Salvia Sensation with Mike Darcy

July 21, 2019

I believe that many gardeners can get ‘carried away’ with a certain group(s) of plants and it can almost become an obsession. While I don’t think I would call it an obsession, for the past several years, I have had a craving for more plants from the genus Salvia. I have often planted annual Salvia in my garden for the show of flowers it provides all summer but it is fairly recent that I have become familiar with some of the perennial types. In my garden today, I have about 20 different perennial Salvia plants both in pots and in the ground. On a recent visit to the Wilco in Canby, I was pleased to note that they had a good selection of Salvia to chose from. While selections will vary from store to store, you should be able to find some plants in bud and/or bloom that are ready to be planted now.

Most Salvia’s like to be in the sun, and only recently have I learned about and planted some that will tolerate shade. When purchasing Salvia, check the plant label as to specific location with regard to sun/shade. Some of the perennial types have overwintered in my garden for several years and while the tops may die to the ground, the roots will often survive. I’ve found that the crucial factor for Salvia to overwinter is drainage. They like excellent drainage and will often die from winter wet rather than winter cold. To help improve drainage, I always add some pumice or perlite into the soil when I plant.

My first perennial Salvia, and my all-time favorite is ‘Black and Blue’. This is a true blue color and once it starts blooming, which is often in late May or early June, it never stops until fall. We have had a pot of ‘Black and Blue’ on our deck for many years and in addition to the continuous flowers, hummingbirds love this plant. Plants will generally reach about four feet in height. By picking the old flower stems off before the flowers go to seed will encourage the plant to continue to bloom.

‘Amistad’ is another Salvia that has a growth habit very similar to ‘Black and Blue’. However, the flowers on ‘Amistad’ are a rich purple. It is also a very attractive plant to hummingbirds.

Salvia ‘Radio Red’ is a solid color red that is a continuous bloomer all summer. This plant is also a compact grower and will work will in a border garden or in a container. This plant can easily be trimmed to help it maintain a compact growth pattern.

For a Salvia with a totally different look and color to the flower, try ‘Hot Lips’. This multicolor red and white flower has a growing habit that is more compact than the two mentioned above. This is an excellent container plant that will bloom all summer and is also a hummingbird attractant.

Wilco also has a good assortment an annual Salvia. These, as the name indicates, are annual plants which means they are good for just one season. They are heavy summer bloomers. Two particular names that I saw that really popped with color were ‘Sizzler Purple’ and ‘Sizzler Red’. These would be excellent container plants.

If you have not tried growing Salvia, you might be pleasantly surprised at the choices available. Planting now would provide both instant color and an instant attraction for hummingbirds.

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