How to Grow Salvia

Salvia, common name Sage, is a wide species (900 in the genus)  which includes annuals, biennials, herbaceous, evergreen perennials and shrubs. Those usually found growing in our gardens are the herbaceous perennials and evergreen varieties. Most Salvia is best grown in a sunny position, on light, sandy, well-drained soil. When Salvia is grown in soil which is too rich, or in dappled shade, they have a tendency to become leggy and not to flower well. 

Salvia varies in their hardiness, although all will tolerate degrees of cold. Some Salvia are H3 hardy, which is only Hardy in some mild parts of the UK. Many of the shrubby Salvias originate from Mexico and will not be thrive in cold areas, on wet boggy soil, and they are not an ideal choice for clay soil.  Salvia will tolerate cold weather better growing in well-drained soil or in a container which can be moved to shelter over the winter. The evergreen varieties are best left with the foliage in place over winter to provide some winter protection. The more tender varieties will benefit from a winter mulch. 

Salvia patens 'Cambridge Blue' illustrated above left is the most fantastic strong blue but as H3 it will need a sheltered planting spot.

During the flowering period, dead heading the flowers or removing the flower spikes will prolong flowering. Cut back Salvia in the spring when the fresh shoots appear. 

 Plant Salvia in an area of the garden which is dry and with a good amount of sunshine. The leaves and plants are often aromatic, making them attractive to bees. Illustrated above are some of the most popular and widely available varieties available and typical garden types of Salvia. 

Salvias also look great in a mixed border and are good companion plants to many of our popular garden plants.  

Ideas about different types of Salvia for the garden

Far left is Salvia patens 'Cambridge Blue' a lovely shade of blue and this variety has the RHS garden merit award, always a good indicator when selecting a plant to grow. This Salvia grows to about 75 cms and is a great addition to a sheltered border. It is H3 hardy, which means only down to -5 and so may need winter protection. 

The centre image is a more upright Salvia which is a strong, almost iridescent blue,  Salvia × sylvestris 'Mainacht' very attractive to bees and it will tolerate light and limited dappled shade. If cut back after the first flowering, it may produce a smaller second flush in late summer. Removing the flower spikes will keep the plant flowering.

Illustrated far right is the aptly name Salvia 'Amethyst Lips', a variation on S. 'Hot Lips' fully hardy down to -10 and which grows up to 1m. 

In the same group is the common sage which is grown as a culinary herb, (ideal with pork and sausages. ) Sage makes a nice border plant in its own right separate from its culinary uses. It has attractive soft, grey-green leaves and a low growing compact habit.  If it outgrows its space, or spills over onto a path, it can be cut back and responds well even if cut into the wood. It is a perennial evergreen growing to around 45-60 cms (1.5-2 ft tall) 

Green Wheelbarrow means easy to grow

In most parts of the UK, Salvia is hardy and easy to grow. Select a variety with a H rating suitable for your garden and plant in a sunny spot and in well-drained soil. 

Last updated 16.01.2021