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Sold On Salvia

There are over 900 species of salvias, and it is the largest genus in the mint family.

Salvia farinacea

Photo: Stanley Wong (flickr)

Salvia farinacea.

Enthusiasms wax and wane in the lives of gardeners depending on how well our plants do in different years. When weather conditions favor a certain type of plant and it grows well, it instantly becomes my favorite flower.

This past year I was sold on salvia. There are over 900 species of salvias, and it is the largest genus in the mint family. The genus includes salvias that are annuals, biennials, perennials and soft wooded shrubs.

One well- known salvia is the culinary herb sage, which bears the botanical name salvia officinalis. In Latin the word “salvus” means safe and the herb is said to have healing qualities.

Salvias grow in full sun to light shade and once established are tolerant of drought. Good drainage is important, especially in winter, if they are perennial. Culinary sage is a short lived perennial in the Midwest so needs to be replanted every 3 to 4 years. It has nice gray foliage and purple spiky flowers so is decorative anywhere in the garden.

Many of the annual salvias self seed if the area is not heavily mulched. I love the annual salvia farinacea, especially the blue flowering ‘Victoria’, as the flowers hold their color even when they are dried.

Perennial salvia sylvestris ‘May Night’ and ‘East Friesland’ are violet-blue hybrids that are valuable for their tidy habit and intense color.

Did I mention that deer dislike all salvias? …

Moya Andrews

, originally from Queensland, Australia, served as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculties at Indiana University until 2004. In the same year, Moya began hosting Focus on Flowers for WFIU. In addition, Moya does interviews for Profiles, is a member of the Bloomington Hospital Board, and authored Perennials Short and Tall from Indiana University Press.

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