Are Salvia Plants Considered Annual, Biennial, or Perennial?
Are you thinking of planting some salvia in your garden, but aren't quite sure if they will return each season or not? Depending on your hardiness zone, the answer to this question can vary. Keep reading to find out if Salvia is considered annual, biennial, or perennial plant!
Salvia is a popular plant for both flower and culinary gardens. They flower for longer than some plants and grow well when the conditions are hot and dry. Salvia can offer both scent and beauty to your garden. They are native to almost every continent. But depending on your climate, and the type of salvia you grow, their life cycle can fluctuate.
If you’ve decided to grow salvia in your garden, but aren’t sure if they will return each year, you’ve landed in the right place. The variety you choose and where you plant them will have an impact on their life cycle, so it’s important to choose varieties that are suited for your growing climate and plant needs.
So, is salvia considered an annual, biennial, or perennial plant? Let’s dig a little deeper into the nuances if this amazing plant!
The Short Answer
So, are salvia annuals or perennials? The short answer to this is “yes.” Salvia can be grown both as annual or perennial in most varieties. They are not grown as biennials. With more than 900 varieties, all gardeners are sure to find at least one that suits their hardiness zone and garden space.
The Long Answer
Whether salvia is an annual largely depends on the zone in which it is grown. Because salvias prefer hot and dry areas, it is usually an annual in the areas that freeze over the winter. Varieties that grow in the southern zones – 7-10 – are considered perennials.
Even though they are often grown as annuals in zones 3-6, it is possible for plants in zones 4-6 to come back the following year but as a new plant from the reseeding salvias in the fall. Though it often regrows, it is a different plant, not the same root.
Salvia is related to mint. It is used as ground cover, for butterflies and blooms in a flower garden, or seasoning in a culinary garden – sage and rosemary are part of the salvia family.
The long flowering times – from late spring until fall – provide a variety of colors that last quite some time in the yard or garden. The range of heights allows for layers to be planted in graduated rows in a garden to enhance the color distribution.
Salvias grow well in hardiness zones 3-10. Many of the woodier versions prefer zones 8-10 but may tolerate zone 7. They are generally perennial in zones 7-10 and mostly annual in zones 3-6.
The deciduous herbaceous salvias – those that hibernate over the winter, the tops of the plants dying until spring – are mostly happier in zones 7-8 but some tolerate up to 4 or down to 10. The evergreen rosette varieties grow best in zones 4-8.
Salvia thrives in hot, dry locations but not if its roots stay wet. Ensure that the soil is well-drained to prevent potential problems that arise when it has wet feet.
Salvia loves full sun, though some can tolerate shade. Planting on the edges of the yard or a well-lit garden area will help them thrive.
The plants can grow in nearly any quality of soil, and they love summer. Whether your soil is rich, sandy, or clay, salvia will grow. For best results, clay soil should be adjusted to have better drainage.
Planting a tall variety of salvia around the perimeter of your culinary garden may help to keep wild animals from eating your vegetables.
Salvia plants need attention when young, but once they are established, they do well on their own. You only need to water about once a week after the seedling stage is complete.
Salvia seeds can be planted indoors up to eight weeks ahead to prepare for the growing season. You can also sow directly into the soil after the last frost. Most seeds should be on top of the soil and not covered. Follow the instructions on the seed packet for the best results.
Growing as Annuals
Most of the types of salvia that are grown as annuals are usually perennials in warmer areas. They are planted annually in regions that get cold for most of the winter because they are more tender.
Pros of Growing as Annuals
- Annuals usually bloom quickly.
- The flowering season is longer.
- Easily swapped for other plants.
- They drop seeds, requiring cleanup.
- They often cost less than perennials.
Cons of Growing as Annuals
- Higher maintenance.
- Require regular deadheading.
- Most annuals are smaller plants.
- Greater time investment.
- Need fertilized regularly.
Depending on your climate, the following varieties of Salvia are usually planted as annual plants in your garden. This means you’ll be planting them one time, and getting rid of them after the growing season is over.
Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans)
Pineapple Sage is a subshrub with leaves that have a fragrance similar to pineapple when rubbed. Its bright red flowers are edible. It can tolerate afternoon shade. It is annual in zones 4-7.
Gentian Sage (Salvia patens)
Gentian Sage has large blue flowers on plants that grow up to 18 inches tall. It grows well in both containers and the ground. It is annual in zones 4-7.
Bedding Sage (Salvia splendens)
Bedding Sage is a common ornamental variety. The flowers are usually bright crimson but can also be lavender, orange, purple, salmon, and white. It can get to 30 inches tall (but most varieties are usually 12-24 inches) and can tolerate partial shade. It is annual in zones 5-9.
Growing as Perennials
Because perennial salvias grow more each year, they often expand and spread. You can divide them in the early spring. They are great for accent and combine with many other flower types. They are easy to grow and reliable.
Perennial salvias do best in soil with good drainage but work well with most other soil characteristics.
Pros of Growing as Perennials
- Perennial plants need less fertilizer.
- Most perennials are hardier.
- Many varieties are tolerant of shade.
- Less water once established.
- Perennials require less maintenance.
- Less soil erosion.
- They are terrific for pollinators.
Cons of Growing as Perennials
- May not bloom as long.
- They start flowering later.
- They take up more space.
- The initial investment is higher.
- Established plant removal takes time.
The following varieties are typically grown as perennials depending on your hardiness zone. These varieties, once secure, are great for pollinators and will return every season once the temperatures allow.
Hot Lips Sage (Salvia microphylla)
Hot Lips Sage is an evergreen variety. It has bicolor flowers of red and white. Flowers bloom more in spring and fall than in the summer. It is hardy in zones 8-11.
Black and Blue Sage (Salvia guaranitica)
Black and Blue Sage grow deep blue flowers on stems up to eight feet tall. Blooms appear in late summer and through fall. It is hardy in zones 7-10.
Culinary Sage (Salvia officinalis)
Culinary Sage is used often in cooking and medicine. Used in the culinary world (hence the name), it has a delightful flavor. Beautiful light blue flowers (though some varieties are pink, purple, or white) bloom on their stems. It grows up to three feet tall and is drought tolerant. It is hardy in zones 4-10.
Giant Purple Sage (Salvia pachyphylla)
Giant Purple Sage is a tough species that flowers with deep purple blooms all summer. It grows up to four feet tall. It is hardy in zones 5-9.
Salvia plants are excellent additions to any garden and are useful for decoration. Their natural repellent of deer and rabbits can be useful for protecting the entire garden. Their long flowering season will keep the yard and garden looking great all summer. No matter how you choose to grow it, it can make a wonderful addition to your garden all season long.