There are over 1,000 species of salvia – some annual and some perennial. I started my salvia journey with Salvia Caradonna – an herbaceous perennial with strong vertical purple stems that carry deep violet-blue flowers in early summer and again in late summer if you deadhead. Eventually, I branched out into other perennial varieties, all purchased from local garden centres. I’ve propagated many of these by division, filling in spaces in the garden over the years.
In 2023, I decided to try my hand at growing some annual salvia from seed. I wanted that cottage garden look, so I chose Victoria Blue, Sirius Blue and Evolution White. They were very easy to germinate and were strong performers. In 2024, my plan is to expand into growing some perennial salvia from seed.
This is my personal growing guide. I use it to track seed sources, when to start seeds and if I should adjust growing conditions in my own greenhouse and garden. Please don’t consider this professional grower’s advice. I like the plant information cards from Ball Seed – here is Big Blue Salvia
FAVOURITE VARIETIES AND SOURCES
- Mini Victoria, mealycup sage (annual)
William Dam Seeds
Note: I also tested Sirius Blue from Baker Creek in 2023. I found no discernable difference between Sirius Blue and Victoria Blue in terms of colour and size, although Sirius Blue was a little stronger in terms of germination and seedling size. I found I didn’t like White Evolution; it was just a colour choice, really.
- New Dimension Blue (perennial) – new 2024
- New Dimension Rose (perennial) – new 2024
Salvia is low maintenance and, best of all, deer-resistant. The annuals need only a little deadheading, and the perennials can be deadheaded for a second flush shortly after blooming. Even the spent calixes on the perennial salvia look good if left on the plant, as many have dark colours themselves. Polinators, especially hummingbirds and butterflies, love salvia.
Note: most sites say it takes 14-22 weeks to finish starts. Starting annual salvia this early, I found the seedlings were quite tall, and so were leggy once I planted them out in the garden. So start annual salvia at 10 weeks this year, perennial at 14 weeks.
- 14 weeks is Feb 11 (perennial)
- 10 weeks is Mar 11 (annual)
- Sow 2-3 seeds directly in the final container, as transplanting is picky.
- Press seed 1/4″ deep into the soil, but do not cover. Requires some light for germination.
- Water with warm water. Bottom water to avoid displacing seed.
- Germinate @ 75°F/24°C soil temperature – use heat mat
- Annual germinates in 5-14 days, perennial 21 to 30 days
I had good germination from the annual varieties I raised in 2023, and they were easy seedlings to raise.
Annual Salvia can be direct sown, so I might try some in the Greenhouse garden beds.
- If transplanting seedlings, handle by leaves, not stems.
- Grow @ 55-60°F/13-16°C.
- Pinch tips when plants are 6 inches tall.
TRANSPLANTING TO GARDEN
- Perennial salvia blooms in the first year if started early.
- Annual salvia can be transplanted in the garden when warm weather arrives (above 40°F / 4°C), and they have their first true leaves and are about 10cm or 2 inches high
- Perennial salvia can be transplanted after the danger of frost has passed
All salvias prefer full sun, like well-drained soil and average watering. Perennials are drought-resistant once established but are subject to powdery mildew, so don’t overhead water if you can and leave lots of air circulation around plants.
Notes: Victoria Blue was a little too tall for most containers. They flowered profusion and stayed upright but reached close to 24 inches, so choose a large container and use as centre plant only.
- perennial salvia can be divided in spring
- take softwood cuttings in midsummer
- grow annuals from seed
PERENNIAL VARIETIES IN MY GARDEN
- Salvia nemerosa Caradonna
- Salvia nemerosa Rose Marvel
- Salvia nemerosa Viola Rose
- Salvia nemerosa Viola Klose
- Salvia hybrid Pink Dawn (Proven Winners)
- Salvia officinalis Purple (sage)