Are Salvias hardy?

You might be wondering are salvias hardy? Hopefully this post will answer all your questions.

Salvias are a fashionable plant as they seem to have been popping up in recent years in your local garden centre, on markets and even in your local supermarkets.They are showy and very colourful, come in reds, pinks and purples and as a salvia collector and salvia lover I’ve noticed that in this very large group of plants many varieties are either towards the red and others are totally on the other scale; towards the blue of the spectrum, and then obviously all those colours in between as well as the whites, greys and pastel-shades in between!

They are very seductife as the colours are shouting out; buy me!

But then you say; are they hardy? It is too good to be true if these gorgeous and bright coloured plants are also going to be hardy? Supermarkets are not to be trusted though, as you say and rightly so, as they are just trying to get you to buy their goods. If they are home grown in the U.K. surely they should be hardy? There are some good signs to look out for when buying a Salvia plant and you can see more or less instantly whether it is hardy.

Salvia ‘Amistad’ has been around for several years now and proven to be hardy in well drained soil and survives through most U.K. winters. To keep it flowering longer protection is recommended!
Without doubt, this is an amazingly beautiful Salvia, one of the best of all time. (Thanks to Robin ‘s website)

  • Has the plant got large or small individual flowers?
  • Don’t get confused with what is actually the flower as many of the salvias have got large attractive ‘bracts’, which are part of the flower but not actually THE flower if you know what I mean.
  • has the plant got large or small leaves?
  • large leaves are often found on ‘ perennial’ (= ‘comes back every year’)plants. But they can also be found on plants from warm climates as there is no danger for this plant to lose them due to harsh weather conditions such as frost or droughts!

So now if you got the answers on those questions and you’ve studied the Salvia plant in the shop, I can give you some answers.

The best salvias which are going to be hardy are more often the individual small flowered varieties. Don’t be put off now as those small flowers can make up in quality flower power to the sheer quantity they can produce, both on individual flowering stems as well as on the plant and also in the length of period they can actually stay in flower. A Salvia plant could be in flower from early May (or from whenever you buy it in the shop as they were actually already advanced into early flower because of good growing conditions in the nursery) until finally the frost will stop them from flowering.

So what I am saying now is that if you could delay this frost somehow from stopping your salvia to flower, you could easily have your plant producing flowers for much longer!

That is easier said than done you may say, how can you change the weather?

Not so easy when you are planting the salvias in your garden although avoiding frost pockets and protecting them with a bit of fleece on those sudden early frosty night, such has happened in September 2018 with us, may just prolong there flowering for one or two or even three more months!

But it becomes a lot easier when you grow these salvias in containers. You could just place the container on a lovely, sunny spot throughout the summer months and water + feed it occasionally. Then if you listen to the weather forecast and they warn about a sudden dip in the temperatures to a possible frost, just put your clogs on and crab your salvia in the container and place it in the most sheltered part near your house. Better still if you have a greenhouse, conservatory or outhouse, by all means place it in there but for just the odd frosty night, near the house will do.

If you haven’t got the time or incentive to do this and you just want to plant your salvia and forget about it don’t worry as I will introduce you to some of them which are very easy to look after and will provide you with colour for at least half of the year!

These are grouped into what we can call the Shrubby Salvias. They are like small shrubs with lots of twiggy brown stems during the winter months but come spring and the green buds will appear slowly and progressively with the weather warming up. Then when the weather becomes even warmer and sunnier the first flower buds will appear and then during the summer months there is just no stopping them as them seem and are going on and on producing new flowers. You may also discover lots of insects and mainly bees around your plants as these flowers are just loved by our bees. So if you can make them flower longer you will ultimately also make your bee population very happy.

So these Shrubby Salvias are not only very floriferous they are also hardy with most of U.K. winters. I say most as there is the occasional freak winter which can just be too much for lots of plants. The thing is to make the plants happy in the first place and give them lots of sun and don’t place them in heavy clay soil as this doesn’t suit this mainly Mexican little mountain shrub.

In their natural habitats, salvia plants do not get pruned by secateurs or hedging shears but hey may be ‘pruned’ by the wind. Best therefore to leave the pruning until we are absolutely sure there is no frost coming and if in doubt at all just let the plant get on with it without the pruning.

So that will make the plant nut just floriferous but also very low maintenance. They are happy and you can just sit and enjoy.

By not pruning them back until say April, if you want to then with shears to a third or half way the last year’s growth, these salvias are very hardy as the old growth protects the tender buds lower and inside the bush.

So lets have a look closer to those shrubby salvias, which are they?

Well, as I said before, they originate mainly from Mexico but since they have been discovered and in the recent decennia by plant breeders especially in the warmer and sunnier Mediterranean climates; there has been an explosion of cultivars on the market, ranging from red to blue and the odd white + yellows and all colour tones in between. The bi-coloured flowers became very popular since the discovery of the Salvia called ‘Hot Lips’ which is a fun-loving and cunningly colour changing salvia in red and white. This was a natural occurring plant, found by a Mexican lady. When you buy it as it should be it is mainly white but the outer section of the lower petal is bright red, forming something just like red lips!

It has an unfortunate habit of disappearing from time to time by becoming totally white or totally red! But isn’t this part of the fun as well to not just have it doing its thing always?

Some purest also think that the red and white is just too common so the much more subtle bi-coloured salvias have now become popular too such as ‘Icing Sugar’ which is two tones of pink whilst ‘Amethyst Lips’ has violet/purple ‘lips’! There are also the older varieties of course which even have a much more delicate and beautiful colour change throughout their flowering.

Examples are ‘Senorita Leah’ and ‘Sierra San Antonio’.

Salvia ‘Senorita Leah’ is a beautiful multi-toned flower & hardy in most U.K winters! Picture by Matt Summers.

So, what do you do once you have got your Salvia. It is most likely going to be quite hungry and thirsty as it has been forced into early growth and flower to look good in the shop for you to buy.

It needs a larger pot and more compost and you should now re-pot into a larger pot and get the best quality multi-purpose John Innis compost or, preferably, peat free compost with some good fine garden soil to get your plant accustomed to your patch.

Then, when all danger of frost has gone (usually round mid-May), you may then decide to either give it a larger pot or plant it into a container mixed with other types of plants to last for the entire season. You can also put it into the ground to make a useful long-lasting hardy shrub for years to come.

As a Salvia grower I would be happy to show you around my collection in my nursery but for now, why not have a look at the variety I offer right here on my website.

Are salvias hardy? Mine are. My Salvias are all home grown, lovingly nurtured and ready to display their wonderful personalities to keep you entertained throughout the year.

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