Create Your Garden

Salvia: Plant Care and Growing Guide

Sage, Salvia azurea, Blue Sage, Salvia columbariae, Wild Chia, Salvia elegans, Pineapple Sage, Salvia fulgens, Cardinal Sage, Salvia guaranitica, Hummingbird Sage, Salvia involucrata, Roseleaf Sage, Salvia leucantha, Mexican Bush Sage, Salvia microphylla, Baby Sage, Salvia nemorosa, Woodland Sage, Salvia officinalis, Common Sage, Salvia patens, Gentian Sage, Salvia rosmarinus, Rosemary, Salvia sclarea, Clary, Salvia spathacea, California Hummingbird Sage, Salvia splendens, Scarlet Sage, Salvia uliginosa, Bog Sage

Sage, Blue Sage, Wild Chia, Pineapple Sage, Cardinal Sage, Hummingbird Sage, Mexican Bush Sage, Baby Sage, Woodland Sage, Common Sage, Gentian Sage, Rosemary, Clary, Scarlet Sage, Bog Sage

Gardening with salvia can add vibrant color, attract pollinators, and provide drought-tolerant options for ornamental and culinary use.

What is Salvia?

Salvia is a genus of flowering plants in the mint family, Lamiaceae, along with culinary herbs like basilrosemarythyme, or lavender, and medicinal herbs such as catnip, and bee balm.

Diversity: With over 900 species, Salvia is a diverse genus of plants, most of which are native to the Americas. This versatility means that there is a type of Sage plant suitable for almost any garden condition, from full sun to partial shade and from moist to dry soil.

Growth habit: Salvia encompasses various species with distinct growth habits, including annuals, perennials, and shrubs. They come in varying sizes, from low ground covers to tall shrubs that can reach several feet in height. They feature square stems, opposite leaves, and typically have flowers arranged in spikes or clusters at the end of the stem.

Flowers: The flowers come in a variety of vibrant colors, such as blue, purple, pink, red, and white. Some species even display multicolored blooms or flowers that shift in color as they mature.

Leaves: The plants are prized for their aromatic leaves, which have medicinal and culinary uses. Common sage (Salvia officinalis) leaves are usually dried and added as seasoning to a range of dishes, such as meats, soups, and vegetables.

Blooming period: Sage plants typically bloom from late spring through summer and into fall, and some species may continue to flower until the first frost.

Fragrance: The plants have a wide range of fragrances, which can vary from sweet and fruity to pungent and earthy.

Uses: Salvia plants are versatile and suitable for various garden settings, such as mixed borders, rock gardens, and container plantings. Additionally, some species are valuable for medicinal or culinary purposes.

Hardiness: The plants have varying hardiness levels depending on the species and cultivar, with some hardy in USDA zones 4-10 and others only in zones 10-11. It’s important to choose a species that is suitable for your climate and provide winter protection if necessary.

Medicinal properties: Salvias have been used for medicinal purposes for centuries, in addition to their ornamental and culinary uses. Several species contain compounds with anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant properties that are used to treat a range of health conditions.

Pollinators: The flowers are known for attracting a variety of pollinators, including bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds, with their brightly colored flowers and sweet fragrances.

Deer and rabbits: The plants are generally not preferred by deer and rabbits.

Guide Information

Hardiness 3 - 12
Climate Zones 1, 1A, 1B, 2, 2A, 2B, 3, 3A, 3B, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, A1, A2, A3, H1, H2
Plant Type Annuals, Perennials, Shrubs
Genus Salvia
Exposure Full Sun, Partial Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Early, Mid, Late)
Summer (Early, Mid, Late)
Fall
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Average
Soil Type Chalk, Loam, Sand
Soil pH Acid, Alkaline, Neutral
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained, Well-Drained
Characteristics Dried Arrangements, Cut Flowers, Fragrant, Showy
Tolerance Drought, Deer, Rabbit
Attracts Bees, Birds, Butterflies, Hummingbirds
Landscaping Ideas Wall-Side Borders, Patio And Containers, Beds And Borders
Garden Styles City and Courtyard, Coastal Garden, Informal and Cottage, Mediterranean Garden, Prairie and Meadow
Salvia ‘Hot Lips’ (Sage)
Salvia apiana (White Sage)
Salvia azurea (Pitcher Sage)

Why Should I Grow Salvia?

Salvia plants are a great addition to any garden for several reasons:

Beautiful flowers: The plants produce beautiful, colorful flowers that attract pollinators like bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds to your garden.

