The tall spires of Salvia present in any garden border are hard to miss. The striking blue flowers wow visitors every time. And what's not to love about this plant known by its common name of Mexican Blue Sage or Germander sage? Established in the right location and growing conditions Salvia is relatively easy to maintain and is drought tolerant.
Salvia Chamaedryoides is an evergreen shrub or groundcover in the mint family. Its foliage is silvery-green, round and 1/2 inch in size. Salvia grows in neat mounds and spreads by underground runners. Mature height is 12 to 18 inches tall and 3 to 4 feet wide. One of the great things about this plant is that it never becomes invasive.
Types Of Sage
For Salvia to be in its best form, you need to start with well-draining sandy, chalky or loam soil. The pH level should be from 6.1 to 7.8. If grown in pots, make sure there is good drainage by adding perlite.
Grow Salvia in an area where it will receive several hours of full sunlight each day. It can tolerate some light shade. In hot inland areas, some light shade may be beneficial. If you are growing plants in pots, make sure that you place these in a sunny location.
Although Salvia is native to the extreme environment of the Sierra Madre Mountain Range in Mexico, it has adapted to many other areas. It is hardy down to USDA zone 8. It can grow down to zone 7, but the rounded fuzzy leaves will drop, and the plants will no longer be evergreen.
When thinking about the water requirements for Salvia, it's important to remember its arid origins 7,000 feet above sea level. They will not need any more than 1 inch of water per month. If the plants look stressed, they may need a little more, but don't overdo it. Water the base of the plants or use a soaker hose to water many plants. It's important not to leave Salvia plants in standing water. They like to keep their feet dry.
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Growing Salvia in Pots
If space is an issue in the garden, consider growing Salvia in pots. Terracotta pots show off the foliage and brilliant blue flowers beautifully. Choose containers that are at least 3 gallons in size. If the plants become too large for the pot, try moving to a larger size in the fall after flowering. Alternately, the plants may be divided and repotted.
Add a balanced liquid fertilizer once a month in spring throughout summer for plants to look their best. Don't fertilize during fall, or winter but do add a little compost at this time.
Salvia blooms abundantly in the spring and the fall. There can, however, be intermittent flowering at other times of the year. The flowers are small and are and wide lipped.
Benefits to Insects and Birds
Salvia's distinctive blue flowers are a magnet for pollinating insects, butterflies, bees and hummingbirds.
In frost-free areas, cut back the Salvia plant by as much as half after it has finished blooming in the fall to encourage an abundant healthy plant in the spring. In cold areas, where Salvia has been grown as a semi-evergreen shrub, prune lightly before the last frost. In the spring, when all danger of frost has passed, prune lightly again. If the plants need dividing, fall is the best time to do this chore.
Types Of Red Berries
1. Soft Wood Cuttings
From spring to early summer is the best time to take softwood cuttings from the plants. You will need small pots and a potting mixture of 50:50 compost and perlite. Cut 5-8 inches of the stem and remove the bottom two inches of the leaves. Dip these stems into a rooting hormone and place them in the potting compound right up to the leaves.
Press down firmly, making sure to make good contact with the soil. Place these in a dappled shaded area and keep watered. When the plants have developed roots, place each one into an individual pot and continue to grow until they are large enough to put into a permanent position in the garden.
Plants that are 3-4 years old are usually large enough to be divided. Dig carefully around the plant, being careful not to damage the root ball. Shake off some of the soil so that it is possible to see where divisions are possible. Each section should have adequate roots. Place each into their new space in the garden and water in.
Sow seed directly into the soil after the last frost, or sow indoors in early spring. Wait until seedlings have a good root system before placing outside. You can collect seed from dried flower head in the fall and store until spring.
Reddish-brown spider mites can attack plants in hot areas. They cling to the underside of leaves and feed on the plant juices causing the leaves to yellow and drop. The best way to deal with them is to remove the worst affected limbs to prevent the spread and use beneficial insects such as ladybugs to eat them. It's important not to spray spider mites as they have become resistant to sprays, and they are harmful to beneficial insects and birds.
Aphids are a pest to Salvia, sucking the juice from the stems and the leaves. Dehydration is the result and leads to distorted leaves and stems. Try ladybug larvae for a natural approach to dealing with these pests, or use a neem oil spray.
Slugs and Snails
In wetter areas, slugs and snails can devour whole plants. Make sure to clear the area around the plants of all debris. If using slug and snail bait, make sure that it is organic.