Salvias are top summer bloomers in warm-climate gardens. Favorites of hummingbirds and butterflies, yet rarely eaten by deer, long-flowering annual salvias are among the best sources of bright red color in the summer garden. Blue salvias work color magic when grown near red zinnias or yellow marigolds, and they make versatile cut flowers, too.
All salvias bloom on upright spikes, an eye-catching form that provides great contrast when grown alongside rounded or open-faced flowers. Before planting these hard-working salvias, mix a flower fertilizer into beds or containers and water well, because they have an above-average need for both food and water.
Four Tips for Spectacular Salvias:
- Choose easy-to-grow salvias that require only modest amounts of water once the roots have become established. Vigorous annual varieties such as scarlet sage, tropical sage or Texas sage are more accepting of neutral to slightly alkaline soil conditions. Best of all, the plants often reseed themselves, so new seedlings appear season after season. Scarlet sage grows well in containers, too, but the best use of this salvia is to plant small drifts of six to eight plants, spaced ten inches apart.
- Add blue hues to the garden with mealycup or blue sage, also known as Victoria Blue sage and Blue Bedder. It’s one of the best sources of blue color for warm-climate gardens. Regular light feedings with a flower fertilizer will help keep the plants in bloom all summer. Keep in mind, common blue salvias are technically perennials, but they often bloom so long that they exhaust themselves in only a year.
- Form upright hedges of bold red spikes with familiar bedding salvias. These popular plants grow 18 to 30 inches tall. Although the red varieties are the best known, bedding salvias come in white, salmon, pink, purple, lavender, burgundy, and orange.
- Try perennial salvias, especially Mexican bush sage, also known as velvet sage because the flowers have a felt-like texture. This surprising salvia waits until late summer to bloom, and then it explodes with arching spikes studded with purple or bicolored flowers. A single plant will grow to at least three feet tall and wide, and tolerates dry heat better than most perennials. Mexican bush sage makes a great low-maintenance partner for ornamental grasses.
Tip: For more blooms, pinch back salvias early in the season and cut off old flower spikes.