Dictionary of Flowers: Salvia Nemorosa
(Perennial Sage)

Perennial Salvia (also known as ornamental sage or Nemorosa) is gorgeous and dramatic

Beautiful Salvia Nemorosa looks amazing in container arrangements

  • Salvia Nemorosa (Perennial Salvia)
  • Common name: salvia, sage
  • Family: Lamiaceae
  • Category: half hardy annual, perennial in USDA zones 4 to 9
  • Height: 12” to 36” 
  • Width: 15” to 18”
  • Sun/part shade
  • Blooms:  midsummer to late summer
  • Attracts: butterflies, hummingbirds, bees
  • Growth habit: upright, clumping. Used as a thriller in container combinations
  • Maintenance: easy
  • Soil:  average to rich, well drained. Water regularly if grown in containers. Drought tolerant when established
  • Garden uses: containers, mixed border, wildflower garden, cutting garden
  • Diseases: powdery mildew, leaf spot, rust
  • Pests: whitefly, scale

Salvia nemorosa originates from Europe and Eastern Asia. It's a hardy perennial used in gardens for their wonderful spikes of vibrant purple flowers that rise from dark green, scented foliage.

It's vigourous and easy to grow. It can handle heat and humidity.

Salvia has a long bloom period if deadheaded, making it a useful addition to borders and containers. Perennial salvia has medicinal applications just like the annual salvias.

Perennial salvia loves a sunny position in the garden. It tolerates part sun, provided there is good light in the area planted. It grows best in well  drained soil, average to rich, with neutral pH. Drainage is key when growing salvia.

Although it needs regular watering during the first season to establish a good root system, once established do not overwater as it promotes disease.

Improve soil drainage when first planting salvia by adding compost to the soil, or when planting in containers, by using a loose potting mix and even adding extra perlite or vermiculite to it.

A layer of gravel on the bottom of the container and adding extra drainage holes will help keep salvia healthy. 

Deadhead salvia after the first flush of bloom for a second round of blooming. Divide salvia in early spring or fall when the clump starts opening up, every three or four years. Separate the outside sections, replant immediately and discard the center. In winter, after the first killing frost cut stems down to two or three inches.

IWILLWRITECAPTION. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of NAMEOFFLICKRUSER and Flickr

Salvia is easily available in nurseries in spring and summer as starter plants. To plant, amend planting area with compost and after loosening roottball, plant salvia so the rootball is even with the soil line.

Water deeply. Salvia can also be propagated by division and seed. If growing by seed, remember that some hybrid varieties' seed won't come true to the parent plant.

Salvia seed can be wintersown. To start indoors, place seed on moist starting mix but do not cover, as seed needs light to germinate. If kept at about 70F, germination is slow and it can take as long as a month.

After seedlings appear, provide good light to avoid leginess. When seedlings are about four inches tall, pinch back to encourage bushiness. Plant outdoors after hardening off when danger of frost has passed.

IWILLWRITECAPTION. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of NAMEOFFLICKRUSER and Flickr

Salvia can develop fungal and viral diseases if grown too crowded or in wet conditions. Improve air circulation, water deeply but infrequently and improve drainage. Remove affected parts and use a fungicide as needed.

If insects appear, treat with insecticidal soap. Slugs and snails can damage salvia's foliage in spring. Bait as needed. Salvia is deer resistant.

Popular varieties:

  • Salvia nemorosa 'May Night' - can reach two feet. Deep purple flowers on long, thin stems
  • Salvia nemorosa 'East Friesland' - this variety can flop and might need support to grow straight. Grows up to a foot and a half. Purple blooms
  • Salvia nemorosa 'Caradonna' - grows up to two feet. Dark purple stems, long blooming. Purple blooms, more reddish than other varieties
  • Salvia nemorosa 'New Dimension' series - two colors available, rose and purple. Compact plants up to a foot tall. Heat tolerant
  • Salvia nemorosa 'Sensation' series - compact plants, well branched about sixteen inches tall. Fast grower. Available in shades of pink, blue and purple
  • Salvia nemorosa hybrid 'Snow Hill' - white blooms on plants that can grow up to two feet tall

IWILLWRITECAPTION. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of NAMEOFFLICKRUSER and Flickr

Full List of Dictionary of Flowers Entries

Annuals For Containers

Perennials For Containers

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