For decades, gardeners in almost every state in the country have planted Salvias to brighten their gardens. As a teenager in Milwaukee, I remember planting the most common red annual variety of annual Salvia, carefully pinching the tops off to make more flower heads, watching the plants grow and set seed, then die at the first hard frost of Fall. I had no idea then that so many varieties of this genus existed, much less their potential in the landscape as perennials. I had to move to Florida before I discovered different varieties of Salvia, and was amazed to find that some species can grow to the dimensions of a small garage. On the other side of the size spectrum is the Florida native Salvia coccinea , a petite species growing to 2 feet, with dainty pink-white or red florets.
One of the the consistent aspects of growing either annual or perennial sages is they need some pruning and fertilizing care to keep them in good shape. Left to their own devices, these plants will grow into fairly rank and unkempt weeds. Routine trimming of stems and removal of old flower stems will keep them looking good.
Many of the landscape types will re-seed, or can be propagated by stem cuttings. These plants look best in clusters or grown as specimens, especially if used as a wildlife attractant.
The larger perennial species and varieties can make quite a statement in the landscape, with plant sizes from petite to giant, and flowers colors from pink through azure blue and even burgundy. I visited San Marcos Growers in Santa Barbara years ago, marveling at the array of Salvia types that can grow in balmy southern California. I was stunned by the variety of flowers and plant sizes available, as well as the frenzy of hummingbirds staging their own gang wars, fighting over the best flowers for nectar. The effect of the flowers and plant textures was memorable, and I hope to add several species here at Pinecrest Gardens.
With moderate care, some advance knowledge of the plant's ultimate size, and some thought on how to integrate the plant into a landscape, the Sage group can be a valuable and rewarding addition to a landscape. The only real restriction is sunlight: most of the species are sun-lovers, and intolerant of shade.