Scarlet Sage, Gentian Sage, Mealy-cup Sage
Salvia coccinea, Salvia splendens, Salvia farinacea
Salvias -bring color to the garden from late spring through early fall. They are indispensable for gardeners who want pretty, bright, long-lasting flowers to enjoy in the garden and in arrangements. The three that are easiest to grow from seed or are most readily available as bedding plants at garden centers and nurseries are scarlet sage (Salvia splendens), mealy cup sage (S. farinacea), and S. coccinea. With colors that range from red, scarlet, salmon, purple, and lilac to deep and light blue, white, and bicolors, salvias offer an amazing number of design possibilities. Selecting a Site. Salvias grow well in full sun but most also do nicely in partial shade. Full sun means six or more hours of direct sun daily. Partial shade translates into an east location, where the plants will be exposed to morning sun but enjoy afternoon shade. A western exposure may be too hot for salvias, depending on your geographic location. In the south, plant salvias where they will have some protection from midday sun. High light can burn the flower spikes of white, coral, and salmon cultivars of S. splendens, changing them from white to brown; darker colors are more resistant to sun burn. Salvias are so easy to incorporate into a garden. Use the shorter, dwarf salvias to edge a perennial or annual garden. Place tall salvias in front of evergreen shrubs; mass them for incredible impact; spot them around in an herb garden to complement the mostly green garden. The taller salvias (18 to 20 inches) are the best for cut flowers, so you may want to put a separate bed of them in a cutting garden or plant a row in the vegetable garden. Create rivers of blue or blue-and-white with Salvia farinacea 'Victoria' and 'Strata' along the edge of a bed. One of the most delightful aspects of salvias, especially S. coccinea, is that they attract butterflies. Combine red and blue cultivars with yellow coreopsis, purple petunias, and yellow or pink cosmos for the start of a butterfly garden. Such a planting can be in the ground or arranged in containers around a patio or deck. Whatever design you decide on, remember to plant in masses of at least eight or more plants of each color and type.