Selecting New Nectar-Rich Salvia for Your Spring Plantings

By David Salman

FlowerKisser™ Dark Shadows Sage (Salvia)
Nectar-rich FlowerKisser™ Dark Shadows Sage (Salvia) is a favorite of hummingbirds.

The genus Salvia, commonly known as Sages, includes a huge number of species from North and South America, Europe, Asia and Africa.  As these plants are native to a huge part of the planet, it’s not a surprise that they are a highly variable group of annual and perennial plants adapted to a wide range of growing climates and conditions. And the Sages have an enthusiastic following among gardeners who enjoy their fantastic range of brightly colored flowers and all the wonderful pollinators that are attracted to the plants. Species native to the Western hemisphere (North and South America) are highly attractive to hummingbirds (who are also native to this same hemisphere).  Butterflies, bees and bumblebees are also attracted to the flowers and are key pollinators for Salvias from all parts of the world.

The Salvias are also aromatic, with their flowers and foliage scented with natural oils that repel browsing animals such as deer and rabbits. Thus they are an excellent choice in parts of the country where browsing animals are a problem.

In the garden, the sages are durable, non-fussy growers that grow well over a wide swath of the US. The European and Asian species are especially well adapted to clay soils, which is a blessing for those of us who garden in clay.

New varieties for Spring 2019

Everblooming FlowerKisser™ Coral Pink Sage (Salvia)
Everblooming FlowerKisser™ Coral Pink Sage (Salvia)

Non-stop color from late spring through hard frost in fall, FlowerKisser™ Coral-Pink is a flowering machine with its large, eye-catching coral-pink flowers.  This native selection is a medium sized shrub that I found growing in a neglected Santa Fe landscape that I often drive past on my way around town.  After watching its amazing performance in that hot, dry spot, I took some cuttings and planted them into my test beds where it grew and flowered robustly. Of course, the hummingbirds love it as it’s never out-of-flower. Grow it in well drained non-clay soil where it will get a full day of hot sun.

Salvia Dark Shadows contrasted with Blonde Ambition
Salvia Dark Shadows contrasted with Blonde Ambition

Dark violet-purple flowers cover this tall growing woody sage from mid-summer through the hard frosts in fall. A volunteer seedling of Raspberry Delight® that established itself in my home garden, Dark Shadows is a delight with its darkly colored flowers and the strong, sweetly aromatic scent of its foliage.  It’s a robust shrub maturing to a height of 3 ft. and width of 3 to 4 feet. The flowers are nectar-rich and highly attractive to the hummingbirds. Plant it in a well drained soil (no heavy clay) and give it a full day of hot sun.  Being a large grower, strengthen its branch structure with a modest annual pruning in mid-spring.

Recommended companion plants include Hummingbird Mint (Agastache), Goldenrod (Solidago) and Black Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia). Blonde Ambition Blue Grama grass (Bouteloua ‘Blonde Ambition’) makes an especially handsome ornamental grass companion. 

Bog Sage (Salvia uliginosa)
Bog Sage (Salvia uliginosa) is one of the rare flowers with sky-blue blooms.

Blue Spike sage is a lovely, unusually tall growing Salvia species that covers its tall flowers spikes with sky blue flowers from mid-summer through frost in the fall.  Native to the pampas lands of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay, this easy-to-grow perennial is both cold hardy and highly adaptable to a wide range of growing conditions. It grows in loam or clay soils and can be planted in wet soils next to ponds or streams or in drier conditions of a typical perennial bed. 

The plant spreads by underground stems (stolons) and can form a large sized specimen in wet soils. But the plant can also be grown in more arid conditions which slows it sideways spread if you don’t want it to get too wide.  It’s a past winner of the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.

Recommended companion plants include other moisture loving perennials like Bee Balm (Monarda), Tall Garden Phlox (Phlox paniculata) and Obedient Plant (Physostegia). Ornamental grasses that are good neighbors include Prairie Switch grass (Panicum) and White Cloud Muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris).

  1. Cold Hardy Salvia Color Rainbow Collection

    Our Cold Hardy Rainbow Salvia Collection is an exciting array of Sage varieties featuring purple, red, pink, and coral flowers that bloom from summer through fall. The flowers look d...

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    Cold Hardy Rainbow Salvia Collection Cold Hardy Rainbow Salvia Collection Salvia Collection
    Regular Price $91.91 Sale $82.71
    Per Collection of 9
    You save: 10%
    Our Cold Hardy Rainbow Salvia Collection is an exciting array of Sage varieties featuring purple, red, pink, and coral flowers that bloom from summer through fall. The flowers look delicate, but these native perennial plants are tough! They’re waterwise, cold hardy, and easy-to-grow in even hot, dry conditions. Flowers with a sweet herbal fragrance provide nectar to attract hummingbirds and bumblebees, while fragrant resinous foliage is resistant to deer and rabbits. Plant in a large swath and enjoy watching them sway as pollinators fly from plant to plant. Includes varieties introduced by David Salman, High Country Gardens founder & chief horticulturalist. Collection of 9 plants.
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  2. FlowerKisser™ Royal Rose Salvia with rose pink flowers, FlowerKisser™ Royal Rose Sage

    A new native hybrid sage, FlowerKisser™ ‘Royal Rose’ is enjoyed for its sumptuous deep rose pink flowers. This Salvia is an exceptionally long bloomer, attracting pollinating h...

