Documents: Regional Gardens (Canada) - West Coast:

Gardening From Southern California

...Annual Salvia
by Gerald Burke
by Gerald Burke


Gerald Burke is a freelance travel and horticultural writer. He spent 35 years in the seed business, 30 of them with Burpee, and is a member of the Garden Writers Association and the North American Travel Journalists Association

May 22, 2005

It used to be that if you planted annual salvia all you had was a red bloom and if you planted perennial salvia, blue was the only color. While perennial salvia hasn’t added too many new colors, annual salvia certainly has. Now there are annual salvias in purple, pink, blue, violet, white, burgundy, scarlet, red and crimson. Enough colors to suit any taste, I would think.

I still prefer the bright red, but I’ve often seen some ivory or white and some purples that look pretty good. In addition to all the colors, annual salvia has become much more suited to the modern garden, where low, dwarf plants are often preferred, and is much easier to grow than in years gone by. Older annual salvias were tall, often two feet or more, the bloom spikes were a little skimpy, and germination was usually less than adequate.

Among my favorites are Hotline Red, listed in Park Seed Company’s catalog, Flare listed in the Burpee catalog, and one called Orange Zest listed in Thompson and Morgan’s catalog. Maybe it’s not really orange, but it comes close and is attractive. And Park also lists a new one this year, which I haven’t tried, called Whopper Lighthouse, a big plant like the old varieties, some 30 inches tall at maturity, that has very big spikes and blooms in a good scarlet and the plant is branching, which means more bloom spikes.

But if red isn’t your color, try some of the other colors in the Hotline series such as blue, burgundy, violet or white, really a more ivory color than white. Or, if you want to buy started bedding plants, let your eye guide you as to color, including some of the bicolors, since most will be in bloom in the nursery or garden center this month and through the summer, ready to go into the garden.

Started from seed this month and next, annual salvia will germinate quickly and will grow rapidly as the weather warms and will start sending up bloom spikes in six to eight weeks. Salvia is a hardy grower and will continue to show good color throughout the summer and well into fall. As the days shorten, in warmest areas, you may be able to trim the plants back and get another flush of blooms. Aphids are sometimes a problem with salvia, and snails like to chew on tender, new plants. Plant annual salvia in full sun everywhere, don’t fertilize, and water as needed.

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