Versatile: With over 900 species, there is a Salvia plant for almost any garden situation, from full sun to partial shade and from moist to dry soils.

Fragrant leaves: The plants are valued for their fragrant leaves, which can be used in traditional medicine and as culinary herbs. The leaves of Salvia officinalis (common sage) are commonly used as a seasoning for a variety of dishes.

Low maintenance: Salvias are generally easy to grow and require minimal maintenance, making them a great choice for beginner gardeners.

Deer and rabbit resistant: Salvias are generally not preferred by deer and rabbits, making them a good choice for gardens in areas with high deer and rabbit populations.

Culinary uses: Salvia is a herb commonly used in cooking for its distinctive earthy and slightly bitter flavor. It is used to season meat dishes, stuffing, soups, sauces, baked goods, infused oil, herbal tea, and as a garnish.

Medicinal properties: Salvias contain compounds that have anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant properties and have been used for centuries in traditional medicine to treat a variety of health conditions.

Popular Species of Salvia

There are many types of Salvia, but here are some of the popular types:

Salvia officinalis: also known as common sage, is a popular culinary herb used in a variety of dishes.

Salvia nemorosa: also known as woodland sage, has purple or blue flowers and is commonly used in herbaceous borders.

Salvia splendens: also known as scarlet sage, is an ornamental plant with red flowers that is commonly used in gardens.

Salvia elegans: also known as pineapple sage, has a fruity aroma and is often used in teas, desserts, and cocktails.

Salvia coccinea: also known as Texas sage, has red or pink flowers and is a popular choice for adding color to gardens.

Salvia greggii: commonly known as autumn sage, has small, fragrant flowers that bloom in shades of red, pink, and purple. It is often used in borders, rock gardens, and as a cut flower.

Salvia patens: commonly known as gentian sage or blue sage, has striking blue flowers that bloom in the summer and fall. It is often used in borders, mass plantings, and as a cut flower.

Salvia farinacea: also known as blue sage or mealy sage, has spikes of blue flowers and is a popular choice for mass plantings.

Salvia guaranitica: also known as anise-scented sage, has blue-purple flowers and a licorice-like aroma.

Salvia leucantha: also known as Mexican sage, has purple and white flowers and is often used in drought-tolerant gardens.

These Salvia varieties offer a range of colors, scents, and uses, making them popular choices for gardeners and cooks alike. Discover 30 beautiful salvia species you should grow.

Salvia clevelandii (Cleveland Sage)
Salvia coccinea (Scarlet Sage)
Salvia columbariae (Chia Sage)

Where to Plant Salvia

Sunlight: Most salvias prefer full sun and need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. Some will bloom well in part shade.

Soil: Salvias usually prefer well-drained soil and do not tolerate wet or waterlogged soil. They grow best in soil that is amended with organic matter, such as compost.

Water: Once established, most species are quite drought-tolerant. However, they need regular watering, especially during hot and dry periods.

Temperature: Salvia is tolerant of a wide range of temperatures and can be grown in both warm and cool climates. However, some varieties may be more cold-sensitive than others.

Placement: Salvias can be planted in various parts of the garden, depending on the desired effect. Here are some ideas:

  • Borders: They can be planted in the border of a garden to create a colorful and fragrant display. Plant them in groups of three or five for a mass effect.
  • Rock gardens: It is well-suited for rock gardens because of its drought tolerance and ability to thrive in well-draining soil. Plant them in between rocks or boulders to create a natural look.
  • Containers: They can be grown in containers on a balcony, patio, or deck as long as the container has good drainage. Mix different colored salvia in one container for a striking display.
  • Cottage gardens: The plants can be incorporated into cottage-style gardens for a natural look. Combine them with other flowers such as lavender, echinacea, and coreopsis.
  • Pollinator gardens: Salvia is a great choice for pollinator gardens as they attract bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds with its vibrant colors and nectar.
Salvia dorrii (Desert Sage)
Salvia elegans (Pineapple Sage)
Salvia farinacea (Mealy Cup Sage)

When to Plant Salvia

  • The timing depends on the climate and the specific variety. In general, the best time to plant salvia is in the spring, after the last frost date for your area. This will give the plants time to establish themselves before the heat of summer.
  • If you live in a warm climate where winters are mild, you can also plant salvia in the fall. This will give the plants time to establish their roots before the winter months and will result in earlier blooming the following spring.

