Hardy salvias are versatile group of long flowering herbaceous perennials and shrubby plants, ideal for use in mixed borders and patio containers. Most species are easy to grow and have excellent drought tolerant once established. The nectar rich flowers are loved by bees, butterflies and other pollinators.
For tender salvias see Annual Salvias.
Family: Lamiaceae (mint family)
Botanical Name: Salvia
Common Names: Clary, sage.
Foliage: Simple oval, often aromatic, green or grey/green leaves.
Flowers: Two-lipped flowers or bracts in various shades of mauve, blue, purple, red, white or pink (depending on variety).
Flowering Period: From summer into early autumn.
Soil: Moist but well-drained, humus-rich, fertile soil. Best in loam or sand, any pH. Avoid waterlogged conditions.
Conditions: Thrives in full sun but will tollerate some shade for part of the day. Site in a south, east or west facing aspect, in a sheltered location.
Habit: Upright, bushy.
Type: Herbaceous perennial.
Origin: Salvias, thrive in many parts of the world.
Hardiness: Hardy in most areas of the UK.
Most varieties are easy to grow and generally trouble free.
Plant in free-draining, well cultivated fertile soil, in a sunny location.
Perfect for flower beds, mixed borders and containers. The taller herbaceous varieties make good cut flowers.
Keep well watered until well established.
Mulch in the autumn with well rotted organic material, to protect the roots against frost. More tender species may need further protection in harsh winters.
Tall plants will need support if exposed.
Regularly deadhead faded flowers to encourage further blooms.
The plants will die back naturally over winter and can be pruned in spring when growth recommences.
Generally pest and disease free. Young growth can be affect by slugs, snails and leafhoppers.
Divide established clumps in spring or take semi-ripe cuttings in summer.
A number of very good garden varieties are available:
Salvia argentea (silver sage) is a short-lived perennial that produces a rosette of large, rounded, leaves covered in silky white wool. Erect stems bear panicles of blush-white flowers in late summer. The wooly leaf affect fades in the second year, so it is often grown as a biennial.
Salvia Bodacious® 'Rhythm and Blues' (Anise Sage) is a hybrid salvia with deep sapphire-blue tubular flowers on black stems, rising above rich green anise scented foliage. Long flowering period from late spring into autumn. Height to 3ft (90cm). Available at Van Meuwen.
Salvia nemorosa (Balkan clary, woodland sage) is a hardy compact clump-forming perennial that produces masses of upright purple stems, crowded with violet blooms throughout summer. Good cultivars include: 'Blue Marvel' (available at Thompson & Morgan), Blue Queen, 'Caradonna' (available at Gardening Express) and 'Marcus' with indigo flowers (available at Van Meuwen).
Salvia officinalis (common sage) is a bushy, spreading evergreen, with aromatic, grey-green leaves and short spikes of pale blue flowers in early summer. Height from 1 to 2ft (30-60cm). Used as a culinary Herb. A range of interesting cultivars with various different coloured leaves are available. See Garden Herbs.
Salvia pratensis (meadow clary) is a clump forming perennial that bears branched spikes of blue, lavender, pink or violet flowers in early summer. Height to 1 to 4ft, spread 2ft.
Salvia verticillata (lilac sage or whorled clary) forms a spreading mound of silvery-green leaves topped by a forest of gently arching purplish flower spikes. Good cultivars include the aptly named 'Purple Rain'.
Salvia x superba is a ultra-hardy hybrid bushy variety with aromatic grey-green leaves and spikes of violet blue flowers with crimson purple bracts, from mid summer onwards. Height to 3ft (90cm), spread to 2ft (60cm). Good cultivars include 'Rose Queen' with slender spires of rose-pink flowers in early and mid-summer.
Salvia x sylvestris is a compact hybrid form ideal for the herbaceous border. It produces masses of flower stems topped with spikes of violet-purple flowers. Good cultivars include: 'Mainacht' with large indigo-blue flowers, Blue Hill with light blue flowers and 'Schneehugel' with white flowers.
Salvia uliginosa (bog sage) is a fairly hardy species with branching spikes of light blue flowers in autumn. Thrives in moist soils. Height to 5ft. Needs support.
Salvia × jamensis a series of useful (but slightly tender) shrubby hybrids. An evergreen a bushy shrub in milder regions, it appreciates protection from winter weather, especially during cold wet periods. Height to 3ft (90cm), spread to 2ft (60cm). The ever popular cultivar 'Hot Lips' produces masses lovely red and white bicolour blooms from summer to the first autumn frosts, available at Thompson & Morgan and Van Meuwen. Other forms include 'Amethyst Lips', available at You Garden, and 'Cherry Lips' with purple and white bicolour flowers.
Salvia 'Clotted Cream' produces creamy-white, open-mouthed blooms, on loose spires above aromatic green foliage. Ideal for hot, sunny borders, patio containers and gravel gardens. Height and spread to 3ft (90cm). Available at Thompson & Morgan.
Salvia microphylla is a semi-evergreen upright form with grey-green leaves and mauve blue flowers from July to September. Good cultivars include: 'Blue Monrovia' available at Thompson & Morgan.