November 13, 2023
The Searles Gardening Team
Salvia has become one of Australia's most popular ranges of plants because of their easy-going, sun-loving, gorgeous flowers and different growing habits. They come in various forms, from ground covers to shrubs 4 metres tall, in annuals, biennial or herbaceous perennial varieties.
The colour range is extensive, and your collection can proliferate with their ease of propagating. Salvia is also not a fussy plant regarding soil; the only condition they require is free, well-draining soil to ward off its main mortal enemy, root rot. All salvias originated outside Australia but ticked all the boxes for Australian climates.
Salvias are from the sage family (Lamiaceae family), with over 1000 varieties, but not all are available in Australia. Traditional edible sage, Salvia officinalis and basil, Ocimum basilicum, are both from the Lamiaceae family. White sage or Salvia apiana is used in smudge sticks and is a gorgeous ornamental plant. Different varieties of sages are used for antiseptics, tonics, wine, beer and herbalists for various illnesses. Note that these are not all edible, so research before you try.
Spring to autumn is their time to flood the garden with colour. The colour range is so diverse you can complement any garden colour palette. From white to black, pink to yellow, blue to maroon, you can match them into any garden colour scheme. Certain forms have a perfume that can be the main attraction, such as Salvia dorisiana, Fruity Sage. It has a hot pink flower in winter and can tolerate semi-shade, and you can sometimes find it in the herb range at your local garden centre.
As with any plants grown in harsher or hotter conditions, mulching is highly recommended. Mulching keeps the roots cooler, retains any moisture and suppresses weeds. When planting, it is wise to blend 5 in 1 Organic Fertiliser into the soil and liquid fertilise with a soluble fertiliser such as Searles Flourish Flowers and Foliage to boost flower production. Remove all spent flowers to maximise flowering and give a good prune after flowering. Plants can be pruned, trimmed or old dead stems removed to shape the plant for the coming season. If left unpruned, some varieties can become so large and top-heavy with flowers that they can topple over. Staking can help reduce this risk if you want to keep it a larger plant.
Salvia makes an exquisite pot plant. Use a potting mix that retains moisture level in the soil, such as Searles Platinum Potting Mix. They make a statement with their bright flowers, which you can change for each season. Watch for mealybug, caterpillars, aphids, and scale activity as with all plants. Treat any of them as soon as you see them invade the area. Some salvias are also bred for their leaf colour and shape, complementing the flowers for stunning displays. Bees and birds are also drawn to their striking-coloured flowers, making them an all-round winner.
Proven Winners Salvia 'Rockin’ Series - 'Rockin Deep Purple' & 'Rockin Fuchsia' - Annual in cooler climates and perennial in frost free zones, sterile and will not seed.
Salvia 'Lancelot' - Produces silvery-white, felted leaves with a pleasant sage fragrance. Rosy-lavender flowering bracts in summer and autumn. 170cm H
Salvia 'New Dimension Blue' - Large, compact and well-branched plants feature strong-coloured deep blue flowers that last in the landscape. 25cm H
Make-A-Wish® Australia Series - Ember's Wish (Bright coral), Kisses & Wishes (Fuchsia pink), Love & Wishes (Deep purple), Wendy's Wish (Hot pink). All 80cm H. Long lasting.
Pictured above: Proven Winners Salvia 'Unplugged So Blue'.