Collected in the mountains of Szechuan, China, and cataloged by the University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley, this is a spectacular bicolor perennial that grows well in USDA Zones 5 to 9. A halo of velvety hairs surrounds the 1-inch-long flowers, which have a purple upper lip and a yellow lower lip spotted and striped with purple. At our Northern California farm, they bloom for us all summer.
The large, arrow-shaped leaves are also furry. They form a tough yet attractive basal clump. Branched stems rise from the leaves to heights up to four feet tall. Late in the season, the dark bracts add a dramatic touch to borders and pathway edges.
Although it does fine with average watering, this is a moisture-loving sage that does well in damp locations, including woodland gardens. We have grown it in full sun, full shade and partial shade. The latter setting has provided greatest success.
This species may be a hybrid, because it has never set viable seed for us.
Highly recommended and very limited!
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Posted: Monday, October 1, 2012
Sometimes it’s wise not to get too tidy in the garden. When preparing Salvias for Winter dormancy, moderation is the rule. Regional climate affects how much trimming and mulching are necessary in late autumn.
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Posted: Wednesday, March 4, 2015
To bloom yearly, Salvia perennials and shrubs in USDA Hardiness Zone 6 need to tolerate chilly winters with average low temperatures of -10 degrees F. The success of Zone 6 sages also depends on local growing conditions. Learn more at Flowers by the Sea, an online, mail-order Salvia nursery.
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Posted: Thursday, May 23, 2013
Purples are cool yet quietly passionate. This includes African Violet 16-3520, a spring 2013 designer color created by the Pantone Corporation. Shades in the blue and purple color range are tranquil and soothing yet commanding, because they calm the garden. Here are a number of choices from our catalog that fashionably match Pantone's African Violet.
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Posted: Tuesday, August 28, 2012
Creating a flower garden in partial shade is not as challenging as planting in full shade, yet it requires selecting the right plants. Herbaceous Chinese Salvias can form a harmoniously composed partial-shade garden that soothe the eye with calming pastels.
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Posted: Tuesday, September 10, 2013
If you want to orchestrate a peaceful symphony in a flowerbed, planting a profusion of pastels is one way to do it. Pastels are lighter hues of bright primary and secondary colors. Although gardeners often visualize bright colors when thinking of Salvias, there are a number of pastels in the genus such as among the Jame Sage Hybrids (Salvia x jamensis spp.), including many in the new Flowers by the Sea Elk Rainbow Series.
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Learn more about how we analyze plant colors
We based our analysis of this plant’s floral and foliar color on the internationally standardized color system published by the U.K.’s Royal Horticultural Society. Called the RHS Large Colour Charts, this publication is a boxed set of color swatches arranged in fans and containing all the colors that RHS has identified in horticulture. RHS gives each color a common name and code number.
Each swatch has a small hole punched into it. We place the swatch over a flower petal and compare the blossom’s color to that of the card. When using RHS colors to compare plants that you want to combine in a flowerbed, in bouquets or in some other manner, RHS says to view them indoors in north light. If you are matching our digital swatches to flowers already in your garden, pluck two or three fully open blossoms of each plant that requires analysis.
You may find that the plant you receive from FBTS varies somewhat in color from what appears in our color analysis or our photograph due to a number of factors, including:
- Variations in photographic colors based on lighting level at different times of day
- Differences in the resolution of digital screens
- Seasonal changes in plant color due to changes in temperature and plant cycle and
- pH or soil chemistry that varies from one locale to another and causes color shifts.
Finally, RHS notes that you shouldn’t attempt color matching when your eyes are fatigued.
Here are some guidelines for success with this plant in your garden.
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This plant grows well in partial shade, such as the kind on the edge of woodlands or under deciduous trees with breaks in the foliage through which dappled sunlight penetrates. Many Salvias thrive in partial shade, including ones that spend part of their day in full sunlight. Some species need partial shade to overcome severe heat and dry soil.
This plant grows well in an outdoor container, such as on a patio.
Some containerized Salvias leaf out and flower year after year following a period of dormancy. Annuals in containers may die back and appear to grow again when they reseed.
During extreme heat, check the soil in container plantings once or twice daily to be sure it doesn't completely dry out. Feel its surface for coolness, then gently poke a finger into the soil to check for dryness.
Plant hardiness Zones defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture tell you the minimum temperatures a plant can withstand in your garden. The USDA divides the nation into winter climate areas from coldest (Zone 1) to warmest (Zone 11).
However, it is sometimes possible to grow a Zone 6 Salvia as a perennial in Zone 5 if you provide preferential care, such as winter mulching and a location sheltered from harsh winds. In contrast, a Zone 9 Salvia may act like a perennial in Zone 10 if given a bit of shade or extra water.
To create a harmonious landscape plan, it is important to consider the heights of individual plants.
Height also affects function. Short Salvias often make excellent ground covers that conserve soil moisture and discourage weeds while also brightening your yard. Medium-height Salvias, such as ones 36 inches tall, often are ideal border plants. A tall Salvia planted singly can highlight a landscape; multiple plantings can form an attractive screen.
By considering the width of a plant, you can determine how many to place in a row or what other plants to grow with it.
For example, a narrow, moderate-height Salvia may look good interplanted with bushier species, kind of like Mutt and Jeff.
In contrast, wide-spreading Salvias are economical for hiding lengths of wall and fence or for creating hedge-like divisions in a yard.
Plant this herbaceous species in the USDA Zones where it grows as a perennial, returning year after year.
After dying back to the ground at frost, herbaceous perennials emerge in the Spring with soft, new growth. A Salvia that is perennial in one region, may be an annual in another depending on local conditions, such as winter temperatures.
If you live in USDA Zone 5, for example, Salvias in our catalog cited as growing well in Zone 5 or lower will be perennial. Those cited as doing well in Zones 6 or higher may do well in Zone 5, but generally will act like annuals coming back from seed instead of the parent plant’s roots.
This plant needs regular watering based on what is appropriate to your local conditions.
In some extremely hot, arid climates, this may mean daily watering in Summer. Although many drought-resistant Salvias survive on little to no watering due to local rainfall and deep roots meeting their moisture needs, others need regular doses. The size and frequency of the dose depends on your climate.
This plant thrives on or at least tolerates lots of water, especially when soil is well drained. They are generally not suitable for poorly drained soils.
A number of Salvias hold up well in areas where rainfall is a regular occurrence. Some even tolerate boggy conditions but only for a brief time. These are usually top-notch plants for regions of the country, such as the Southeast, where summers are soggy.
Unless local forage is in short supply, most deer likely will avoid this plant.
It appears that deer dislike Salvias, in general, due to their volatile oils that make the plants so fragrant and savory in cooking. However, the only completely deer-proof plants are the ones grown beyond reach.