The Spectacular Salvia – Sage Advice


Salvia nemerosa 'Deep 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.

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. Other Old World Salvia that are especially nice include Salvia daghestanica and ‘Minimus’, a stunning deep blue-flowered cultivar of the culinary species Salvia officinalis.

Salvia 'Maraschino'Salvia 'Maraschino'

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 AzureaSalvia Azurea

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 (West TX form). These two tall, 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.

Text and Photos by Founder and Chief Horticulturist David Salman.

© All articles are copyrighted by High Country Gardens. Republishing an entire High Country Gardens blog post or article is prohibited without written permission. Please feel free to share a short excerpt with a link back to the article on social media websites, such as Facebook and Pinterest.

4 thoughts on “The Spectacular Salvia – Sage Advice”

  • D Curtis

    After considerable research, I planted ‘Furman’s Red’ and 'Ultra Violet’ in the Glorieta, NM area last year. Both were established by the end of the growing season, but neither lived through the winter, which wasn't even as cold as many winters. Apparently, they're not quite as cold hardy as we'd like them to be.

    • David Salman

      'Furman's Red' and 'Ultra Violet' will be sufficiently cold hardy for your area IF you can give them extra winter protection for the 1st two winters. Our native southwestern Salvia will not achieve their full cold hardiness until the plants have matured and the crown has bulked up for at least two growing seasons.

      I would recommend a late spring/early summer planting in a protected spot, ideally against a south or west facing wall, not our in the open away from heat absorbing buildings. Then in mid-fall, place a chicken wire cylinder around the plants and fill them with pine needles. Remove the wire/pine needles in early May. Do this for two winters and your plants should make it through winters to come without protection.

      Salvia 'Raspberry Delight' has also been found to be exceptionally cold hardy. It will be available again next spring 2014.

  • Bill Shorb
    Bill Shorb 05/15/13 at 7:56 am

    Good article! Are any of the salvia mentioned suitable for Houston, Texas? I am growing May Night here. Was thinking of trying Maraschino and Reptans. What do you think? Anything else?

    Bill

    • David Salman

      Bill:
      I would recommend Salvia 'Maraschino' for the Houston area, but not Salvia reptans. Salvia reptans would get too much water and likely rot out. Also recommended would be 'Red Velvet'.

You are using an out-of-date browser. You will still be able to shop HighCountryGardens.com, but some functionality may not work unless you update to a modern browser. Update My Browser

×

Please wait...

Item added to your cart

has been added to your cart.