Container Gardening

Versatile Salvias Add Color and Can Be Used Anywhere

By Darren Sherriff


Salvia Mix

Take a Trip Down Salvia Lane

Salvia is one of the largest groups of flowering plants. The number of salvia species is estimated to range anywhere from 700 to nearly 1,000. In this group there are shrubs, perennials and annuals. Blossoms have varying colors from white, reds, pinks, purples, blues and bi-color. No matter which color you prefer, or which type of growing conditions you have, there is more than likely some kind salvia for you.

These workhorse plants are used for mass plantings, borders, containers, accents, cut flowers and enhancing certain foods. In addition to its colorful flowers and interesting foliage – which is sometimes scented – one of the main benefits of growing salvias is for the hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies that they attract. As an added bonus, for those that have this issue, they tend to be deer resistant.

Five Common Species of Salvia

While there are many types of salvia, the remainder of this article covers five of the most common species. The list was selected for those species that are easiest to find. Advice on planting zones and which type of salvia is best for the conditions in each zone, is also provided. With that being said, what may be an annual in one situatiuon may be a perennial in another.

“Hot Lips”

Salvia microphylla grows on average 3.5 to 4.5 feet tall and wide. It blooms in its first year, and then grows to its full size in the second year. The leaves are basically egg shaped, with varying sizes, and can be smooth or lightly covered with hairs. When you crush the leaves, they have a strong fragrance, which has been described as mint-like.

Salvia microphylla is a complex species which can be easily hybridized, resulting in numerous hybrids and cultivars that bloom heavily in late spring and again in fall, with sporadic flowering year-round in milder conditions. They are hardy to 10 degrees F or less. In cold-winter areas, dieback to the ground may occur, but they usually burst back with new, vigorous growth in spring. Even though they are ideal for sunny borders in hot climates, it would prefer some afternoon shade. Because of it being a little less comfortable with late afternoon sun, this is why this species mostly flowers in spring and autumn. A good cultivar to look for would be ‘Hot Lips’; the flowers are white with a bright red top resembling lipstick.

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