Purple Salvia Plants
(Image credit: Sergei Dolgov)

Quick Salvia Facts:

  • Botanical name – Salvia spp.
  • Height – 3-6 ft. (0.9-1.8 m)
  • Spread – 12-48 in. (30-122 cm)
  • Sun exposure – Full Sun
  • Soil requirements – Slightly Acidic
  • Hardiness zones - USDA Zones 5-9
  • When to plant - Spring, Fall

How to Plant Salvias

Learning how to grow salvia is relatively simple, though it will require some research. The genus Salvia is actually quite large, containing hundreds of different species. Fortunately, many of these plants are similar in terms of their needs and requirements for growth.

This is especially true of salvias that are popular for use in the home landscape. While these perennials can be easily grown from seed, most gardeners choose to purchase their plants in spring from local nurseries. 

Deciding when to plant salvias will depend greatly upon the region, though most find spring to be best. Salvia may also be transplanted into the garden in early fall, provided that ample time is allowed for root development before the arrival of cooler winter temperatures.

Soil & Light Requirements

Salvia plants generally prefer soils that are slightly acidic. Flower beds and borders should drain well, and receive at least six hours of sunlight each day. Though some species of salvia are able to adapt to varying amounts of sun, excess shade may lead to fewer flowers and leggier plants.

Fertilizer Needs

Rich, well-worked soils will help new plantings of salvia off to the best start possible. As salvia plants are not considered to be heavy feeders, they will require only infrequent fertilization. Experienced growers suggest feeding the plants annually, at the beginning of each spring. For the best results, a balanced slow-release granular feed can be used. Though you may be tempted to fertilize plants more frequently, excess feeding can lead to increased susceptibility to disease and loss of vigor.

How Often to Water Salvias

Though consistent moisture will aid in the production of flowers, salvia plants seldom need supplemental irrigation. In fact, surplus water is among the most common causes of issues that affect salvia. This includes various types of fungal disease, as well as root and crown rot. Allowing the garden soil to dry completely between waterings is a good rule to follow. Plants should be able to withstand brief periods of drought with little problem.

Basic Salvia Care

Provided that the plant’s requirements for growth have been met, learning how to care for salvia is straightforward. Still, there are some essential aspects of salvia care to consider. Most notable among these is its need for routine maintenance throughout the growing season. Frequent chores, like deadheading and pruning, are especially important as a means to keep up appearances within ornamental beds.

Do You Deadhead Salvias?

Deadheading is a key aspect of salvia plant care. Each plant’s flowering period will vary depending upon the species. While some will bloom only once or twice each summer, others may persist throughout much of the growing season. Deadheading, or the removal of old flowers after they have faded, can be beneficial as a means to prolong the bloom period. After each bud has faded, stems can be carefully clipped back to the ground. This will encourage new growth, as well as help to keep the plants looking healthy and fresh.

How to Propagate Salvia

Salvia is most commonly propagated by seed. However, growers have also found success multiplying their plants through the use of division and cutting. Divide salvia every 3-4 years, after the plants have reached an adequate size. Most suggest early spring as the best time to begin digging salvia. While dormant, each plant’s root mass can be cut into smaller segments before being replanted into new beds.

Salvia is known for the ease in which cuttings will readily take root. Small stem segments can be placed directly into water, or into a moist potting medium, to begin this process. Under ideal conditions, you can expect salvia cuttings to begin taking root in as little as 2-4 weeks.

Problems, Pests, & Diseases

Though salvia plants are generally considered to be a carefree addition to the garden, they can be affected by several common diseases. Powdery mildew is a serious concern, particularly in regions that are humid. Other foliar diseases, like rust and leaf spot, may spread throughout growing beds. 

Prevention and control of each of these infections will be key in maintaining salvia’s attractive appearance throughout the entirety of the growing season. Aphids, mites, whiteflies, and other insects may also be an issue; though their presence seldom leads to severe damage or loss of plants.

Salvia Varieties

  • ‘Blue Bedder’ Salvia
  • ‘Clary’ Series Salvia
  • ‘Hummingbird’ Series Salvia
  • ‘Rose Rhapsody’ Salvia
  • ‘Summer Jewel’ Series Salvia
Tonya Barnett

Tonya Barnett has been gardening for 13 years. Flowers are her passion. She has trasformed her backyard into a cut flower garden, which she regularly chronicles on her YouTube channel http://www.youtube.com/@tonyawiththeflowers.