From the Latin salveo, meaning save or heal, used by Pliny with reference to the medicinal qualities of some species (Labiatae). A large genus of over 700 species of hardy, half-hardy and tender annual, biennial, perennial plants and shrubs, some with aromatic leaves, widely distributed in the temperate and warmer zones. It includes the common sage, S. officinalis, a valuable culinary plant, as well as many colourful summer and autumn flowering border plants.
Species cultivated S. ambigens, about 5 feet, perenniai or sub-shrub, flowers deep sky-blue, September-October, South America, slightly tender. S. argentea, 2 feet, most decorative, leaves large, silvery-grey, felted, flowers white, small, in spikes, June and July, Mediterranean region; for a dry soil and a sunny position. S. aurea, shrub, leaves rounded, covered with fine hairs, flowers yellowish-brown, South Africa, hardy in mild areas. S. azurea, 4 feet, sub-shrub, flowers deep blue, autumn, North America, hardy; var. grandiflora, flower spikes denser. S. fulgens, Mexican red sage, 2-3 feet, shrub, flowers scarlet, in whorls, July, Mexico, tender. S. ges‑neraeflora, 2 feet, sub-shrub, flowers bright scarlet, summer, Colombia, tender. S. grahamii, shrub, to 4 feet, flowers deep crimson, July onwards, Mexico, somewhat tender. S. greggii, shrub, 3 feet, flowers scarlet, summer, Texas, Mexico, tender. S. haematodes, biennial, 3 feet, leaves large, wrinkled, heart-shaped, light blue flowers on branching stems from June to August, Greece. S. interrupta, 2-3 feet, sub-shrub, leaves 3-lobed, aromatic, flowers violet purple with white throat, May to July, Morocco, nearly hardy. S. involucrata, sub-shrub, 2-4 feet, flowers rose, summer and autumn, Mexico, not quite hardy; var. bethelii, flowers rosy crimson in longer spikes. S. juriscii, perennial, 1 foot, flowers violet, June, Serbia, hardy. S. lavandulifolia, perennial, 9-12 inches, leaves grey, flowers lavender, early summer, hardy. S. mexicana minor, sub-shrub, to 1.5 feet in nature, flowers violet-blue, February, Mexico, tender. S. neurepia, sub-shrub, 6-7 feet, flowers scarlet, late summer and autumn, Mexico, hardy in the milder counties. S. officinalis, common sage, sub-shrub, 2-3 feet, leaves wrinkled, aromatic, flowers variable purple, blue or white, June and July, southern Europe, hardy; vars. purpurascens, reddish-purple stems and leaves, strongly flavoured; aurea, leaves golden, flowers rarely produced. S. pratense, perennial,
2 feet, flowers bright blue, June to August, Europe, including Britain, hardy; var. rosea, flowers rosy-purple. S. rutilans, pineapple-scented sage, sub-shrub, 2-3 feet, flowers magenta-crimson, summer, tender. S. sclarea, clary, biennial or short-lived perennial, leaves and stems sticky, flowers pale mauve, bracts white and rose, conspicuous, June to September, Europe; various strains are offered; var. turkestanica, flowers white, bracts and stems pink. S. splendens, scarlet sage, sub-shrub, 3 feet, flowers scarlet, in spikes in summer, Brazil, usually grown as half-hardy annual ; vars. for summer bedding: ‘Blaze of Fire’, 9-12 inches, scarlet; ‘Fireball’, 15 inches, rich scarlet; ‘Harbinger’, 15 inches, long scarlet spikes ; ‘Salmon Pygmy,’ 6 inches. S. x superba (syn. S. nemorosa), 3 feet, bracts reddish, persistent, flowers violet-purple in spikes, July to September, hybrid, hardy; var. lubeca, identical but 1.5 feet tall only. S. uliginosa, bog sage, 4-5 feet, leaves shiny green, deeply toothed, flowers azure-blue in spikes, August to October, eastern North America, hardy.
Cultivation Salvias are easily grown in ordinary, well-drained garden soil and in a sunny position. S. argentea particularly likes dry soil, as well as sun, and S. officinalis should be cut back in spring to encourage new bushy growth. S.x superba makes a particularly good border plant when planted in a bold group. S. uliginosa prefers moister conditions than the others, and its creeping rootstock should be given a
covering of bracken or dry peat in cold districts. Those described as tender will succeed in the milder counties, given the shelter of a warm wall, or they may be grown in the greenhouse in pots in a compost of loam and well-rotted manure or leafmould plus some sand to provide drainage. The pots may be placed out of doors in June and brought in again in September. Water freely form spring to autumn, moderately in winter. Maintain a temperature in winter of 45-55°F (7-10°C). Propagate the shrubs, sub-shrubs and hardy perennial kinds by division in the spring or by soft-wood cuttings, rooted in sandy soil in a
propagating case in spring in a temperature of 65°F (18°C). S. splendens is increased by seed sown under glass in February or March in a temperature of 60°F (16°C) and planted out in late May or June.
How to Grow Salvia