst

Taller than other nemorosa varieties - 2ft 9in. Pale violet flowers make it rather unique amongst this type of Salvia.

RHS Award of Garden Merit.

Price £4.50 (9cm pot)

Perfect Partners: Amethyst is in complete harmony with the near-white pink of Valeriana sambucifolia from mid June through July.

Salvia nemorosa Caradonna

Salvia nemorosa Caradonna

Violet blue flowers set off admirably but the striking black stems. 1ft 6in / 45cm. Fully hardy.

Price £4.50 (9cm pot)

Read more about this plant's attractiveness to bees in our garden notebook for May 2011.

Salvia nemorosa East Friesland (Ostfriesland)

Purple flowers with burgundy bracts. 1ft 6in tall

RHS award of garden merit.

Price £4.50 (9cm pot)

Salvia nemorosa Rose Queen

Pink flowers with darker bracts. 2ft tall

Price £4.50 (9cm pot) Available to order for spring delivery

Salvia sclarea

Clary Sage has been grown for time immemorial as a source of volatile soils for healing and perfume. It is a short lived perennial or biennial (see varieties below for details) that is best propagated by seed as division is difficult.

The flowers are attractive and are boosted in impact by the large petioles that surround them.

Easily grown in well-drained soil in sun or even partial shade.

Salvia sclarea var. turkestanica

(Common name: Turkistan Clary Sage)

This is a truly architectural plant with branched stems and masses of pale blue flowers backed by large pinkish white bracts.

Biennial - dies after flowering but does self seed.

Incidentally the flower bracts are strongly aromatic when rubbed and create a difference of opinion, some liking the smell others are repelled. We're told by their keeper at London Zoo that they smell exactly like a male silver back gorilla.

Price £4.00 (9cm pot)

Salvia sclarea Vatican White

(Common name: White Clary Sage) Unusual pure white counterpart of the common Clary Sage. Not so aromatic as some of the others but normally perennial.

Price £4.00 (9cm pot)

Salvia x.sylvestris

Hybrids whose parentage includes Salvia nemorosa (see above) that can be treated in the exactly the same way. The epithet sylvestris also means growing in the woods. Completely hardy and trouble free.

Salvia x.sylvestris Blauhügel

("Blue Hill") Pale blue flowers with pale violet calyxes in short spikes 1ft 6in - 2ft tall from June through to frosts in flushes.

RHS Award of Garden Merit

Price £4.50 (9cm pot)

Salvia x. sylvestris Mainacht

(May Night) Indigo blue flowers from mid May onwards. 2ft tall.

Price £4.50 (9cm pot)

See a lovely planting combination between Salvia Mainacht and Geum Lady Stratheden in our garden notebok for June 2012.

Perfect Partners: Salvia Mainacht contrasts splendidly with the bright orange of Geum Dolly North in May

Salvia x. sylvestris Schneehügel

(Snow Hill) Pure white flowers 1ft 6in tall. Flowers all summer in flushes.

Price £4.50 (9cm pot)

Salvia verticillata Purple Rain

Wonderfully tactile bottle-brush flowers with whorls of purple-backed blue-purple flowers. About 2ft - 2ft 6in. Main flowering period is June - August and then again at the end of September if cut back when first flush fade. A favourite with bees in our garden.

Price £4.50 (9cm pot)

Perfect Partners: Purple Rain is the perfect foil for pale pink flowers like Phlox Discovery.

Salvia Wendy's Wish

A new hybrid Salvia that came up in the Australian garden of Wendy Smith.  The pink flowers paired with the white-pink calyces really turn your head.

We saw it growing at Abbeywood Garden in Cheshire and just had to try it. It seems to be hardy in a sheltered spot and free draining soil. 

Will get to about 2-3ft tall but can be pinched out in spring to keep her more compact.  Flowers all through the summer.

Price £4.50 (9cm pot)