US National Arboretum

 
 

A Rainbow of Color for Your Autumn Garden

Salvia leucantha Midnight image


Autumn in the National Herb Garden is one of the most colorful sights at the U.S. National Arboretum. A key player in that display is the Salvia collection. This group of plants, otherwise known as sages, offers gardeners a tremendous variety of plant form, color, and texture for their planting designs.

A quick stroll down the Salvia border in the National Herb Garden will introduce you to over 60 different types of sage, some with large leaves, others with small feathery leaves; some have red flowers, others have purple and chartreuse. Additionally, sages range in size from less than 1 foot, which is perfect for the front of a garden bed or a container planting, to over 6 feet tall—ideal for making a real botanical statement! If you enjoy watching animals of flight in your garden, Salvias are also a favorite nectar food for hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies.

When choosing a sage for your garden, keep in mind that some types are more popular than others and thus, their availability may be scattered. Good local plant nurseries will carry a selection of the most popular varieties, but don’t limit yourself to just these types. Search out the more unique or uncommon varieties through reputable mail-order/internet nurseries and catalogs. While most of the commonly grown sages are considered perennial in warm climates, many are treated as “annuals” where winters are too cold for overwintering. If you are up for the challenge and have the appropriate facilities, taking cuttings of your plants may save you some money and ensure you have a favorite variety ready for the following year. Alternatively, if sages are hardy in your area, they may need little more than aesthetic pruning to keep them looking beautiful for the next growing season.

Below is a list of favorite sages at the National Herb Garden
(click image thumbnail for a larger version; which opens in a new window):

Name

Flower Color

Height
(approx.)

Hardiness
Zone*

Image

  Salvia discolor

Purple-Black

1 ½ - 2 feet

9

Salvia discolor image

  Salvia leucantha ‘Midnight’

Purple

4 – 5 feet

8

Salvia leucantha Midnight image

  Salvia sinaloensis

Blue

5 – 8 inches

7

Salvia sinaloensis image

  Salvia officinalis ‘Berggarten’

Not grown for flowers; foliage is ornamental feature

12 – 15 inches

5

Salvia officinalis Berggarten image

  Salvia officinalis
  ‘Variegated Berggarten’

Not grown for flowers; foliage is ornamental feature

12 – 15 inches

5

Salvia officinalis Variegated Berggarten image

  Salvia microphylla
  ‘Dennis Pink’

Pink

1 ½ - 3 feet

6

Salvia microphylla Dennis Pink image

  Salvia involucrata

Pink

4 – 5 feet

8

Salvia_involucrata image

  Salvia mexicana ‘Limelight’

Purple & Chartreuse

5 – 7 feet

9

Salvia mexicana Limelight image

  Salvia ‘Cherry Chief’

Red

1 – 2 feet

6

Salvia Cherry Chief image

  Salvia sclarea

White, Pink & Purple

3 – 4 feet

4

Salvia sclarea image

  Salvia confertiflora

Red-Orange

4 – 5 feet

9

Salvia confertiflora image

  Salvia guaranitica

Purple

5 – 7 feet

7 – 8

Salvia guarantica image

  Salvia uliginosa

Blue & White

5 feet

6

Salvia uliginosa image

  Salvia azurea
  var. grandiflora

Light Blue

3 – 3 ½ feet

4

Salvia azurea var grandiflora image

  Salvia miniata

Red

2 feet

9

Salvia miniata image

  Salvia chamaedryoides

Blue

1 foot

7

Salvia chamaedryoides image
* Hardiness zones are approximate. With winter protection, some species or cultivars may be hardier in colder climates than what is listed.

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Last Updated  October 7, 2009 1:23 PM
URL = http://www.usna.usda.gov/Gardens/faqs/SalviaAutumnColor.html

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