Garden Guy Column: Salvias

Garden Guy Column: Salvias

As you sit by the fire with your plant and seed catalogs hand-planning for spring, think about salvia. There are many species of Salvia that do very well in our environment. In fact, I think salvia should be a signature plant for our area because of the great variety that grows reliably and easily here.

The genus Salvia, commonly called Salvia, consists of more than 900 species of annuals, biennials, herbaceous and evergreen perennials, and shrubs. Since there are so many to choose from, they can meet almost any garden need. They can be used in borders, as bedding plants, in containers, as specimens or as part of a wildflower meadow. They come in many colors with most flowers taking the form of panicles, which are basically clusters of flowers at the end of a branch. In addition, there are culinary sages and many of them attract hummingbirds.

One of the reasons I love them as much as I do is that many of them are low water use plants that don’t require a lot of water. Most will continue to bloom even if they are not deadheaded, although, as with most flowers, they will bloom more abundantly if they are not deadheaded.

Salvias range in height from about 6 inches to 10 inches, with some being narrow and upright and others being wider and somewhat sprawling. Some are prolific farmers. Those that do well in our area need well-drained soil without excess moisture, especially in winter, and full sun or light shade. Some of the drier varieties, which can often be distinguished by hairy, woolly, silvery or gray foliage, need very steep drainage and full sun. They are also more susceptible to crown or root rot due to excess moisture.


Some of the most common species in this area are S. greggii (autumn sage) which is a small woody shrub. Mainacht (May Night) which is sometimes distinguished as S. nemorosa or S. sylvestris, S. pratensis (meadow sage), S. superba (sage), S. pachyphylla (giant purple-flowered sage), S. Farinacea (cup sage) , S. guaranitica (black and blue) are all either perennials or tender perennials. S. coccinea (Texas sage) is an annual plant and Salvia officinalis (common sage or culinary sage) is a perennial. Most of these have several varieties to choose from. There are several salvia plants that are common in our area as well as many other species that will grow well here but are less common.

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