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    FlowerKisser™ Royal Rose Salvia FlowerKisser™ Royal Rose Sage Salvia Royal Rose (WW04 FlowerKisser™)
    Regular Price $11.99 Sale $9.59
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    You save: 20%
    A new native hybrid sage, FlowerKisser™ ‘Royal Rose’ is enjoyed for its sumptuous deep rose pink flowers. This Salvia is an exceptionally long bloomer, attracting pollinating hummingbirds and bumblebees from late spring through early fall. The foliage is delightfully aromatic, releasing a pleasing sweet herbal scent when brushed or touched. Discovered by HCG Chief Horticulturist David Salman, and available exclusively from High Country Gardens.
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  3. Close up of Texas Violet Salvia spikes of cool indigo, violet, and blue, Salvia farinacea 'Texas Violet'

    ‘Texas Violet’ Mealy Cup Sage (Salvia farinacea) is a potent purple powerhouse. Its tall spikes of cool indigo, violet, and blue interweave with its neighbors, completing a beaut...

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    Texas Violet Salvia Texas Violet Mealycup Sage Salvia farinacea Texas Violet
    Regular Price $10.99 Sale $8.79
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    You save: 20%
    ‘Texas Violet’ Mealy Cup Sage (Salvia farinacea) is a potent purple powerhouse. Its tall spikes of cool indigo, violet, and blue interweave with its neighbors, completing a beautiful color palette, and making ‘Texas Violet’ a must-have garden addition. Picture the lightly fragrant flower spikes dancing in a summer’s breeze. Drought tolerant, it is a favorite of bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. In colder zones, plant as an annual – it won’t disappoint!
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  4. Salvia greggii WWG003 FlowerKisser™ Coral-Pink Sage

    Flower Kisser™ Coral-Pink Salvia (Sage) has eye-catching non-stop coral-pink flowers, starting in late spring and continuing into the fall. A medium sized woody shrublet that l...

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    FlowerKisser™ Coral-Pink Salvia FlowerKisser™ Coral-Pink Sage Salvia greggii 'WWG003'
    Regular Price $11.99 Sale $9.59
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    You save: 20%
    Flower Kisser™ Coral-Pink Salvia (Sage) has eye-catching non-stop coral-pink flowers, starting in late spring and continuing into the fall. A medium sized woody shrublet that loves poor soils and hot, dry growing conditions.
    Learn More
  5. Salvia hybrid WWG001 FlowerKisser™ Dark Shadows with Bouteloua Blonde Ambition

    FlowerKisser™ Dark Shadows Salvia (Sage) is a stunning hybrid Texas bush sage with dark purple flowers and sweetly aromatic foliage; a favorite nectar source for hummingbirds a...

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    FlowerKisser™ Dark Shadows Salvia FlowerKisser™ Dark Shadows Sage Salvia hybrid 'WWG001'
    Regular Price $11.99 Sale $9.59
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    You save: 20%
    FlowerKisser™ Dark Shadows Salvia (Sage) is a stunning hybrid Texas bush sage with dark purple flowers and sweetly aromatic foliage; a favorite nectar source for hummingbirds and bumblebees.
    Learn More
  6. Salvia uliginosa, Blue Spike Sage or Bog Sage, Blue blooms

    Blue Spike Sage or Bog Sage (Salvia uliginosa) is a tough, long blooming sage that flowers for months with compact spikes of rich sky-blue flowers. This perennial is exceptionally ea...

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    Blue Spike Salvia Blue Spike Sage (Bog Sage) Salvia uligiyessa
    Regular Price $10.99 Sale $8.79
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    You save: 20%
    Blue Spike Sage or Bog Sage (Salvia uliginosa) is a tough, long blooming sage that flowers for months with compact spikes of rich sky-blue flowers. This perennial is exceptionally easy-to-grow, and tolerates a wide range of growing conditions.
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  7. Salvia sylvestris May Night, May Night Meadow Sage, Purple Salvia sylvestris May Night

    Salvia sylvestris ‘May Night’ (May Night Sage) blooms prolifically with deep purple-blue flowers. It is an outstanding perennial with excellent cold hardiness, vigor, and toleran...

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    May Night Salvia May Night Meadow Sage Salvia sylvestris May Night
    As low as $9.49 Sale $7.59
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Salvia sylvestris ‘May Night’ (May Night Sage) blooms prolifically with deep purple-blue flowers. It is an outstanding perennial with excellent cold hardiness, vigor, and tolerance of heavy clay soils. Blooming in late spring with a profusion of flower spikes, it reblooms later in the summer when deadheaded.
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  8. Blue Salvia azurea, Salvia azurea, Prairie Sage, New Mexico form

    Prairie Sage has superb, clear blue flowers on tall willowy stems. This deep-rooted wildflower blooms in late summer and it highly attractive to bumblebees and hummingbirds. Drought ...

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    Prairie Salvia Prairie Sage Salvia azurea
    As low as $7.99 Sale $6.39
    Per Plant - 2.5" Pot
    Prairie Sage has superb, clear blue flowers on tall willowy stems. This deep-rooted wildflower blooms in late summer and it highly attractive to bumblebees and hummingbirds. Drought tolerant plant (xeric).
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