How to Plant Salvia

  • Choose a location: Select a spot in your garden that receives full sun to partial shade and has well-draining soil. Amend heavy or clay-based soil with organic matter, such as compost, to improve drainage.
  • Prepare the soil: Dig a hole that is about twice the size of the plant’s root ball. Loosen the soil in the hole and mix in some compost or other organic matter to enrich the soil.
  • Plant the salvia: Gently remove the plant from its container and place it in the hole. The top of the root ball should be level with the soil surface. Fill in around the root ball with soil and press it down gently.
  • Space properly: It is important to space your sage plants correctly to allow for adequate air circulation and to prevent overcrowding. Space plants 1 to 3 feet apart (30-90 cm), depending on the variety.
  • Water the plant: Water the plant thoroughly after planting, making sure the soil is moist but not waterlogged.
Salvia leucantha (Mexican Bush Sage)
Salvia leucophylla (Purple Sage)
Salvia mellifera (Black Sage)

Salvia Care

  • Watering: Salvia plants need regular watering, especially during hot and dry periods. Water deeply, but do not overwater, as this can lead to root rot. Allow the soil to dry out slightly between waterings.
  • Fertilizing: Salvia plants do not require much fertilizer, but you can apply a slow-release fertilizer in the spring to promote growth and blooming.
  • Pruning: Prune back salvia plants in the spring or fall to promote bushier growth and remove any dead or damaged foliage. You can also deadhead the flowers as they fade to encourage more blooms.
  • Mulching: Mulch around the base of the plants with a layer of organic matter, such as straw or wood chips. This will help to retain moisture in the soil and suppress weeds.
  • Winter protection: In cold climates, salvia plants may need to be protected during the winter months. Apply a layer of mulch around the base of the plant to insulate the roots, and cover the plant with a blanket or frost cloth if temperatures are expected to drop below freezing.

By following these tips, you can help your salvia plants thrive and enjoy their vibrant blooms throughout the growing season.

Salvia oxyphora (Fuzzy Bolivian Sage)
Salvia pachyphylla (Rose Sage)
Salvia patens (Gentian Sage)

How to Propagate

Salvia can be propagated in several ways, including by seeds, cuttings, or division. Here are some steps for each method:

Propagating by seeds:

  • Collect the seeds from a mature salvia plant or purchase them from a garden center.
  • Sow the seeds in a well-draining potting mix, covering them with a thin layer of soil.
  • Keep the soil moist and place the container in a warm, sunny location.
  • Germination should occur within 1-2 weeks, after which you can transplant the seedlings into individual pots.

Propagating by cuttings:

  • Take cuttings from a mature salvia plant in the spring or early summer.
  • Cut a 3-4 inch stem (7-10 cm) from the plant just below a node.
  • Remove the leaves from the bottom of the cutting, leaving only a few at the top.
  • Dip the bottom of the cutting in rooting hormone and plant it in a well-draining potting mix.
  • Keep the soil moist and place the container in a warm, sunny location.
  • Roots should form within 4-6 weeks, after which you can transplant the cutting into a larger container or into the ground.

Propagating by division:

  • Dig up a mature salvia plant in the spring.
  • Use a sharp knife or garden shears to divide the root ball into smaller sections.
  • Each section should have a healthy amount of foliage and roots.
  • Replant the divisions in their new location, making sure to space them correctly and plant them at the same depth as the original plant.
  • Water them thoroughly and continue to care for them as you would a mature plant.

By following these steps, you can successfully propagate salvia and create new plants to enjoy in your garden.

Salvia sclarea (Clary Sage)
Salvia splendens (Scarlet Sage)
Salvia uliginosa (Bog Sage)

Pests and Diseases

Salvia plants are generally resistant to most pests and diseases, but they can still be affected by a few common issues. Here are some of the most common pests and diseases that affect salvia plants:

Aphids: These pests can cause distorted growth and yellowing of the leaves. To control aphids, spray the plant with a mixture of water and insecticidal soap or neem oil.

Botrytis blight: A fungal disease that causes gray or brown spots on leaves and flowers. Control botrytis blight by removing infected plant material, improving air circulation, and treating with a fungicide.

Powdery mildew: This is a fungal disease that causes a powdery white coating on the leaves of the plant. To prevent this, avoid overhead watering and ensure that the plant has good air circulation.

Root rot: This is a fungal disease that can occur in poorly draining soil. To prevent this, ensure that the plant is planted in well-draining soil and avoid overwatering.

