Mealy Cup Sage - Growing the Cool Blues of Salvia farinacea

Mealy Cup Sage (Blue Slavia)
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Overview and Description:

In many garden centers, mealy cup sage is known simply as blue salvia. Although Salvia farinacea comes in purples and whites, it’s the blue varieties that attract attention and repeat customers. This Texas native grows into a shrubby plant with tall, sturdy spikes of flowers that bloom throughout the summer. They make great cut and dried flowers too. And they are deer resistant!

Salvia farinacea is a short lived perennial, often grown as an annual. Five years is about the life span you can expect in gardens where it grows as a perennial. It shares many qualities with other members of the sage family, including the soft, fuzzy flower spikes and a slightly fragrant foliage that makes it less popular with animals.

  • Leaves: Elongated and slightly serrated leaves have a hint of gray to them, especially underneath. They are not fuzzy or thick, like many other sage plants.
  • Flowers: Multiple stems of small flowers clustered along study spikes.

Botanical Name:

Salvia farinacea

Common Name:

Mealy Cup Sage

Exposure:

Mealy cup sage will grow well in full sun to partial shade. In hotter climates, afternoon shade will extend the bloom period as well as the life span of the plant.

Hardiness Zone

In USDA Hardiness Zones 7 - 11, mealy cup sage is reliably perennial. It is widely grown as an annual, in cooler climates, although it often survives mild winters in zones 5 and 6.

Mature Size:

Varies with variety, but most grow from 2 - 3 ft.tall and get about 8 - 12 inches wide.

Bloom Period

Early Summer through Fall

Suggested Varieties:

 

  • 'Argent White' - A soft, off-white selection. 18 inches

     

  • 'Blue Bedder' - Similar to 'Victoria Blue', but taller. 3 ft.

     

  • 'