how to plant, grow & care for salvias

complete growing guide

Salvias are one of the best plants to bring summer colour into the garden and build in stature and intensity right through to late autumn. There is a huge range to choose from with delicate annual salvias in blues, mauves and pinks so easy to grow from seed, through the tall exotic blooms from South America, to the hardy hybrid herbaceous perennials and shrubs. 

Our salvia plants are available in a range of sizes ready to plant out into your favourite pots and borders.


  • Common name Sage
  • Latin name Salvia
  • Type Annuals, hardy & semi-tender perennials, and sub-shrubs
  • Height 30 - 90cm
  • TLC rating Easy
  • Aspect Full Sun
  • Planting position Borders (front, middle or back depending on size), containers, cutting gardens for annual species
  • Suitable for pots Yes
  • Good for pollinators Yes
  • Good for cut flowers Yes


Sow Under Cover/Plant Indoors
Direct Sow/Plant Outdoors

how to grow salvias

where to grow salvias

Soil type: Salvias like moist but free draining soil.

Aspect & position: Plant your salvias in full sun with shelter from cold winds.

when to plant salvias

It depends on the variety but generally salvia seeds can be planted under cover in early spring, although some varieties can be sown under cover in the autumn as well. They can also be direct sown in late spring and summer. Plant out half-hardy salvia plants when the risk of frost is over. Hardy salvias can be planted in spring and autumn.

how to plant & care for salvias

how to grow annual salvias

e.g. ‘Blue Monday’ and ‘Pink’

If you are growing hardy annual salvias from seed, they should be sown under cover between February and April and/or late August to September. You can also direct sow the seeds in May or August where you would like them to grow. 

Hardy annuals can withstand a touch of frost and can be sown/planted straight into the ground in the autumn and will keep through the winter without protection. In colder areas you may wish to cover seedlings or keep in a cold frame/ unheated greenhouse for planting out in spring. Grow in well-drained soil in sun to partial shade. 

how to grow half hardy perennial salvias

e.g. ‘Ember’s Wish’, ‘Love and Wishes’, ‘Victoria White’, ‘Black and Blue’

If you have ordered our plants for spring delivery these tender varieties will need acclimatising to the outside world (hardening off). They can then be planted out when all risk of frost is over, usually by the end of May. 

Plant in moist but well-drained soil in a sunny, sheltered spot and sprinkle mycorrhizal fungi (Rootgrow) into the base of the planting hole. You might want to add additional grit to the soil to ensure there is no waterlogging in the winter. For best effect plant in groups of three. During the season remove faded flower spikes to encourage further blooms and feed every two weeks. 

As these plants are not totally hardy it is best to leave well alone until the spring and then cut them down to the base, where they will shoot up again when the warm weather arrives. Many of these salvias are tuberous and over time they develop an underground energy source that strengthens their hardiness. It is also worth mulching over the crown with a thick layer of garden compost to give them extra protection during a hard frost. 

If they are planted in containers move them into a sheltered position out of the heavy winter rains. If you live in a very cold area you could try planting into containers that are sunk into the ground and then lifted before the cold wet weather strikes. To be totally sure of your plants returning in the spring take cuttings at the end of the summer and overwinter them in a frost-free place. 

how to grow shrubby perennial salvias

E.g. 'Amethyst Lips', 'Cherry Lips', 'Salmon Dance', 'Nachtvlinder', 'Jezebel', 'Cerro Potosi'

These sub-shrub salvias generally have a permanent woody structure, and some are even evergreen in mild conditions. Others will shoot again if the cold weather has knocked them back. 

To ensure the best chance of survival, find a particularly well-drained area in a sunny, sheltered spot and sprinkle mycorrhizal fungi (Rootgrow) into the base of the planting hole. For the best effect in the border, plant in groups of three or singly in pots. 

In cold, wet gardens these salvias might be best kept in large containers so that they can be brought in for the winter. But do ensure you repot and feed regularly as otherwise they soon get tired and fail to flower so well.

Deadhead through the summer to keep the flowers coming, do not prune back hard until the spring as this will encourage new growth to shoot before the risk of frost is over. When the warm weather arrives, cut back to a healthy pair of new shoots to keep the plant bushy. Protect young plants from late frosts and mulch annually with well-rotted manure or garden compost.

how to grow herbaceous perennial salvias

E.g. 'Amethyst’, ‘Caradonna', 'Crystal Blue', ‘Ostfriesland’, 'Rose Marvel'

These salvias are much hardier than the tuberous or shrubby types, although they still hate getting waterlogged in the winter. So, when your plants arrive in the spring, choose a sunny well drained site and add some Rootgrow to the bottom of the planting hole. It is also worth adding some grit to ensure it drains really well.

Some salvia varieties will give you a second flush of flowers if you dead head the spent shoots. Others respond well to the “Chelsea chop” technique of cutting the foliage back in late May to encourage later flowering, so you can experiment with this once the plants are well established. Mulch around the plant each year with well-rotted organic matter to keep the soil fertile.