Spider mites: These tiny pests can cause yellowing and stippling of the leaves. To control spider mites, spray the plant with a mixture of water and insecticidal soap or neem oil.

Overall, by ensuring that the plant is planted in well-draining soil, receives proper watering, and is given adequate air circulation, you can prevent most pests and diseases from affecting your salvia plant. If an issue does arise, there are several natural and chemical treatments available to control the problem.

Companion Plants for Salvia

Salvia can be paired with a variety of other plants to create a beautiful and functional garden. Here are some companion plants that pair well with salvia:

Lavender: Both lavender and salvia are drought-tolerant and have similar growing requirements. They also complement each other visually with their purple hues.

Black-eyed Susan: The bright yellow flowers of black-eyed Susan provide a lovely contrast to the deep blue or purple flowers of salvia. They also attract butterflies and other pollinators.

Coneflower: The tall, spiky flowers of coneflower make a great backdrop for the shorter, bushier salvia plants. They also attract pollinators and provide winter interest with their seed heads.

Ornamental grasses: Ornamental grasses, such as fountain grass or blue fescue, add texture and movement to the garden and pair well with the spiky flowers of salvia.

Russian sage: Russian sage has similar growing requirements to salvia and also has a long blooming period. The two plants complement each other well with their similar shape and color.

Common sage (Salvia officinalis) is also an excellent companion plant for broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower.

Overall, salvia can be paired with a variety of plants to create a beautiful and functional garden. Consider planting them with plants that have similar growing requirements and complementary colors and shapes.

Companion Plants for Salvia

Brassica oleracea Botrytis Group (Cauliflower)
Brassica oleracea Capitata Group (Cabbage)
Brassica oleracea Gemmifera Group (Brussels Sprouts)
Brassica oleracea Italica Group (Broccoli)
Daucus carota subsp. sativus (Carrot)
Lavandula angustifolia (English Lavender)
Perovskia atriplicifolia (Russian Sage)
Rudbeckia hirta (Black-Eyed Susan)
Echinacea (Coneflower)

Click here to compare all Salvia varieties

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Salvia good for?

Salvia is a versatile plant with many benefits and uses, from attracting pollinators to medicinal and culinary uses to ornamental gardening.

Is Purple sage a drug?

There is a species of plant commonly known as “purple sage” that is sometimes referred to as a drug. This plant is called Salvia divinorum and contains psychoactive compounds that can cause hallucinations and altered states of consciousness when ingested or smoked.

Is Salvia and sage the same thing?

Salvia and sage are related, but they are not exactly the same thing. Salvia is a genus of plants in the mint family, Lamiaceae, which includes a wide variety of species. Sage, on the other hand, typically refers to the common sage, Salvia officinalis, which is a popular culinary herb used in cooking. So while sage is a type of Salvia, not all Salvia plants are sage.

Is Salvia poisonous?

While some species of salvia, such as Salvia divinorum, have psychoactive properties and can cause hallucinations when ingested or smoked, most salvia plants are not considered poisonous.

Garden Examples

A Fabulous Duo to Try: Echinacea and Salvia
A Fabulous Duo: Salvia ‘Caradonna’ and Penstemon ‘Rich Ruby’
A Pretty Duo to Try: Asclepias and Salvia
A Captivating Perennial Planting with Rudbeckia, Salvia, Verbena and Antirrhinum
A Prairie Planting Idea with Echinacea, Penstemon and Salvia
An Eye-Catching Border Idea with Allium, Oriental Poppies and Salvia
Compare All Salvia (Sage)
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While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.

Guide Information

Hardiness 3 - 12
Climate Zones 1, 1A, 1B, 2, 2A, 2B, 3, 3A, 3B, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, A1, A2, A3, H1, H2
Plant Type Annuals, Perennials, Shrubs
Genus Salvia
Exposure Full Sun, Partial Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Early, Mid, Late)
Summer (Early, Mid, Late)
Fall
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Average
Soil Type Chalk, Loam, Sand
Soil pH Acid, Alkaline, Neutral
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained, Well-Drained
Characteristics Dried Arrangements, Cut Flowers, Fragrant, Showy
Tolerance Drought, Deer, Rabbit
Attracts Bees, Birds, Butterflies, Hummingbirds
Landscaping Ideas Wall-Side Borders, Patio And Containers, Beds And Borders
Garden Styles City and Courtyard, Coastal Garden, Informal and Cottage, Mediterranean Garden, Prairie and Meadow
Compare All Salvia (Sage)
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