Sage plants, with their silvery leaves and delicate blooms, make great garden staples. And mealycup sage, or blue salvia, is among the favorite varieties of landscapers. Despite its unappealing common name, Salvia farinacea grows into a beautiful shrub with tall, sturdy spikes of flowers that repeat bloom throughout the summer. This short-lived perennial is native to Mexico and Texas, yet is often grown as an annual in most North American plant hardiness zones. As a perennial, this plant lasts about five years before it dies back and needs to be re-propagated.
Properties of Mealycup Sage
Mealycup sage gets its common name from the powdery meal, or dust, that covers the cup-shaped flowers. As a salvia plant, it comes from a genus of plants known for its "saving" or healing properties, sharing qualities, like its soft, fuzzy flower spikes and fragrant foliage, with other members of the sage family. The leaves of mealycup sage are not fuzzy or thick like many other sage plants. Instead, they are elongated and slightly serrated with a hint of gray to the underside. The flowers originate from multiple stems clustered alongside study spikes. While plant size varies by variety, most grow to about 2 to 3 feet tall by 8 to 12 inches wide.
How to Grow Mealycup Sage
Mealycup sage grows well in USDA plant hardiness zones 7 through 11 as a reliable perennial. In zones 5 and 6, however, it is widely grown as an annual, although the plant is known to survive an occasional mild winter. This showy plant is an everbloomer, repeating its display of ornate flowers mid-summer through early fall.
- Start mealycup sage by seed, cuttings, or divisions in the springtime after all danger of frost has passed. Start seeds and divided plants indoors about six weeks before transplanting outside. In cooler climates, sow garden-center-purchased bedding plants directly into the ground to give you a head start.
- Plant your sage in full sun to partial shade and in soil that is well-drained. Salvia farinacea is not particular about soil pH and is fairly drought tolerant.
- Water baby plants regularly until they set root, and then allow the soil to dry out between waterings. During drought periods, enlist the help of a sprinkler to get the job done.
Caring for Mealycup Sage
Generally speaking, mealycup sage is a low maintenance garden companion. Sunshine (in lieu of pinching or pruning) and only minimal deadheading is required to keep the plants in bloom. In nutrient-rich soil, there is no need to fertilize this variety of sage at all. However, if your soil needs amendments from the get-go, a mid-summer fertilizer will prolong the plants display. Keep your plants watered during dry periods and watch out for pests.
Salvia farinacea can attract aphids, mealybugs, spider mites, and whiteflies, however, pest problems are rare. And fungal disease may occur if the plants are grown in continuously wet soil, so provide them with good air circulation to dry things out in between
Design Suggestions For Mealycup Sage
Because Salvia farinacea blooms so steadily, it makes a wonderful container plant. It's also the perfect solution for keeping a garden in bloom in locations where you've planted surrounding perennials that bloom only once. Mealycup sage is tall enough to make an impact, but the roots will not interfere with nearby plants.
The bluish tones of the "Blue Bedder" and "Victoria Blue" varieties really make a statement and provide great contrast next to the pale yellow of daisy-like plants such as Coreopsis Moonbeam or the buttery yellow groundcover roses. The "Argent White" variety grows 18 inches tall and provides a great choice for those who love a neutral garden palette. And the "Strata" hybrid features two-tone blue flowers with cupped white sepals, making it the perfect choice for entryway pots or a decorative garden backdrop. The plant itself makes great fresh-cut or dried flowers and is deer resistant, too.