Salvia Plant Growing & Care Guide

Updated March 1, 2022
Cutting Fresh Sage

There are over 1,000 varieties of salvia plants worldwide, and many of them are popular garden plants. With a wide range of bloom colors and sizes, as well as the benefit of being low maintenance, this is one of those "must-grow" plants for many gardeners.

Salvia characteristics

Growing Salvia Plants in Your Garden

Salvia plants are low-maintenance and beautiful, and they act like a magnet in attracting bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds to your garden. They're available in a variety of colors, including deep purple, blue, red, white, lavender, and even yellow, and their spikes of small, tubular flowers are ideal for many pollinators. They have a strong herbal, floral fragrance, and bloom from early summer right up until frost, giving you months of color.

Salvia flowers can be grown in garden beds or containers, and both perennial and annual varieties are available. Not only are they beautiful, but they're drought-tolerant once they're established in the garden. Many salvia plant varieties are hardy in Zones 5 through 9.

Salvia Plant Growing Conditions

Most salvia plants prefer full sun, but there are also those that will bloom well in part shade. They like well-drained soils and are not fussy about pH levels. Most are quite drought-tolerant.

Wait to plant annual and tender species until the danger of frost is past.

Deadheading will prolong the bloom period. Some species, especially S. nemorosa, will re-bloom in the fall if they are cut back hard after their first bloom period. Many tender or annual species bloom all summer long.

Perennial sage should be divided in early spring, before new growth begins.

Sages should be pruned after flowering or pruned for shape as needed. Don't prune hard in the late fall. Species that get very large will require pruning to maintain an attractive appearance. Some species will become quite woody after four or five years, and may need to be replaced with young plants.

Salvia Flower Varieties to Grow

In addition to culinary sage (Salvia officinalis), there are hundreds of varieties of salvia flowers. Depending on where you live, they may be annual or perennial, but both types are available nearly everywhere.

Annual Salvia Varieties

Annual salvia plants can easily be grown from seed or transplants, and can be planted after the threat of spring frost has passed. They'll grow and bloom right up until your first fall frost. Many of them will reseed in the garden, or you can try to save seeds for next year.

Scarlet Sage ( Salvia coccinea) has bright-red flowers that are irresistible to hummingbirds. The flower spikes grow to about 10 inches tall.

Photo of a lot of beautiful flowers Salvia coccinea in the garden.

Mealycup Sage (Salvia farinacea) is hardy in Zones 7 through 10, but is grown as an annual everywhere else. It produces blue, purple, or lavender-colored flowers, and is one of the longest-blooming salvia varieties available.

Blue Sage flowers, Salvia farinacea

Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans) produces bright red flowers in late summer and early fall. The blossoms and foliage have a distinct pineapple fragrance that's also lovely in teas. Pineapple sage can also grow fairly large, with flower spikes up to four feet tall.

Pineapple sage Ananas red flowers

Bedding Sage (Salvia splendens) blooms in a wide variety of colors, including red, orange, yellow, white, and purple. It has heart-shaped leaves, and blooms reliably all summer long until frost.

Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha) grows to two to three feet tall, forming a dense, shrubby plant, and produces very fragrant white or purple blooms starting in late spring and going right up until your first fall frost.

Mexican bush sage / Salvia leucantha

Perennial Salvia Varieties

There are also several types of salvia plants that will return year after year. These are very low-maintenance plants, especially after becoming established in your garden. They're drought-resistant, not bothered by heat, and not overly picky about soil.

Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii) blooms in late summer through early fall, producing vibrant, bright pink blooms on spikes that reach up to three feet tall. Hardy in Zones 6 through 9.

Bright pink flowers of a salvia greggii or autumn sage

Azure Sage (Salvia azurea) has deep, sky blue blossoms in early fall. It's hardy in Zones 6 through 9.

Azure blue sage flowers blooming in a small garden

Hybrid Sage (Salvia x superba) is available in a variety of sizes and colors, specifically bred for growing well even in very cold climates. Hybrid sage is hardy in Zones 3 through 9.

Cultivated variety of sage - Salvia x superba.

Woodland Sage (Salvia nemerosa) is hardy in Zones 4 through 8 and produces abundant lavender flowers.

Salvia nemerosa

Salvia Plants for Shade

While most salvias prefer full sun, there are a few that thrive in shady conditions. Consider growing one of the following varieties if your garden is on the shady side:

  • Lanceleaf Sage (Salvia reflexa)
  • Meadow Sage (Salvia pratensis)
  • Sticky Sage (Salvia glutinosa)

Salvia Plant Pests and Problems

Salvias are relatively free of problems. They can suffer from stem and root rot or powdery mildew, particularly under damp, cool conditions.

Attractive to People and Pollinators

If you grow salvia in your garden, you'll get to enjoy months of gorgeous blooms, as well as the sight of plenty of fluttering butterflies, buzzing bees, and ravenous little hummingbirds visiting your garden. No matter which type you decide to grow, be sure to plant it in a spot where you'll see it often and can enjoy the beauty it brings to your garden.

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Salvia Plant Growing & Care Guide