Name: salvia (Salvia species and cultivars).
Plant type: various – annuals, biennials, herbaceous perennials and shrubs. Generally upright, shrub-like forms.
Height: 10cm to 2m.
Foliage: generally elongated, oval-shaped, and lighter in colour underneath.
Climate: varies with variety, all bar arid/semi-arid. Sheltered areas in cold zones.
Soil: prefers rich and well-drained soil, but adaptable to all but wet soils.
Position: full sun, protection from wind and frost.
Flowering: varies with variety. Various forms at almost all times of year.
Feeding: controlled-release fertiliser in spring. Liquid feed during peak growth and flowering.
Watering: likes slightly dry soil. Water as needed and during hot, dry periods.
With sizes ranging from petite border plants to 2m backdrop ‘shrubs’, salvia deserves a place in virtually any garden. Its form and foliage alone is enough reason to plant it – the plants form a tight clump of upright stems and their foliage comes in luxuriantly deep hues, or textured, or both! Being in the mint family, most varieties of salvia also have aromatic foliage. But really it’s the flowers that salvia is planted for. Bold stems rise well above the plant in everything from bright reds to white to deep, deep blues. The majority have a pleasant aroma, but some can be pungent. The flowers are often beautifully fragrant.
Although not as visible on the more compact annual or border varieties, salvia always features multiple upright stems extending from a single base.
Some varieties are very tight shrubs, while others tend to be looser, falling out a little more. Older, larger salvia plants may tend to bend down, with only the ends of the stems taking an upright form. The stems are always square.
Salvia attracts many beneficial insects.
Salvia can be planted for many uses, including:
Salvia will perform best in a full-sun position. Its stems are quite brittle, so it must be protected from strong winds.
Technically, salvia likes a good quality free-draining soil, but it is quite adaptable.
It’s happy in soil that’s on the dry side, so can be useful in low-maintenance, easy-care and sustainable gardens. It will not tolerate wet conditions or excess watering.
Although not essential, salvia will benefit from having the soil improved by adding well-broken-down compost or composted manures. Just ensure that this is not overdone, or you may create a situation where the soil is holding too much moisture.
In pots, use a premium-quality potting mix and ensure that the pot has good drainage, elevating the pot on pot-feet if required.
Feed salvia with a controlled-release fertiliser at planting time or, for established plants, in spring. Liquid feed regularly during peak growing and flowering times.
Ensure that you use balanced fertilisers for flowering plants, otherwise you may end up with an excess of foliage and few flowers.
Pruning requirements will vary depending on the type of salvia you are growing, so make sure you keep the label for reference. Here are the general rules:
Very few pests attack salvia, as its aromatic foliage serves as a repellent and the flowers tend to attract many beneficial insects.
Young annual plants may be troubled by snails or aphids. Spread a safe snail bait at planting time.
Many varieties of salvia are easily grown from readily available packet seed. Simply sow in a tray of seed-raising mix, keep warm and moist, and as they grow select the best seedlings, gently pricking them out.
Salvia can be difficult to grow from cuttings, as cuttings generally shouldn’t be taken from flowering shoots, and most salvia shoots are flowering shoots. Hardwood or semi-hardwood cuttings of perennial forms can be taken, as their growth slows before winter, but cuttings will need to be kept warm.
Chrysanthemum: the perfect flowering companion for your salvias.
Herbs: cover all your culinary needs with a herb pot or garden.
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