It is true that we all hold a soft spot for Salvia. It has both ornamental and culinary interest and can be found in a variety of landscapes from tropical forests to urban parkland. This is possibly why it has been voted the plant of the year by the National Gardening Bureau.
Salvia is the largest genus within the Lamiaceae (Mint) family. It is often commonly referred to as sage and is widely used as a herb for culinary purposes. Salvia are native throughout the Americas, central Asia and the Mediterranean. The word ‘Salvia’ derives from the Latin term ‘salvere’ which means to feel well and healthy. It was first referenced during the Roman occupation. There are more than one thousand species in the genus; some are considered hardy whilst others are not.
Salvia are best planted in well-drained soil of loam, chalk and sand within an acidic,
alkaline or neutral PH balance. They are best positioned in full sun although they will
tolerate part shade. Along with their flowers, their scented foliage is one of their key
features and so it is recommended that they are planted by a pathway or edge of the
border. Enrich the soil with organic matter and mix in some horticultural grit to improve
drainage if you have heavy soil. Alternatively you can plant them in containers.
Salvia are a drought tolerant plant. In general, they prefer to be on the dry side, so after
the initial watering in, they can tolerate a level of neglect. If the first season is particularly
hot and dry a good soak is beneficial. Apply a fertiliser or mulch during spring to help with
flowering. Once the flowers have faded, remove the flower spike to encourage more
flowers. During midsummer cut back Salvia by a third if it looks tired. This will force it to
regrow, producing a second flush of flowers that continue to flourish through to autumn.