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Salvia Plant Growing & Care Guide for Gardeners

Article by Dean Ravenscroft, Ph.D. - Updated 6th Nov 2023

In this Gardener's HQ guide, we'll explore cultivating Salvia plants in your garden, indoor spaces, and other settings.

At a Glance: Salvia
  • Plant Characteristics: Salvia stands out for its striking spires of flowers that provide a long blooming season. The flowers add vibrant color and help attract pollinators to the garden.
  • Ideal Growing Conditions: Locate in full sun to partial shade, and use a well-drained soil. Plants showcase resilience in a variety of climates.
  • General Care: Low watering requirements once established. Benefits from an occasional deadheading to encourage additional blooms.
  • Tips for New Gardeners: Sage is a robust plant that is ideal for beginners. Provide space for air circulation and be watchful for mildew in humid conditions.

Sage, Clary, & Chia: Cultivation & Garden Use

Salvia are hardy annuals or half hardy perennials that are both nice to look at and have many culinary uses.

Some common names for Salvia include Sage, Peruvian sage, Honeydew sage, golden sage, tricolored sage, purple sage and Meadow Clary.

For the best flavor the perennial varieties may be grown as annuals or biennials.

Photographs of Peruvian Sage

Peruvian Sage

Peruvian Sage Picture

Purple Sage

Purple sage picture

Honeydew Sage

Honeydew Sage Picture - Salvia

The leaves of Sage can be harvested at any time, but if you are planning to dry them, then harvest sage leaves before flowering has occurred.

Salvia plants bloom from the summer through autumn. They have lipped tubular flowers; these can be of many colours including red, purple, yellow and white.

How to Grow Sage and other Salvia Plants in the Garden

When growing Sage from seed it is very important to sow from fresh seed.

If growing indoors first, then it is necessary to first refrigerate the sage seeds for three weeks (within moist soil; in a plastic bag).

The sage seeds should then be sown on the surface of vermiculite and watered from beneath.

Germination of Sage should take from about one to three weeks at 18 to 24 degrees centigrade.

Salvia pratensis
Salvia pratensis – Meadow Clary by Franco Folini.

Sage should be transplanted outdoors following the last frost.

If starting to grow Sage outdoors from the off, then sow the seed at the end of February, or in autumn for biennial Salvia plant genus members.

Sage prefers a sunny area of the garden to grow in, but may require afternoon shade in very warm areas.

The soil that Sage and other Salvia grow in should be rich and moist. Ideally the Ph will be slightly acidic to neutral (pH 5.8 to 7.0).

Salvia should be spaced at about 15 cm / 6 inches (small varieties) to 60 cm / 2 feet (large Salvia plants).

Salvia officinalis
Salvia officinalis by Passa.sr; Creative Commons.

Caring for Sage in your Herb Garden

Once established pinch back the tips of young Sage plants when they reach about 16 cm (6 inches); this will encourage more branching and a bigger harvest.

Once Salvia Plants have flowered dead-head them. Sage likes moist soil, so it is important to water them regularly.

If you are growing perennial Salvia then cut them back in the autumn to about 5 cm (2 inches) in height, and divide them every four years to maintain vigor.

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Salvia Plant Growing and Care Guide

Common Names: Sage, Clary, Chia. Sage: Common; Greek; Pineapple; White; Mexican bush; Baby; Scarlet; Diviners.
Life Cycle: Half hardy annual, hardy annual. Half hardy perennial commonly grown as a biennial or half hardy annual by gardeners.
Height: 12 to 60 inches (30 to 150 cm).
Native: Mediterranean, Americas, Europe, Asia.
Growing Region: Zones 3 to 10.
Flowers: Summer and/or autumn.
Flower Details: Blue, red, violet, yellow, white. Racemes. Panicles. Tubular. Bell-shaped. Lipped.
Foliage: Entire. Pinnate. Toothed.
Sow Outside: Surface. Annuals and Perennials: a couple of weeks after the last frost. Biennials: At the start of autumn. Spacing 6 to 36 inches (15 to 90 cm).
Sow Inside: Vermiculite. Water from below. Germination time: one to three weeks. Temperature 70°F (21°C). Seven or eight weeks in advance. Annuals: three months in advance. Transplant outdoors a couple of weeks after the last frost; minimum temperature should not drop below 41°F (5°C).
Requirements: Full sunlight or light shade. Good drainage. Soil pH 6 to 7.5. Rich soil. Moist soil. Occasional feed. Water during prolonged dry periods. Pinch tips. May require support. Deadhead. Perennials should be cut back to about two inches (5 cm) in autumn. Perennials should be divided every three years in the autumn (warm areas) or spring (cooler areas).
Family: Lamiaceae.
Closely Related Species: Beefsteak plant; Woundwort; Oregano; Dark purple bugle; and Giant Hyssop.

FAQ's

Can you eat salvia flowers?

Yes, salvia flowers are edible. They can be used in salads, teas or as garnish. However, always ensure the variety of salvia is safe for consumption as some types can be hallucinogenic.

What is salvia good for?

Salvia, or sage, is prized for its culinary, medicinal, and ornamental uses. It's known to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. In the garden, its colorful flowers attract pollinators.

What is the English name for salvia herb?

The English name for the herb Salvia is Sage.

Is Salvia the same as lavender?

No, salvia and lavender are different. They both belong to the mint family, Lamiaceae, but are different genera. They have different growth habits, flower forms, and care requirements.

How many members does the Salvia genus have?

The Salvia genus, commonly known as Sage, is one of the largest in the mint family, with over 900 species currently recognized.

Do members of Salvia make a good garden or landscaping plant?

Absolutely, members of the Salvia genus are popular in gardens and landscapes due to their vibrant blooms, aromatic foliage, and resilience in a variety of climates.

Which Salvia species are most frequently grown by gardeners?

Salvia officinalis (Common Sage), Salvia splendens (Scarlet Sage), and Salvia leucantha (Mexican Bush Sage) are among the most commonly cultivated species.

Are members of the Salvia plant genus fragrant?

Yes, many species of Salvia, especially Salvia officinalis, have aromatic leaves that release a pleasant scent when touched or crushed.

What is the perfect location to grow Salvia?

Salvia plants prefer full sun and well-drained soil. They can be grown in a variety of climates, but perform best in zones 5-8.

Is Salvia invasive in the USA, if so in which states?

Currently, most Salvia species are not considered invasive in the USA, though local regulations can vary. Always check with your local extension service.

How do I remove Salvia plants from my garden?

To remove Salvia, uproot the plants manually, ensuring the entire root system is removed. Consider using a gardening fork for larger plants to prevent regrowth.

Summary

Salvia, commonly referred to as Sage, is a large genus of plants with a range of uses, from culinary to medicinal. As a large genus it originates from many parts of the world, including Central and South America, Central Asia, and the Mediterranean region. Salvias are known for their aromatic foliage and attractive flowers.

Salvia plants can be grown from seeds, cuttings, or purchased as young plants, and the best time to plant them is in the spring or autumn. This hardy perennial prefers well-drained soil and a sunny location. Water moderately, as it is more drought-tolerant than most.

I hope that you enjoyed this guide on how to grow Salvia plants. You may also enjoy the following Gardener's HQ growing guides: How to grow Lavandula angustifolia and Mentha plants.

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