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Add color to your landscape

With 900 varieties, salvia provides boost to yard

I am usually known to be more of a “vegetable guy.” But that doesn’t really mean that I just sit around taking up space, it means that most of my garden space is planted in vegetables.

However, I recently put a plant in my landscape that I find to be truly amazing. That plant is called salvia and is a genus in the Lamiaceae (mint) family. It also is called sage.

The name salvia is derived from the Latin term “salvo” meaning “I save” and refers to the many claimed medicinal properties of the plants.

There are about 900 species in the genus Salvia and many are grown as various colorful garden ornamentals in the United States. My wife found some Victoria Blue Salvia (Salvia farinacea), a blueish-purple shrub, at a local garden center. It was love at first sight. She wanted a pop of color and I wanted something drought-resistant and easy to maintain.

This year, we planted a sage or salvia called Black and Blue (Salvia guaranitica) that has green leaves and both black and blue flowers on an upright stalk.

The typical salvia shrubs are usually 2 to 3 feet tall and should be planted about 3 feet apart in a sunny to a partly shady area that has well-drained soil. Plants need air circulation between them to reduce diseases. The plants bloom when it gets hot in the summer and flowers into Autumn. The plants are hardy and considered a perennial in our area if properly pruned and mulched.

Salvia also is commonly known as hummingbird sage because hummingbirds love to visit the flowers. We have seen many birds, bees and butterflies come to our home to feed.

Plant a patch of salvia plants if you wish to have many pollinators come to visit. The salvia flowers are followed by tiny brown seeds which small birds like goldfinches feed on.

The salvia branches can also be used as great cut flowers to enjoy indoors. Although the salvia plants like hot dry weather, some watering is required to get a nice flower display.

The color and size of sage or salvia flowers can vary. There are a variety of shades of blue, purple and black. I am looking forward to ordering some of the different-colored salvia plants.

I’d like Scarlet Sage (Salvia coccinea — which means “scarlet dyed”), sometimes called Texas Sage or “Lady in Red,” for a red pop of color in my landscape. Another interesting color variety can be found in Lyrical Rose Salvia, known for both its pink and crimson flowers on the same stem. I also would like to order a white flowering variety like Salvia White Profusion or Salvia Bumblesnow.

One of the best things I love about salvia is that it is resistant to damage by deer and varmints.

So here is my sage advice — try planting some salvia! For a little expense, you can have a colorful landscape of salvia plants that really only requires a little water and maintenance. Some pruning and deadheading of salvia flower stems will yield a rainbow of colors in your sunny landscape.

For more information, visit http://go.osu.edu/salvia.

Eister is an Ohio State University Mahoning County Extension Master Gardener Volunteer.

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