Perennial Salvia Plant: How To Care For The Meadow Sage

Salvia is a large, diverse genus of the Lamiaceae (formerly Labiatae) family.

The Salvia plant belongs to the mint family (of which is the largest genus) with perennial representative species across the globe.

perennial salvia plant easy to grow a hummingbird favoritePin

The more than 900 species, more commonly known as sages, are related to Nepeta (Catmint) and Monarda (Bee Balm).

It is native to Europe, western Asia, and northern Africa.

Also known by its common names, including:

  • Caradonna meadow sage
  • May night meadow sage
  • Meadow sage plant

The common sage Salvia officinalis is extensively grown as a culinary herb for flavoring and seasoning meats.

Salvia gets its name from the Latin word ‘salvere” which means “to feel well and healthy.”

Pliny the Elder is considered the first to describe the term ‘Salvia” by the Romans as a local anesthetic for the skin. [source]

Salvia Quick Care Tips

  • Botanical Name: Salvia nemorosa
  • Common Name(s): Salvia Meadow Sage, Caradonna meadow sage, May night meadow sage, Meadow sage plant
  • Synonyms: None
  • Pronunciation: sal’-vee-uh
  • Family & Origin: Lamiaceae family, native to Europe, western Asia, and northern Africa
  • Growability: Easy to grow
  • Grow Zone: 4-9
  • Size: 18-24 inches tall and wide
  • Flowering: Blooms in early summer to fall
  • Light: Full sun to partial shade
  • Humidity: Tolerates low humidity
  • Temperature: Hardy in cold temperatures
  • Soil: Well-draining soil
  • Water: Regular watering, but avoid overwatering
  • Fertilizer: Fertilize weekly with a water-soluble 20-20-20 liquid fertilizer
  • Pests & Diseases: Generally pest and disease-free, but can be susceptible to spider mites, aphids, whiteflies, slugs, and snails; may be prone to powdery and mildew root rot if overwatered
  • Propagation: Propagate through division or stem cuttings
  • Plant Uses: Attracts pollinators, used in borders, mass plantings, and as a cut flower.

In this article, we’ll look at perennial salvia, meadow sage care; its growth, use in the garden, pests, pruning, and more. Let’s get started.

Are Salvia’s Perennials?

There are 3 types of Salvia:

  • Herbaceous perennials which die back to the ground at the end of the year
  • Woody perennials like the sage used in cooking
  • Annual Salvia

All hold some similarities in how they grow and bloom, along with their plant architecture. That is the long version.

The short version – Salvias are perennials and biennials.

Vivid blue flowers with dark leaves, nature close-up.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @jedi.daisuke.h

Shrubs, from dainty to tall, leggy types, vary wildly in type, form, and shape. Salvia plants are upstanding, very easy to grow plants, making them such a sight to see in landscapes.

The more popular Salvia varieties, Salvia leucanthaand Salvia splendens are native to the Mediterranean, California, and Mexico.

They generally thrive in dry and humid climates. In the garden, they lend a touch of vibrant hue come autumn and summer.

How To Care For Salvias?

Sage or Salvia brings a vertical accent with eye-catching flowers and fragrant aromatic foliage to the outdoor garden landscape.

Let’s look at what growing conditions Salvia needs to “show off” all their beauty.

Lighting: How Much Sun Does The Salvia Need?

Generally, perennial Salvias love the full sun (8-10 hours of direct sun) and can also do well with partial shade.

The best-growing location receives morning sun and afternoon shade. However, different Salvia species require slightly different light requirements.

Purple flowers with dark leaves, blurred background.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @alternate_foliage

They may also resist cold weather and the occasional frost.

Moreover, Salvias thrive in USDA hardiness zones 4 to 9, depending on the variety,

What Is The Best Soil And Fertilizer For Growing Salvia?

Salvias do well in any good garden soil and are drought-resistant to an amazing degree.

Salvia will tolerate poor soil fertility and drought conditions, but consistent water will produce better results.

Plant Salvia in spring after preparing the garden bed.

Use a tiller or garden fork to loosen the soil (12” to 15” inches deep).

Gradually incorporate 2″ to 4″ inches of rich compost or peat. Mix in a balanced slow-release fertilizer and fertilize weekly with a water-soluble 20-20-20 liquid fertilizer.

How Much Water Does Salvia Need?

In general, Salvia, once established, does not need a lot of water. However, this plant needs regular irrigation during its first growing season to establish. 

Although Salvia does handle drought conditions pretty well during periods of drought, it provides supplemental watering to maintain soil moisture.

Avoid overwatering, as too much water can rot roots.

A good rule for watering Salvia growing in the ground is to water thoroughly and apply 1” inch of water every 7-10 days. (Include both rainfall and additional supplemental irrigation)

Applying water right at the soil level is easily accomplished using soaker hoses for deep watering.

