The scarlet sage plant aka Salvia splendens [SAL-vee-uh, SPLEN-denz] is a tender herbaceous species of the mint family (Lamiaceae) and is native to Brazil.
The Salvia plant grows as a tender perennial in its native range due to the hot weather, but in temperate zones, it grows as an annual plant.
Named and described in 1822, Salvia splendens was then commonly called Lee’s scarlet sage.
Other than its botanical name “splendens” goes by the common names:
- Scarlet Sage (Salvia coccinea the Blood sage goes by the common name too)
- Tropical Sage
- Scarlet Slavia
Salvia Splendens Scarlet Sage Care
Size & Growth
In its natural habitat, splendens grow at roughly 7500-foot elevation and reaches a height of 4′-5′ feet tall.
The original Brazilian plant variety is rarely cultivated.
However, the smaller or dwarf varieties are widely grown as bedding plants and commonly seen in public gardens and shopping malls, all over the world.
From selective breeding, the plant typically grows up to 12” – 18” inch in height and about 12” inches in width.
The heart-shaped or oval leaves are about 3” inches in size and dark green.
They give off a slight smell which acts as a deterrent to many mammals, deer, and rabbits in particular.
Grow scarlet sage in mass plantings along with annual plants for the greatest impact.
Flowering and Fragrance
The native Salvia species of splendens is known for its dense, bright scarlet flowers, which is why it is commonly called scarlet sage.
However, its newer salvia species, produce green foliage with flowers in a variety of colors such as:
- Bright Red Flowers (Red Salvia)
- White Flowers
- Purple Flowers
- Shades of Pink
Some of the other popular species include:
- St. Johns Fire
- Van Houttei
A few selective breeds of scarlet Slavia also produce bicolor flowers.
The eye-catching flowers of scalet sage Salvia are long, tubed, and bracted and emerge in thick, upright, terminal raceme flower spikes above the green colored foliage.
The bloom time starts in June and lasts till the beginning of the frost season.
Light & Temperature
Red Salvia grows in warm and humid weather.
Even in its native range i.e., Brazil, it grows in areas having high humidity and remain warm throughout the year.
The plant thrives and blooms best in full sun, but in areas where summers are very hot, partial shade need to be provided to the plant, especially in the afternoon, to reduce stress.
Scarlet splendens cannot survive through very cold weather and get damaged by frost.
USDA Hardiness Zones 9 – 11, may be grown as an annual in cooler areas.
Watering and Feeding
The watering needs of scarlet red sage are average. However, since it thrives in moist soil, make sure to provide enough water to maintain the soil moisture.
Once established the plant is moderately heat and drought-tolerant.
Fertilize the plant once a week with a balanced fertilizer to ensure proper growth.
The roots of scarlet splendens are sensitive to high levels of salts present in substrates, which is why experts recommend to avoid high fertilizer concentrations.
To ensure proper feeding, use lower concentrations, and fertilize more often instead.
In addition to this, make sure to apply 0.5% magnesium sulphate, one to two times, to prevent magnesium deficiency.
Scarlet Slavia may develop iron deficiency when planted in soil with a pH higher than 6.
In case the plant develops iron deficiency, apply iron chelate once or twice.
Soil & Transplanting
The splendens sage grows best in loamy, moist, well-drained soil, moderately fertile, and rich in humus.
Grooming and Maintenance
Even though Salvia is a low-maintenance plant, make sure to regularly remove the spent dead flower heads from the plant (deadhead) to encourage more and extended flowering.
How To Propagate Salvia Plants
The best way to propagate scalet sage Salvia is through seeds.
- Sow the seeds in a pot, indoors, about 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost date of late spring.
- The temperature range salvia splendens seeds require for germination is 72° – 75° degrees Fahrenheit (22° C – 24° C).
Under the right conditions, seeds usually germinate within 12 to 15 days.
It will also propagate through wood cuttings.
For overwintering, cuttings should be taken in late summer and planted in pots placed near a bright sunny, but a cool window.
The cuttings should be planted in fall.
Tropical Sage Pest or Diseases
Red sage is not prone to any serious diseases or pests.
But, you have to look out for whitefly, snails, and slugs.
The plant attracts hummingbirds and butterflies.
They release a smell mammals dislike, making them both deer-resistant and rabbit-proof.
Scarlet Salvia Uses
Salvia splendens is highly prized by gardeners for its colorful flowers and is one of the most widely grown ornamental species of the genus Salvia.
The plant has a wonderful effect on the landscape and is widely grown in borders and beds, patios, and for edging.
Its relative plant, the Salvia divinorum, is used as a hallucinogenic drug.