Salvia, common name Sage, are a wide species, (900 in the genus) and those usually found growing in our gardens are the evergreen varieties and also herbaceous perennials, which die back over winter. Most Salvia are best grown in a sunny position, on light, sandy, well-drained soil. When Salvia are grown in soil which is too rich, or in reduced sun such as dappled shade, they have a tendency to become leggy.
Salvia vary in their hardiness although all will tolerate degrees of cold Salvia will tolerate cold weather better growing in well-drained soil. 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.
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.
A member of the sage family,( which originates from the Mediterranean,) Salvia need to be planted 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.
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. In some years 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 'Hot lips', fully hardy down to -10 and which grows up to 1m. Salvia hot lips grows and flowers best in full sun.
In the same group is the common sage which is grown as a culinary herb, (ideal with pork and sausages,) but 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)
Salvias also look great in a mixed border and are good companion plants to many of our popular garden plants.
If Salvia is not the plant you are looking for check out other Summer flowering plants and shrubs.