Many people know salvia as a type of alternative sweetener, but do you know that salvia plant is a member of the mint family? Aside from its use, salvia also has beautiful flowers that form stalk-like clusters. Learn how you can use salvia to emphasize your garden, including tips to grow them.
Types of Salvia Plant
Salvia genus comes in around 900 species, which consist of annual and perennial salvias. Both types have examples of popular varieties that you can consider as your first salvias.
- Pineapple Sage
Pineapple Sage (S. elegans) is a red salvia type that emits a pineapple-like aroma. The flowers are edible.
- Texas Sage
Texas Sage (S. coccinea) has bright scarlet flowers, which grow in spikes as high as 10 inches.
The popular chia seeds come from chia salvia (S. hispanica). Native of South America and Mexico, this plant has red or blue flowers and edible, nutritious seeds.
- Azure Sage
Azure Sage (S. azurea) is a blue salvia plant with great fragrance. The flowers bloom until late fall.
- Hybrid Sage
Hybrid Sage (S. x superba) is a salvia variety that blooms even in winter temperature. The flowers grow from spring to summer and can rebloom in fall if the decaying flowers are cut.
- Peruvian Sage
Peruvian Sage (S. discolor) is a purple salvia plant with unique foliage. The leaves are green on top but white on the bottom.
- White Rain
White Rain (S. verticillata) is white salvia perfect for beginner and expert gardeners. It is deer-resistant and can attract butterflies to the garden.
If you look for miniature version, try hybrids such as Summer Jewel. This pale pink salvia can attract hummingbirds and perfect for early spring bloom.
How to Plant Salvia
Growing salvia is easy if you fulfill all the requirements. Planting salvia after the last frost will give you beautiful blooms in spring and summer. Here is how you can grow salvia at home garden:
Choose the right soil and spot
Salvia loves the full sun (or partial shade) with well-drained soil. You should work the soil with compost to provide nutrition for the growing plants.
Plant salvia properly
The easiest way to grow salvia is by starting from young plants. Dig a hole with twice the diameter length of the original plant container. Make sure the hole is in the right depth, so the top of the root ball is in-line with the soil surface. Remove the original container and plant the salvia carefully.
Create proper spacing
Tight spaces can cause poor growth and spread diseases among the flowers. Make sure there is 1 to 3 feet of space between plants.
Once you plant the salvia, pat the soil gently to firm it (but not too packed). Water thoroughly and add thin mulch to prevent weed problem.
How to Care for Salvia
Salvia is a moderately easy plant to care for, but watering frequencies can vary. Some plants tolerate watering only after the soil dry, while others prefer more frequent watering. Make sure you know the characteristics of your salvia before adopting certain salvia care method.
You can extend the blooming period by removing the “spikes” (panicles) where the flowers grow from. After the summer blooms are faded and spent, remove these spikes. Don’t hesitate to cut back a third of your flowers if the blooms look too packed. These methods will encourage extended blooming in the fall.
If you have perennial salvias, you can divide the plants every three years. Spring (before blooming) is the ideal time to divide salvias. If you live in areas where winter is harsh, you can plant perennial salvias as annuals.
Common Salvia Problems
Salvia faces several common problems caused by pests and fungi. Here are several you must pay attention to:
Aphids and spider mites
Aphids and spider mites are common pests on salvias. You can get rid of them by blasting the plants with cold water. You can also spread flour or diatomaceous power on the plants to constipate and remove them (not work on wet plants). Horticultural oil also works wonder.
Powdery mildew is a common problem in the warm region. You can avoid it by watering the plant from the bottom to reduce wetness. You can also spray the plants with fungicide or bicarbonate solution (a mixture between one quart of water and a teaspoon of baking soda).
Gray mold (Botrytis Blight)
Gray mold spreads quickly and can infect large amounts of plants. Once you see signs such as gray fuzzy spots or webbings, remove the infected plants wholly. If the whole plant rows are infected, you must sterilize the soil before planting on it again. Reducing moisture and proper spacing are important to prevent gray mold.
If the problem is serious, don’t hesitate to use the proper amount of insecticidal soap and fungicide. With proper treatment, you can keep your salvias healthy during their blooming period.
Tips to Combine Salvias in the Garden
Salvia flower blooms in spring, summer, and fall (if you extend the blooming season). There are many good combinations you can choose to plant in the garden. The spiky forms look great when combined with billowy plants, like decorative grasses. Purple fountain grass (Rubrum) has soft burgundy shades that go well with blue or purple salvias.
If you want more colorful plants, such as for summer garden borders, combine several plants with different heights and colors. Combine purple, pink, or red salvias with yellow daylilies and red Maltese Crosses. They have different flower shapes and heights to create an impressive view in the summer.
If you want to focus on different shapes and textures, combine spiky salvias with round Mont Blanc alliums, delicate poppies, small blooms like Cow Parsley, and flowers with unique shapes like Black Barlow Columbine. The different shapes will create a dramatic look in the garden.
Salvias are sources of mint leaves and highly popular chia seeds. However, you can plant salvias for just the beautiful flowers. Make sure to provide enough sun, plant feed, water, and space to encourage healthy plants. Combining salvia plant with other summer flowers will create a great garden, even if you are a beginner gardener.