In subsequent years, pay particular attention to slugs and snails as the young leaves emerge in the spring. They can shoot back after one or two attacks but will give up if continuously grazed to ground level.

seasonal checklist


  • Sow seed for annual salvias.
  • Prune back established plants.
  • Plant out new stock once risk of frost is over.
  • Guard against slugs and snails.


  • Keep plants weed free
  • Deadhead to keep flowering through to autumn.


  • Mulch to protect roots from winter frost and rain.


  • Move tender plants indoors if in containers.

pests, diseases & common issues

slugs and snails 

Herbaceous salvias are a magnet to slugs and snails when they first come through the ground in early spring. Protect them with a ring of our seaweed granules until they are strong enough to grow away from ground level. The shrubby varieties are much less susceptible as their smaller foliage is far less tempting.


Greenfly might occasionally attack the new shoots of salvias. They are easy to spot, so get squashing before the numbers build up, and the ladybirds and lacewings should also help control them as the weather warms up.

leaf hoppers and capsid bugs

These tiny insects can cause some damage as they suck the sap under the leaves and leave tiny holes. SB Plant Invigorator should help the plant withstand these attacks. 

why is my salvia not blooming? 

The southern hemisphere varieties can be very late to come into flower, sometimes waiting until October, so you might just have to be patient. However, if you have been overfeeding, they might be putting a bit too much energy into leafy growth, so hold back on the feed until you see them in bud.

what is eating my salvia plants? 

Most likely slugs or snails if you are growing the herbaceous types. If the leaves have small holes in them this is more likely to be Capsid bugs.

why is my salvia falling over and drooping? 

If plants are drooping, this is either because they are in need of water, or actually have too much – either cause has the same effect, the plants wilt due to stress. If they are in a pot there is also the possibility of vine weevils attacking the roots, so turn them out and check for fat white grubs in the compost.

why is my salvia turning brown or yellow? 

This is most likely to be a problem with the compost, so the first answer is to give the plant a quick tonic with a liquid feed or foliar spray of seaweed. If that doesn’t help, try repotting in fresh compost, that way you will also get a chance to check whether there is any damage to the roots.

frequently asked questions

will salvia grow in shade? 

Most varieties prefer full sun if they are to flower well. Culinary sage grows well in partial shade and will even flower quite happily.

will salvia bloom first year? 

Yes, they should bloom in their first year if conditions are right.

do rabbits or deer eat salvia? 

Rabbits tend to find the aromatic foliage too strong, but deer might go for the new growth if very hungry in early spring.

can you grow salvia in pots? 

You certainly can, and this is often the best solution if you live in a cold wet area as you can offer more protection in the winter. Just ensure you put enough drainage material in the pots in the form of crocks at the bottom and grit in the compost. Then ensure they get enough water and feed during the flowering period. They might well need repotting in fresh compost each spring, or at least a good top dressing of fresh compost.

do bees and butterflies like salvia? 

Salvias are very attractive to bees and butterflies. They are particularly valuable as they offer nectar much later into the autumn.

how fast does salvia grow? 

The tall herbaceous sorts can grow over a metre per year, as they start from ground level each year. If they are happy, they will also clump up nicely at the base. The shrubby ones are much slower growing, and you can prune them each year to keep them to the size you want.

how tall does salvia grow? 

This very much depends on the variety. The annual sorts tend to be quite short (20cm), especially those bred for bedding out. Some of the perennials can get to 1.5m tall.

are salvia plants hardy? 

Again, that depends on where they come from. The Mexican varieties, unless they have been hybridised with something tougher, can be quite tender. What they hate more than cold is wet, so good drainage is all, and read the plant label.

how to prepare salvia for winter? 

If you live in a cold area and have chosen tender perennials, it can be best to keep them in containers for their first year so that you can bring them in to a more sheltered position for the winter. Once they are a bit bigger and stronger, they can be left outside, but ensure you mulch the roots well. Do not cut them back, however, until the spring. Take cuttings at the end of the summer as insurance in case you do lose them.

are salvia plants evergreen? 

Most are not, but if you live in a mild area, some of the shrubby ones will keep their leaves.

are salvia plants poisonous to dogs and cats? 

No, they are not listed as dangerous to dogs or cats.

what plants go well with salvia? 

As salvias are quite late flowering, they are good partnered with spring bulbs which will be over by the summer, and their scruffy leaves can be concealed by the emerging salvias. We also find that the small leaved types are excellent planted under roses as they seem to prevent black spot and other fungal diseases. They also come into their prime once the old-fashioned roses are going over, so you get a double benefit.

what to grow with salvias

As salvias are quite late flowering, they are good partnered with spring bulbs which will be over by the summer, and their scruffy leaves can be concealed by the emerging salvias. We also find that the small leaved types are excellent planted under roses as they seem to prevent black spot and other fungal diseases. They also come into their prime once the old-fashioned roses are going over, so you get a double benefit.

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