Perennial Salvia Plant: How To Care For The Meadow Sage

The perennial salvia plant, a genus, home to more than 900 species more commonly known as sages. Hummingbirds love to feast around its flowers. Salvia is also a member of the mint family.

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

The more popular Salvia plants, Salvia leucantha and Salvia splendens, are native to the Mediterranean, California and Mexico. They thrive generally in dry and humid climates. In the garden, they lend a touch of vibrant hue come autumn and summer.

perennial salvia plant easy to grow a hummingbird favorite

The Salvia also called the “Meadow Sage” produces some of the richest royal blue flowers to elegant purple blooms, 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.

Varieties Of The Salvia Plant

Salvia Divinorum, also known as 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, it causes spiritual experiences and hallucinogenic encounters. Moreover, it produces mainly through vegetation and releases a few variable seeds.

Salvia Farinacea, also known as the blue salvia, grows up to 2 feet tall. This drought tolerant plant makes a great choice for containers, garden beds, and borders. Moreover, this native plant from North America caught the hearts of many gardeners as it’s easy to grow and blooms all summer. Should not be confused with the Blue Sage (salvia azurea), an end-of-season stunner with tall spikes of lovely blue flowers.

The Victoria blue salvia belongs to the same class, salvia farinacea, also known as mealycup 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.

Red Salvia (salvia splendens), also known as scarlet sage, grows more than a foot tall with hardiness zones of 10 to 11. This easy to grow plant also emits a scent from its foliage which keeps deer and rabbits away.

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.

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 male and female making it a hermaphrodite species.

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

The blue cloud (salvia transylvanica) or Transylvanian sage blooms handsome flowers of purple colors alongside its lusterless-green foliage. This salvia plant does well in sunny places and needs deadheading for repetitive flushes of blooms.

Woodland sage or woodland clary (salvia nemerosa) originally comes from Europe and Western Asia. Salvia nemerosa comes as an attractive plant anyone can easily grow and propagate.

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 variety of salvia plant.

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.

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

The Perennial Salvia

Flowering salvia, perennial plants producing tall spikes of tiny, densely-clustered flowers above a deliciously-scented foliage. These plants grow anywhere from 18 inches to 5 feet tall beauties, depending on the sage variety.

Most salvias require full sun (8-10 hours of direct sun) with the best location receiving morning sun and afternoon shade.

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

Largely ignored by animals such as elk, deer and rabbits, where butterflies and bees find salvia flowers a haven. And hummingbirds find the sage as an excellent source of nectar!

Planting The Salvia Plant

In short, Salvia plants make the perfect plant for putting on display borders, beds and containers. Flowering profusely the plant can survive droughts and the occasional neglect.

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

Different Salvia species require slightly different care. Generally, Salvia plants love the full sun (8-10 hours of direct sun) and can also do well with partial shade. They may also resist certain cold weather and the occasional frost.

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. Mix in a balanced slow-release fertilizer and fertilize weekly with a water-soluble 20-20-20 liquid fertilizer.

Carefully space plants 1 to 3 feet apart, depending on the variety. As a general rule 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 and firm it in, and water thoroughly. After watering I like to include a little liquid starter plant food for an initial boost.

Salvia Plant Care and Maintenance

Prune salvia plants down to its roots after the flowering season passes. Uproot and divide plants every few years. Sage can grow very quickly and re-establish themselves right planting them on new ground.

Some varieties allow for shearing after flowering for a potential second flowering. Cut stems back two inches above the soil when the danger of frost passes.

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.

Keep your Salvia sage happy. In spring time, put a thin layer of compost, and a two-inch layer of mulch to control the weeds and retain moisture. Don’t forget to alter your sages when the summer is unusually dry!  Remove bloom spikes after blooms fade to encourage continuous bloom.

What Pests Attack Salvia Plants?

Salvia encounters the usual suspects in the garden. If you want flowers to continuously bloom, you need to protect them from these pests.

  • Spider Mites – leaves normally 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 cluster on tender new plant growth sucking juices from plant cells. They secrete a sticky “honeydew” on the foliage.
  • Whitefly – When plant is brushes or bumped whiteflies take off in a cloud appearing like “flying dandruff”. Like aphids the suck juices from plant leaves, buds, and stems weakening 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.

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.