by High Country Gardens

Salvia sylvestris Balyricose 'Lyrical Rose'
Salvia sylvestris Balyricose 'Lyrical Rose'

The genus Salvia (Sage) contains some of our most beautiful ornamental flowers. And Salvia species are found on every continent, save Australia and Antarctica. Naturally, with such a huge range worldwide, their variability is immense and they provide us gardeners with a wealth of choices for our gardens.

Gardening in a USDA zone 6 climate, I like to divide the cold hardy Salvia into two primary groups; the US natives and the Old World varieties found in Europe and western Asia. From these two groups, we have an outstanding range of plant types and flower colors.

Salvia May Night
An Old World Salvia, Salvia May Night

The Old World Salvia include some of the very best, most durable, longest-lived perennials. The hybrid nemerosa-types flower in numerous shades of blue and pink. They include ‘May Night’, ‘Caradonna’, dwarf ‘Marcus’, Lyrical Rose European Sage and the gorgeous ‘Blue Hill’. The syslvestris hybrids do especially well in heavy clay soils, yet grow with ease in all but the most sandy of soils.

Salvia Cold Hardy Pink

Then there are all the Salvia species native to North America. It is from the Western US that we find our most beautiful native species. But the challenging aspect for some of these native Salvia has been to find cold hardy ones that can be grown north of their native desert haunts. This has been an area of keen interest for me and I have been working for many years breeding and selecting for beauty and cold hardiness. Salvia greggii ‘Furman’s Red’ and Salvia greggii ‘Cold Hardy Pink’ are top picks. Salvia hybrids between S. greggii and other Salvia species from Texas, New Mexico and Arizona have resulted in some outstanding selections such as ‘Maraschino’, ‘Raspberry Delight’, ‘Ultra Violet’ and ‘Burgundy Seduction’.

I heartily recommend planting Salvia pachyphylla and Salvia dorrii in arid western gardens. These two evergreen species are native to California and the Great Basin of UT, OR and NV. Not widely known outside of the native plant gardening community, these two species are especially nice with their silver leaves and showy blue/purple flowers. But they are not for planting in areas that get more than 12 to 16 inches of annual precipitation. They are true Westerners.

Salvia reptans Autumn Sapphire
Western native Salvia reptans Autumn Sapphire, photo courtesy of Plant Select.

Two other species of Salvia that have proven themselves to be outstanding early fall bloomers with excellent cold hardiness are Salvia azurea and Salvia reptans Autumn Sapphire . These two blue-flowered species stand out in the fall garden with their finely textured foliage. I’ve found that the hummingbirds eagerly seek out these two, in spite of not having brightly colored pink, red or orange flowers that hummers generally prefer.

  1. Salvia Collection (Sage)

    This Salvia Collection includes medium growing and dwarf varieties of Salvia (Sage) in a stunning combination of raspberry, pink, purple and blue blooms. Drought resistant/drought to...

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    Salvia Collection Salvia Collection
    Sale Price I Save 5%
    $37.96 Sale $36.06
    Per Collection of 4
    This Salvia Collection includes medium growing and dwarf varieties of Salvia (Sage) in a stunning combination of raspberry, pink, purple and blue blooms. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric).
  2. Purple Salvia sylvestris Little Night, Salvia sylvestris 'Little Night' PPAF, Little Night European Sage - Plant of the Year

    Exclusive. Salvia sylvestris 'Little Night' (Plant Patent #28,925) is a new, dwarf Meadow sage selected for its tight mounding growth habit and fantastic deep indigo blue flower spik...

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    Little Night Salvia Little Night European Sage Salvia sylvestris Little Night PP#28,925
    Sale Price I Save 20%
    $10.99 Sale $8.79
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Exclusive. Salvia sylvestris 'Little Night' (Plant Patent #28,925) is a new, dwarf Meadow sage selected for its tight mounding growth habit and fantastic deep indigo blue flower spikes that cover the plant in late spring and early summer. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric). 10-12" tall x 14-16" wide. 2015 Plant of the Year.
  3. 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 $11.99 Sale $9.59
    Per Plant - 5" Deep 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).
  4. 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 x 'WWG04'
    Sale Price I Save 20%
    $11.99 Sale $9.59
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    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.

Text and Photos by Founder and Chief Horticulturist David Salman.

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