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Are Salvias Perennial? Plus 6 Salvia Alternatives

What is the difference between annuals and perennials?

Annuals are flowers that grow, flower, seed, and die off in a single year.

Some plants cannot tolerate frost, so in cooler zones, they will die off. Some plants can survive warmer winters, so an annual in a cold zone may be considered a perennial in a warmer zone.

Perennials are plants that grow, flower, seed, and return year after year.

Many perennials are frost-hardy meaning that they will survive cold weather. While their green, vegetative growth may die off in winter, the roots keep living. Then in spring or summer, the plant will grow and bloom just as it did the year before.

Are all salvias perennial?

The answer is: it depends.

Salvia encompasses a large family of plants from herbal sage to ornamental annuals. The herb sage, or Salvia officinalis, is a perennial in most USDA zones. Salvia splendens, the ornamental red-flowered bloomer, is an annual in almost every USDA zone.

Are any salvias perennial?

Yes, herbal or culinary sage is perennial in most areas of the US. Ornamental salvias are perennial only in warmer growing zones. If you live in a warm climate, most salvias will be perennial. If you live in a very cold climate, no salvias will be perennial (unless you bring them indoors for winter).

What zones are salvias perennial in?

Here is a breakdown of some salvias and what USDA zones they can survive in. Most salvias will survive in zones 8 through 10 and few varieties will survive in cooler zones. This is not an exhaustive list, but most salvias will be similar in zonal requirements.

  • Pineapple sage (Salvia elegens) is a salvia perennial in USDA zones 8 to 10
  • Scarlet sage (Salvia splendens) is a salvia perennial in USDA zones 8 to 10
  • Mealycup sage (Salvia farinacea) is a salvia perennial in USDA zones 8 to 10
  • Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha) is a salvia perennial in USDA zones 8 to 10
  • Anise-scented sage (Salvia guaranitica) 'Black and Blue' is a slavia perennial in USDA zones 8 to 10
  • Rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus) is a salvia perennial in USDA zones 8 to 10
  • Silver sage (Salvia argentea) is a salvia perennial in USDA zones 5 to 8
  • Yellow Japanese Sage (Salvia koyamae) is a salvia perennial in USDA zones 5 to 9
  • Herbal sage (Salvia officinalis) is a salvia perennial in USDA zones 4 to 8

How do I take care of my salvias?

Salvias are easy to take care of and are a low-maintenance plant.

Salvias are somewhat drought and heat tolerant. This means they can grow in full sun and slightly sandy conditions. That being said, they can tolerate a wide range of conditions from moderate clay soil to partial shade.

Here are some key points to consider when growing your salvias:
  • Plant level with the soil, do not cover the stem or leaves with soil
  • Plant in the front or middle of flower beds, in containers, or hanging baskets
  • Plant in groups for a fuller appearance
  • Leave flower heads on in the fall to allow for seeding, this encourages their return the following year (not always will they self-seed, but it’s worth testing)
  • Collect and store seeds for the following year

How do I keep my salvias blooming?

Salvia is a beloved flower. Why? Because they have many repeat blooms, often all summer long! For maximum flowering we recommend dead-heading.

Deadheading is the removal of dead or spent flowers from the plant

Deadheading encourages more blooms. When a flower dwindles, the plant works to create seeds from that flower. A lot of energy is spent on making seeds.

When the dead flowers are removed, the plant can redirect its energy into creating new flowers. This also helps strengthen the root system. It takes a bit of work, but the result of having more, vibrant blooms is well worth it.

Best salvia alternatives that are perennial:

Blazing Star (Liatris spicata)

USDA zones: 3 to 9
Sun requirements: Full sun
Mature height: 2 to 4 feet
Perfect for the back of borders and rain gardens

The blazing star is a unique purple flower with tall, round blooms. It tolerates different soil types and can grow in moderate clay soils. It makes a good salvia alternative because it can be grown in 7 different zones! It blooms in summer and is a total show-stopper. Plus it's pollinator friendly! What’s not to love?

Check out the Blazing Star product page here

Bugleweed plant (Ajuga reptans)

USDA zones: 3 to 10
Sun requirements: Full sun to part shade
Mature height: up to 8 inches
Perfect for bare spots and as a groundcover

If you are looking for a groundcover that's a perennial salvia alternative, bugleweed may be for you. It is a low grower and can fill in those bare spots in flower beds. It is low maintenance and fills in the empty spots easily.

Check out the Bugleweed Plant product page here

Foam Flower (Tiarella cordifolia)

USDA zones: 4 to 9
Sun requirements: Part shade to full shade
Mature height: up to 2 feet tall
Perfect for woodland gardens, under trees, and shaded flower beds

The foam flower is the frothier cousin of salvia. It has pillars of stems from which many tiny, white flowers grow. This shade-loving plant is a spring bloomer and draws in beneficial insects and pollinators.

Check out the Foam Flower product page here

Blue Vervain (Verbena hastata)

USDA zones: 3 to 8
Sun requirements: Full sun
Mature height: 2 to 6 feet
Perfect for rain gardens, rock gardens, clay soils, borders, and woodland or creekside

The blue vervain thrives in moist soil making it an ideal rain garden plant. It has spindles of flowers that bloom at cone-shaped tips. It is a late summer bloomer that will restore much-needed color to fall gardens.

Check out the Blue Vervian product page here

Red Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)

USDA zones: 3 to 9
Sun requirements: Full sun to part shade
Mature height: 2 to 4 feet
Perfect for hummingbird and pollinator gardens, cottage gardens, and rain gardens

The red cardinal flower is a good salvia-like perennial alternative as it resembles a tall Salvia splendens. It is a moisture-loving plant that needs a regular flow of water to thrive. While it is an uncommon plant in gardens but is native to North America. Additionally, this plant is deer and rabbit resistant.

Check out the Red Cardinal Flower product page here

Flowering Perennial Grab Bag

The flowering perennial grab bag is a wonderful choice for gardeners who have a tough time choosing! Why settle on one perennial when you can have 10? This way, you can grow a variety of plants and determine your favorites. This is also a useful option if you have a lot of garden space to cover and don’t want to purchase plants individually.

Some of the plants you may find in the grab bag include (but are not limited to):
  • Yellow Coneflower
  • Vinca Minor
  • Phlox
  • Stella de Oro Daylily
  • Yellow and White Daffodils

For $26.99 you get 10 plants– that’s less than $3 per plant. Because perennials are long-lived, you can enjoy these plants for years or even decades to come! Not too shabby…

Check out the Perennial Grab Bag product page here
Blazing Star

Blazing Star

Blazing Star's visual appeal is unmatched. Its tall, slender spikes are adorned with fluffy, cone-shaped flower heads in beautiful shades of lavender-lilac. It is a stunning and vibrant flowering plant known for its striking appearance and numerous benefits to the environment and garden landscapes. Native to North America, it is popular among gardeners and landscape enthusiasts. Blazing Star has fluffy, cone-shaped flower heads in various colors  These blooms create a captivating focal point in any landscape, adding a burst of color and attracting pollinators such as butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds. The plant's ability to draw in these beneficial insects makes it a valuable addition to any pollinator-friendly garden, contributing to the area's overall biodiversity and ecological balance. Apart from its aesthetic allure, this plant offers several practical benefits to the surrounding environment. As a native plant, Blazing Star is well-adapted to the local climate and requires minimal maintenance once established. Its deep roots help improve soil structure and prevent erosion, making it a valuable asset in preventing soil degradation and conserving water resources. Regarding its ecological role, this plant plays a vital part in supporting the life cycles of various wildlife species. The plant's seeds serve as a food source for small mammals and birds, aiding their survival and contributing to the broader food chain. Moreover, the dense foliage of this plant provides shelter and nesting opportunities for various wildlife, further enhancing biodiversity in the area. Blazing Star is also well-suited to sustainable landscaping practices. Its ability to adapt to different soil types and low water requirements make it an excellent candidate for xeriscaping and water-wise gardens. By incorporating this native plant into landscape designs, individuals can reduce water consumption and promote sustainable land use practices, especially in regions prone to droughts or limited water resources. In conclusion, the blazing star is a remarkable flowering plant with a myriad of benefits for both the environment and garden landscapes. Its captivating beauty, ability to attract pollinators, and support for wildlife make it a valuable addition to any garden or green space. Furthermore, its low-maintenance nature, soil-improving qualities, and suitability for sustainable landscaping solidify its position as an eco-friendly and visually appealing choice for landscape enthusiasts and conservationists alike. Order your blazing star at TN Nursery Blazing Star, scientifically known as Liatris, is a captivating and vibrant perennial plant that graces the North American landscape with its unique and striking appearance. This native wildflower is beloved for its ornamental value and the ecological benefits it provides to its natural habitats. Standing tall and proud, it is characterized by its slender, upright stems that can reach heights of up to four feet or more. These sturdy stems are adorned with a profusion of feathery and densely packed flower spikes, which give the plant its distinct appearance. The individual florets, arranged vertically along the spikes, open from the top down, creating a mesmerizing bloom progression. The flowers are typically shades of purple, pink, or lavender but can also be found in white varieties, adding to the plant's aesthetic diversity. Its bloom typically occurs from late summer to early fall, making it a valuable addition to gardens and landscapes needing late-season color and texture. Its vibrant blossoms attract the attention of humans and serve as a beacon for pollinators, particularly bees and butterflies. These insects are drawn to the nectar-rich flowers, aiding in pollination and contributing to the overall biodiversity of the region. The plant's lance-shaped leaves are arranged in a basal rosette at its base, which contrasts the vertical flower spikes. These leaves are typically green, and while they may not be the main attraction, they contribute to the general graphic charm of the plant. Blazing Star is well-suited to various habitats, including prairies, meadows, and open woodlands. Its adaptability to various dirt types and its ability to thrive in full sun and partial shade make it a versatile choice for landscaping. Additionally, it is drought-tolerant once established, making it a low-maintenance option for those seeking to enhance the aesthetics of their gardens while supporting native wildlife. In summary, the Blazing Star is a captivating native perennial with a strong vertical presence, adorned with stunning spikes of vibrant, nectar-rich flowers. Its ecological significance in attracting pollinators and its adaptability to various habitats make it a valuable addition to North American landscapes, providing late-season beauty and enhancing the biodiversity of its surroundings.  

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