Remember, Salvia plants growing in containers may dry out faster and require more frequent watering. Make sure any salvia does not sit in water.

If you find Salvias wilted in the evening after spending all day in the sun, they should recover.

However, if the plants are extremely wilted, you may want to give them some water at the base of the plants and not on the leaves. Water on the leaves may scorch them.

If you notice the potted plants wilted in the early morning, give the plants supplemental watering.

When Does Salvia Bloom and Does It Flower All Summer?

Salvia blooms throughout the early summer months allowing homeowners to add a wide range of flower color options from white, pale rose, vibrant red flowers, purples, and blue.

Colorful salvia flowers in a garden.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @cindyshomeandgarden

Flowering perennial salvias produce tall flower spikes of tiny, densely-clustered, rich in nectar flowers above the deliciously-scented foliage. 

These plants grow anywhere from 18” inches to 5′ feet tall beauties, depending on the sage variety.

Aside from the remarkable aromatic foliage scent and magnificent blooms, the Salvia attracts some of the best neighborhood fauna while deterring some of the worst.

Deer Resistant Salvia

Animals such as deer, elk, and rabbits largely ignore Salvia. However, pollinators like butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds love the tall, nectar-rich flowers!

Recommended Reading: 15+ Best Butterfly Plants

The flowers of lighter-colored perennial Salvias can burn from the hot midday full sun of summer. Darker-colored flowers appear to be more sunburn resistant. [source]

Salvia Care – Planting

The Salvia, also called the “Meadow Sage,” produces some of the richest royal blue flowers to elegant purple blooms in May and June, all excellent additions to mixed perennial borders, rock gardens, and country-style gardens.

Other colors of the meadow sage flowers include orange, white, pink, cerise, and mauve, all interesting garden additions.

In short, the Silvia makes the perfect plant for putting on display borders, beds, and containers. By flowering profusely, the plant can survive droughts and occasional neglect.

Its flowers provide joy to gardens and owners alike, requiring little maintenance or persuasion to grow during the summer months.

Carefully space plants 1′ to 3′ feet apart, depending on the variety.

As a general rule when planting salvia is to space plants twice the diameter of the pot, the Salvia came in.

Gently remove the plant from the container and place it in the hole, with the root ball level with the ground.

Pack in the soil around the root ball firm it in, and water thoroughly.

After watering, I like to include a little liquid starter plant food for an initial boost.

Purple and red Salvia at Disney World Pin
Purple and red Salvia planted at Epcot Orlando, Florida – November 2017

Salvia Meadow Sage Plant Care and Maintenance

Pruning Salvia

To keep Salvia compact and tidy, cut them back hard after flowering. Cutting plants down to 3”-4” inches to promote more growth and bloom.

Some varieties, after shearing, may potentially produce a second flowering.

During mid-summer, Salvia may begin to look overgrown and tired. Rejuvenate the plant by cutting back about ⅓ of the plant to encourage more growth.

Deadhead Salvia For More Bloom

To promote more flowers, deadhead spent blooms.

Select a good pair of hand pruners like the Felco #2 for the job and remove the old bare bloom spikes.

The typical Salvia branching is opposite each other along with a central leader.

When blooms begin to wither, remove the central leader and the opposite branches. This gives more room and promotes new growth and flowers.

Can Salvia Be Split or Divided?

Uproot and divide plants every few years. Early spring is the best time before new growth starts.

Salvia (sage) can grow quickly and re-establish itself when planting them in new areas.

For replanting, take a sharp spade to dig carefully around the plant’s edges.

Next, dig right through the middle, dividing the plant up into two clumps. Shake off the excess soil, then quickly replant the Salvia and water thoroughly.

Prune salvias down to its roots after the flowering season passes.

They can also be propagated via stem cuttings.

Keep your Salvia sage happy. In springtime, put a thin layer of compost and a 2-inch layer of mulch to control the weeds and retain moisture.

What Pests And Diseases Attack Salvia?

Salvia encounters the usual suspects in the garden. For continuous bloom, you need to protect them from these pests.

  • Spider Mites – usually, leaves look a healthy green. If the tops of leaves begin to carry a grayish cast, look under the leaf for red spider mites.
  • Aphids – black and green clusters on tender new plant growth sucking juices from plant cells. They secrete a sticky “honeydew” on the foliage. Homemade aphid control here.
  • Whitefly – When the plant is brushed or bumped, whiteflies take off in a cloud, appearing like “flying dandruff.” Like aphids, they suck juices from plant leaves, buds, and stems to weaken the plant.
  • Emerging at night, slugs and snails like acidic soil and moist, well-mulched gardens. Their file-like tongues leave hide holes in leaves.
  • Overwatering can produce root rot.
  • Powdery Mildew – Good air circulation helps to reduce potential foliar diseases like powdery mildew and problems.

