Announcing Salvia sylvestris 'Little Night' PPAF

by David Salman

Salvia sylvestris Little Night Oenothera Shimmer
High Country Gardens 2015 Plant of the Year: Salvia sylvestris Little Night (shown with Oenothera Shimmer in the foreground)

HCG Plant of the Year 2015

Every once in a while, there comes a new perennial plant that seems to have it all. And Salvia sylvestris 'Little Night', High Country Gardens' 2015 plant of the year, is one of those rare perennials. It is suitable for planting across much of the U.S. and will quickly become a favorite in your waterwise, habitat-friendly landscape.

Why You'll Want to Plant It

The long list of desirable traits that 'Little Night' offers gardeners includes:

  • A neatly compact, mature size (only 10" tall x 12-15" wide).
  • A profusion of tidy, strongly vertical, dark violet-blue flower spikes.
  • A long blooming habit with flowers in late spring (and again in mid-summer when deadheaded after the first flush of flowers).
  • The ability to thrive in heavy clay soil and most other soil types.
  • Excellent cold hardiness and heat tolerance (USDA zones 4-9).
  • Is resistant to browsing rabbits and deer.
  • Being long lived and exceptionally durable, it thrives in all kinds of growing conditions.
  • Is great nectar source for honeybees.
Salvia Little Night Penstemon pinifolius
Salvia Little Night with Penstemon pinifolius.

Its Origins

I spotted the original plant in a friend's garden when traveling around Salt Lake City a few years ago. It was early June and his garden was at peak bloom. And growing off to one side of the yard in among a drift of ice plants was a magnificent specimen of Salvia 'May Night'. As I wandered around looking at all the flowers, I noticed that growing right next to it was a pint-sized version of itself. Clearly a seedling with dwarf genetics had sprouted and established itself.

I was thrilled to see it and asked for a cutting. That very next week, my friend very generously dug up the whole plant and mailed it to me! So it was off to the races as I began to propagate this little beauty and grow some plants to transplant into my test gardens the following year. And it didn't disappoint.

Companion Plants

After several years of testing, 'Little Night' is indeed a dwarf version of 'May Night'. And all the wonderful attributes of its larger parent have been passed along to this stunning youngster. 'Little Night' is a superb companion plant whose dark flowers makes all the other flowering plants around it look even better. Because it grows in any soil type, I have been using it everywhere, pairing it up with all my favorite perennials. Of course, the dwarf size of 'Little Night' makes it useful in tight spaces and small gardens. But its use shouldn't be limited by its size, as it is excellent for massing (using groupings of 5 or more plants) planted in front of taller perennials and ornamental grass or as an edging plant to define paths and perennial beds.

In the past couple of years, I've paired it with: