Selecting New Nectar-Rich Salvia for Your Spring Plantings
Selecting New Nectar-Rich Salvia for Your Spring Plantings
By David Salman
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.
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.
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.
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.
Desert Purple Sage is a showy late spring blooming native shrublet with silver foliage and blue flowers pushing out from mid-purple bracts. Impervious to browsing deer and rabbits, it is a pollinator's delight attracting all types of bees. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric).
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.
Exclusive. Salvia arizonica ‘Deep Blue’ (Deep Blue Arizona Sage) is a great native plant for planting in the shade, blooming all summer with numerous small, deep blue flowers over rabbit and deer resistant foliage. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric).
‘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!
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.
2005 Plant Select Winner. 24-36" tall x 18" wide. Furman's Red is one of the most cold hardy of the native Salvia greggii family. Blooming in late spring and again in the fall, the plant covers itself with bright red flowers that attract the hummingbirds from miles around. Sweetly aromatic foliage too. A 2005 Plant Select winner. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric).
Exclusive. Raspberry Delight® is an outstanding native Salvia hybrid with a summer-long display of stunning raspberry-red flowers and excellent cold hardiness (once established). The aromatic foliage has a sweet herbal scent. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric). A High Country Gardens introduction.