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Salvia, Scarlet Sage

©2007 Publications International, Ltd. Salvia, or scarlet sage, is a See more pictures of annual flowers.

Salvia, or scarlet sage, is an annual flower best known for its spiky form and bright color that is dependable in any climate and adaptable to full sun or partial shade with equal ease. Salvia comes in brilliant red, creamy white, rose-colored, and purplish variants.

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Description: Depending upon variety, salvia will grow from eight inches to three feet tall. The spikes of flowers are composed of bright bracts with flowers in the center of each. They are either the same color or contrasting.

How to grow: Salvia is a good dual-purpose plant that will perform dutifully in full sun or partial shade. It needs average soil and continuous moisture to perform its best. Transplant seedlings to the garden after danger of frost has passed. Depending on variety, space from 8 to 12 inches apart.

Propagation: Although seeds can be sown directly in the garden when the soil is warm, sowing indoors in advance will bring earlier flowering. Sow the seeds six to eight weeks before the final frost. Seeds germinate in 12 to 15 days at 70 degrees to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

Uses: Salvia provides some of the purest scarlet and red flowers in the garden world, and their vertical growth makes them superb accents in the garden. Plant them as spots of color against other colors. They're a classic combination with blue and white for patriotic plantings. Their ability to bloom well in light shade makes them especially useful with pastel colors that tend to fade in the sun. They also make good container plants.

Related species: Salvia farinacea is a perennial in milder climates that is now widely used as an annual throughout the country. Its common name is mealycup sage for the grayish bloom on its stems and foliage. It grows 18 to 24 inches tall and produces either blue or white flowers. Victoria is the most popular blue; its counterpart is Victoria White. Salvia patens, gentian sage, is named for its rich indigo-blue flowers that have a long blooming season.

Related varieties: Vista grows to 12 inches and has purple shades in addition to red. Flare is taller and blooms somewhat later. The tallest reds, America and Bonfire, will grow to two feet in the garden.

Scientific name: Salvia splendens

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