Salvia Varieties To Consider For The Garden

Flowering Salvia May Night Pin
Salvia May Night’ in flower – Image by David J. Stang – Wikimedia –  CC BY-SA 4.0

Salvia ‘May Night’

The cultivate known as ‘May Night’ is a deer resistant, hardy 1997 Perennial Plant of the Year and is still a best seller.

Easy care, thrives in a hot sunny location, does well planted in groups. Beginning in May, the beautiful violet flowers emerge and hold through the summer.

After the “first bloom,” cut the plant back for a second bloom. Excellent companion plant to mix with other oranges and reds.

Salvia Divinorum

Also known as the sage of the diviners, grows in shady and moist locations. Salvia divinorum plant originally came as a native from the cloud forest of Sierra Mazateca, Oaxaca, Mexico.

As a psychoactive plant, some claim it causes spiritual experiences and hallucinogenic encounters. Moreover, it produces mainly through vegetation and releases a few variable seeds.

Salvia Farinacea

Known as the blue salvia, grows up to 2′ feet tall. This drought-tolerant plant makes an excellent choice for containers, garden beds, and borders.

This native plant from North America caught the hearts of many gardeners as it’s easy to grow and blooms all summer.

It should not be confused with the Blue Sage (Salvia azurea), an end-of-season stunner with tall spikes of lovely blue flowers.

Salvia Azurea

The Victoria blue salvia belongs to the same class, Salvia farinacea, also known as mealy cup sage or mealy sage.

However, this particular breed amazes everyone because of its long-lasting flowers and tolerance against partial shade. Other breeds under this class include cirrus salvia and evolution salvia.

Salvia splendensPin
Red Salvia splendens the scarlet sage

Salvia Splendens

Red Scarlet Salvia (Salvia splendens), also known as scarlet sage, grows more than a foot tall with USDA hardiness zones 10 to 11.

This easy-to-grow plant also emits a scent from its foliage which keeps deer and rabbits away.

Salvia Coccinea

Meanwhile, Lady in Red Salvia (Salvia coccinea) displays vibrant red spikes throughout the whole summer. Butterflies, hummingbirds, and gardeners love it because of its brilliant blooms.

Salvia Apiana

On the other hand, the white sage (Salvia apiana) emerges in summer and grows up to three meters.

Its flowers possess the sexual characteristics of both males and females, making it a hermaphrodite species.

Salvia Horminum

Clary sage (Salvia horminum) produces salvia flowers with big pink, white, or purple colors. This type of sage requires well-drained soil to live.

Salvia Transylvanica

The blue cloud (Salvia transylvanica) or Transylvanian sage blooms handsome flowers of purple color alongside its lusterless-green foliage.

This salvia does well in sunny places and needs deadheading for repetitive flushes of blooms.

Salvia Leucophylla

Purple Sage is a fast-growing perennial evergreen shrub standing up to 1.5’ – 2’ feet tall. The plant has an upright stature, producing oblong leaves.

The leaves start out smoky purple but mature into grayish-green with intense purple stems at the base but velvety at the tips. Showy purple, highly fragrant flowers!

Salvia Mohavensis

Mojave sage from the Little San Bernardino Mountains. Low-growing shrub with pale blue flowers and gray-green foliage covered with white hairs.

Salvia Nemorosa

Woodland sage or woodland clary (Salvia nemorosa) originally comes from Europe and Western Asia.

Salvia nemerosa comes as an attractive plant anyone can easily grow and propagate.

Salvia Guaranitica

Black and blue salvia (Salvia guaranitica) displays beautiful cobalt-blue flowers coming out of its dark stems and purple-black buds.

It grows up to three feet tall in cold areas, while those in warm regions may reach 6 feet of height. Hummingbirds love this salvia variety.

Salvia Greggii

Desert blaze (Salvia greggii), also known as autumn sage, stuns guests in shops with its clusters of red flowers lying beautifully against its white-edged foliage.

Salvia Chamaedryoides

Germander sage (Salvia chamaedryoides) is an easy-spreading groundcover with bright blue flowers – Drought tolerant.

Salvia Cardiophylla

Another interesting variety is Salvia cardiophylla. It blooms pale blue flowers, produces heart-shaped leaves, and grows very fast. Just make sure you provide well-drained soil so it can thrive in your garden.

The Winter-Flowering Salvias

There’s a little-known group of Salvia’s originating from the cool, mountainous areas of South and Central America. These species include:

  • Salvia dorisiana
  • Salvia conertiflora
  • Salvia wagneriana
  • Salvia guaranitica ‘Costa Rica Blue’

As such, the flowers complement to spring and winter seasons.

For these plants, the best type of environment is a moist and cool one. Shelter them from frost and hot winds by positioning them beside tall shrubs and deciduous trees.

Encourage new growth by cutting old canes during late summer, setting up new growth to time perfectly right from autumn to spring.

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