Annual Salvia

Salvia farinacea

Salvias are among the most popular plants grown in UK gardens, regularly brightening up our summer borders. Most varieties are drought tolerant, long flowering, and often have scented foliage. These versatile plants can either be annuals, biennials, herbaceous/evergreen perennials or small shrubs.

Popular half-hardy Salvias such as S. farinacea and S. splendens are actually short lived tender perennials, which can survive over winter, if given protection from temperatures below 0°C. However, they are usually grown in the UK as annuals.

For hardy salvias see Hardy Salvias.

Family: Lamiaceae (mint family)
Botanical Name: Salvia
Common Names: annual sage, mealy cup sage, scarlet-flowered sage, green-topped sage, painted sage, annual clary sage

Foliage: simple oval, often aromatic, green or grey/green leaves.

Flowers: two-lipped flowers or bracts in shades of blue, red, white or pink.

Flowering Period: long lasting blooms from summer into early autumn.

Soil: choose a moist but well-drained, humus-rich, fertile garden soil. Best in loam or sand, any pH. Avoid waterlogged conditions.

Conditions: best in full sun but will tollerate some shade for part of the day. Site in a south, east or west facing aspect, in either an exposed or a sheltered location.

Habit: Erect, bushy.

Origin: Salvias, thrive in many parts of the world.

Type: Tender perennial, usually grown in the UK as an annual from seed.

Hardiness: Hardy only in mild areas of the UK.

Planting and Growing Annual Salvias

Easy to grow and generally trouble free. Plant in free-draining well cultivated, fertile soil, in a sunny location. If conditions are good it will reward you with flowers all summer long.

Usually grown in flower beds and borders. The more compact varieties are ideal for pots and containers. Can also be grown as a winter display in a greenhouse or conservatory.

Suitable for town and city gardens, courtyard gardens, cottage or informal gardens.

Taller varieties are ideal as cut flowers.

Taking Care of Annual Salvias

Water regularly during dry weather and water container grown plants daily. To improve flowering, apply an all purpose flowering plant fertilizer (slightly higher in phosphorus and potassium) every few weeks or use a slow release form. Do not over fertilise.


Deadhead to encourage further flowering.

Pests and Diseases

Generally trouble-free. Protect young shoots from slug damage.

Propagating Annual Salvias

Sow seeds in early spring at a temperature of approx 18°C (64°F). Prick out and pot-up seedlings when they large enough to handle (after true leaves have formed). Harden off before planting out in late spring, once all danger of frost has passed.

Popular Varieties of Annual Salvia Grown in the UK

Common annual garden varieties include:

Salvia farinacea 'Farina Series'

Salvia farinacea 'Farina Series'

S. argentea (silver sage or silver clary): a foliage plant with large rosettes of oval leaves covered with wooly, silky, silvery hairs. It produces a 2ft candelabra of flowers in Summer. Height to 2ft (60cm). Flowers are best removed before they set seed to proloong the life of the plant. Can be difficult to raise from seed so it is rarely grown these day unless you can find it at a garden centre or buy plants online. Available from Gardening Express.

S. farinacea (mealy cup sage): spikes of blue flowers, often flushed with purple or with white markings. Drought tolerant. Ideal for flower beds, borders or containers. Height: 1.5ft (45cm), width: 1.5ft (45cm). Modern cultivars include:

S. farinacea 'Farina Series', flower spires of white, blue and lavender. Height to 18in (45cm). Available from Thompson & Morgan.
S. farinacea 'Seascape', in cool shades of blue. Height from 14 to 16in (35-40cm). Available from Gardening Direct.
S. farinacea 'Victoria’, deep purple-blue. Height 1.5ft (45cm).

S. patens (gentian sage): striking clear blue delicate flowers on slender stems. Height to 2ft (60cm). Modern cultivars include:

S. patens 'Blue Angel', dainty cobalt blue flowers. Height to 18" (45cm). Available from Thompson & Morgan.
S. patens 'Cambridge Blue', with slender spires of large blue flowers. Available from Gardening Express.

S. splendens (scarlet sage): a compact, erect form, with dense spikes of bright red flowers and bracts. Easy to grow and commonly available in garden centres as bedding plants. Height 1ft to 2ft (30-60cm). Modern cultivars include:

S. splendens 'Blaze of Fire’, bright scarlet flowers. Early flowering. Height‎ & spread 1ft (‎30cm). Available from Gardening Direct and Van Meuwen. .
S. splendens 'Carabiniere’, bright scarlet flowers. Early flowering. Height 8-12in (20-30cm).
S. splendens 'Red Arrow', vivid red flowers set-off against deep green foliage. Height 11in (28cm). Available from Thompson & Morgan.

S. viridis (Synonyms Salvia horminum): grown mainly for its colourful upright stems of brightly coloured bracts (modified leaves) in hues of blue, pink or white.