Planting Salvia

Salvia comes in many different varieties that range from ornamental, edible and shrub plants. Each variety features varying colored beautiful flowers that add an extra pop to any landscape. In addition to the aesthetic appeal, the fragrance of each salvia variety boasts incredible scent properties when brushed against, pinched or cut for floral arrangements. 

If you’ve ever researched salvia in hopes of finding the right varieties for your landscape, you may have been overwhelmed by how many types there are. Did you know that there are over 900 varieties?


What You Need To Plant Salvia

First, determine which variety is best for your landscape. All listed varieties above have the specific care requirements linked for your convenience.

Some varieties may be small with a clumping habit and others may have an upright habit, growing to nearly five feet tall. Once you’ve determined what varietie(s) you wish to plant, choose your location where your salvia will thrive and not be crowded nor crowd other companion plants. Grouping three or more plants creates an aesthetically pleasing feature, especially when planted in isolated areas with very few companion plants. Keep each salvia plant spaced about 1ft-3ft, depending on variety, to allow enough room for future growth.

Salvia plants thrive in full sun, although some light-flowering varieties do well with part sun as well. Full sun is classified as six hours or more per day. Consider the sun requirements before choosing the ideal location for your new salvia.

Most salvia varieties do not require too much water and will do well with regular rainfall to nourish the roots. If you are experiencing an extreme drought, weekly or twice weekly watering will help keep the plant happy and healthy. To determine if your plant is in need of a drink of water, look for dry and cracked soil or wilted leaves. If you receive less than 1” of rainfall per week, it is likely that your salvia is in need of watering.

You’ve found the ideal location for your salvia plants, now it is time to grab a shovel, some compost and a watering can or garden hose! A great rule of thumb is to dig a hole that is twice the size of your salvia’s root ball. By digging a hole at the depth of 12” and twice the size of the root ball, you will now have ample space for the roots of your plant to wander and establish within its environment. Mix compost with your native soil in a 50/50 ratio to create a healthy mix of nutrients for your new salvia. If your native soil is more clay than rich and black soil, this is a great time to mix in potting soil.

Perhaps you wish to keep your salvia contained in a pot or planter. Using the same instructions above, also add in either perlite, pine bark nuggets, or other additives that will aid in drainage. Keep in mind that potted salvia will need occasional feeding due to the lack of naturally occurring nutrients within the ground.

When your salvia is planted comfortably within the ground or pot, water thoroughly. Ensure that you do not submerge your plant for too long as salvia roots do not like to be wet for long periods of time.

Mulching is great to keep weeds at bay and help reduce watering. You may use pine straw, shredded mulch, pine bark nuggets, etc.

Where to Plant Salvia

Almost all salvia love sunlight, so look for south-facing areas that receive 6+ hours of sunlight per day. Some light-flowering varieties can tolerate partial sun (less than 6 hours of sunlight per day), however this may reduce the amount of blooms.

Salvia thrives in moderately acidic to slightly acidic soil with a range of 5.5 - 6.5 pH. It is best to determine the pH of your soil mix and amend as necessary to provide the best foliage and blooms.

Plant your salvia in a hole or pot that provides at least 12” depth to allow the roots ample room to grow and establish.


Salvia Spacing

Depending on what variety you choose, the plant spacing will vary from 1ft-3ft. Consider the spread of each individual variety you wish to plant close to each other or to other companion plants. In general, 1.5”ft will provide enough space for most salvia varieties, however this will differ for larger salvia.

Steps To Plant Salvia

Dig a hole that is twice the size of your selected salvia root ball and 12” deep. Create a 50/50 mix of compost and your native soil to add to your newly dug hole. Water thoroughly once your salvia is planted.

Step 1 - Dig a hole two times the size of your salvia root ball.

Step 2 - Mix compost with your native soil in a 50/50 ratio.

Step 3 - Place your salvia into the hole and keep the top of the root ball at the surface of the ground.

Step 4 - Fill in the hole with your soil mix and pat the soil lightly without compacting the ground.

Step 5 - Water your newly planted salvia to where the soil is moist and not submerged in water.

Step 6 - Mulch the base of your salvia with pine straw, pine bark nuggets or shredded wood mulch.

Step 7 - Water as needed (if rainfall is less than 1” per week during the warm months).

Step 8 - Enjoy your new favorite addition to your landscape! 

When to Plant Salvia

We get it, spring fever makes us want to plant all of our favorites as soon as possible! For best results in establishing your new salvia within your landscape, it is best to wait until the last frost in early spring. If you simply cannot wait that long, keep in mind that you will need to protect your salvia from frosts and freezes by covering with thin blankets/sheets or specific plant coverings. Early fall is ideal to allow the roots enough time to establish before any frosts or freezes occur. Annual salvia needs to be planted in early to mid spring after the danger of frosts and freezes passes.

The day has come and you’re ready to add in your new salvia. Keep in mind that you want your salvia to drink up as much water as it needs. Plant your salvia in the morning or evening to allow enough time for the roots to absorb water so the warmth of the sun does not prematurely dry out the soil.

Transplanting Salvia

Some varieties self-seed while others are sterile and cannot self-seed. Either way, your salvia plant(s) will continue growing new shoots that can be divided. Once your salvia outgrows its current location, you may wish to move the extra shoots to another spot within your landscape or gift them to friends. Simply determine what size plant you want left in the original planting location. Use a trowel or shovel to dig in-between the “mother” plant and the shoots you are removing. Transplant or pot as needed.

Perhaps the root base of your salvia isn’t plentiful and you’d like additional plants. Cuttings may be taken. Do keep in mind that there are many hybrid salvia varieties that are patented and propagation is illegal. For plants that have expired patents or none at all, take 3” cuttings just below a node in spring or early fall.

Prepare a pot or container with compost rich soil and stick your cuttings into the soil. Water thoroughly and place a clear plastic covering over the top of the pot or container to trap in moisture. A warm and humid greenhouse will also provide the needed environment to encourage roots to grow without the extra plastic covering. Place your cuttings in partial sun so as to not scorch them. Keep the soil moist, but not submerged. Within about 3-5 weeks, you will have salvia plants aplenty!


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Author Chris Link - Published 3-07-2022