Monday, January 4, 2016

Annual Salvia: Recent Introductions to watch for this Spring

This summer I had the opportunity to visit the trial gardens at Landscape Ontario for the first time. 

The Landscape Ontario trial beds are located in a windswept open field. A bedding plant grown there is likely to face summer's most extreme conditions. That a plant flourishes in such an unforgiving place is an excellent indication that it will do well in any home garden.

I took lots of pictures and made many notes on just about everything in the trial garden flowerbeds. Today I am going to share my observations on recent Salvia (annuals) introductions.

Salvia Black & Bloom

But before we get to the photographs and notes, I want to briefly touch on what annual Salvias have to offer the home gardener: 

• Annual Salvias have long-lasting flowers and an extended bloom time.
• They come in a range of colors including hard-to-come-by blue. 
• They are useful as bedding plants and some varieties are great in containers.
• Butterflies, hummingbirds and other pollinators love them.

Generally Salvias like sun, but they prefer morning sun with a little afternoon shade in more southern garden zones. They can be planted in average garden soil, but like so many plants, they like really good drainage. Salvias benefit from a regular watering, especially if there is no rain. An application of a balanced granular or water soluble fertilizer at least once a month will encourage good plant growth and lots of flowers.

The first series I want to show you is Summer Jewel.

Salvia 'Summer Jewel Red' is a 2011 AAS Bedding Plant Award Winner. It sprints from sown seed to flower in just 50 days and then blooms continuously from mid-spring into autumn. 

I thought the nice branching and neat, compact shape of this plant was particularly appealing. Full sun and light, well-drained soil. Height: 10-24 inches, Spread: 16-18 inches.

Salvia 'Summer Jewel White' is another in this series. 

Like 'Summer Jewel Red', this plant has a compact shape and blooms earlier than many other Salvias when grown from seed. Full sun and light, well-drained soil. Height: 10-24 inches, Spread: 16-18 inches.

Here is a step-back look at the first two Salvias in the series. This photo was taken at the end of August. 

As you can see, the plants have a pleasing vase-shape and tons of blooms.

One last Salvia in the series. This time the flowers are peachy-pink. 

Salvia 'Summer Jewel Pink' is the latest addition ot the Summer Jewel series. It has the same compact form and same extended bloom time.

Growing Summer Jewel Series from Seed:

You can sow the Salvias in this series from February to April, depending on your gardening zone. Sow them onto the surface of moist seed compost and place them in a warm location until they germinate (68-77F).
When the seedlings are big enough to handle, you can sow them in three inch pots and grow them on in somewhat cooler conditions. Plant the seedlings outdoors after all danger of frost has passed.

My picture is a little blurry, but it shows you what is particularly nice about Salvia "Black & Bloom': dark stems and bright, indigo-colored flowers.

Salvia Black & Bloom can handle heat, drought and humidity with grace. Full Sun. Height: 91-122 cm (36-48 inches), Spread:91-122 cm (36-48 inches).

Salvia 'Playin' the Blues' is a recent introduction from Proven Winners that should be available in garden centres this spring.

It is hardy in frost free zones (USDA Zones 7-10) and an annual in more northerly climates. 'Playin' the Blues' is sterile (it doesn't produce seeds), so it is a good bloomer that does not need deadheading. Full sun. Height: 24-48 inches Spread: 18-30 inches.

Salvia 'Playin' the Blues'

Salvia 'Playin' the Blues seems to waves its heavy flower spikes rather wildly. Either you find that appealing or you think it makes the plant look a bit messy.

On the other hand, the Salvia 'Black & Bloom' looks a bit neater, but the flowers are much more dainty, and are perhaps, a little less showy.

Salvia farinacea Victoria Blue

The plants in a new Cathedral series of Salvias are more compact than the very familiar indigo flowers of Salvia farinacea Victoria Blue.

Of all the Salvias I saw in the trial garden at Landscape Ontario, Salvia 'Cathedral Sky Blue' was the one that really caught my eye.

I particularly liked the contrast of the pale mauve-blue flowers with the plant's grey-green foliage. As you can see from my pictures, the plants in the trail garden were bushy, pest-free and covered with flowers at the end of August.

The Cathedral Series of Salvias are available in 'Deep Blue', 'Sky Blue', 'Lavender' and 'White'. 

The plants in this series are vegetatively propagated (not grown from seed). In gardening zones 8 and warmer they can be grown as perennials, but for the rest of us, they are an annual. 

There will be more notes on new and recent plant introductions in upcoming posts!


  1. You make me want to try annual Salvias this year, maybe I will have to buy some seed, usually I take cuttings from perennial ones in case they don't survive our wet winters.

  2. Thank you so much for this review... I am changing over where I planted vegetables last year to flowers this year, and am going to include Salvias again.

  3. Oh I love them!! Especially that pink one! Thanks for the review.

  4. Annual salvias are a mainstay of my garden, especially 'Victoria Blue.' So easy to grow, and as you say, they bloom right up until a killing frost. I really like the 'Cathedral Sky Blue'--it would make a nice contrast mixed in with the Victorias. And all the variations on 'Black and Blue'--love these plants, too, as do the hummingbirds! I do hope I can find some of these newer introductions this spring; our local garden centers tend to stick with what sells, and it's often hard to find something new.

  5. I rarely grow these annual salvias so thanks for the the sky blue one and will look for a few to plant throughout the garden. Happy New Year!

  6. I always try to add a few salvias each year, they are gorgeous plants, especially the blue

  7. I love, love, love all Salvias. Annual and perennial. I've grown similar to the two Jewel ones you have pictured and they both perform like champions. The Black and Bloom looks a lot like Black and Blue, which I also love, and it's hardy most years here.

  8. I also love salvias and looking at these photos makes me want to go out and plant more!

  9. Salvia 'Cathedral' is very nice, Jennifer. I'd love to grow it in my garden.

  10. Thank you for this very useful post Jennifer. All the ones you are showing are interesting but especially Playin' the Blues, which I plan to try if I see it for sale.

  11. now that I live on the West Coast I can grow salvias and have several different types. The majority of my perennials are there to create a vibrant feeding source for the hummingbirds and the salvias provide that for sure. I had a huge salvia in my garden this year that was new at my favourite garden centre -- I'm going to have to go look it up in my journal because the name escapes me just now. The plant itself was at least 3 feet tall and had the most amazing dark blue blooms that nearly swallowed the hummingbirds! :)

  12. Thanks for this post!!! I'm going to buy the salvia 'Summer Jewel Red' seeds! I'm always looking for plants that will attract hummingbirds and my previous salvia 'Maraschino' is a goner. Yay for this post!

  13. We have had really good luck at work using the Summer Jewel series. This coming season we will be trying 'Forest Fire' from seed, and we are getting plugs of 'Ember's Wish' which appears to be like 'Wendy's Wish', only in the orange range.


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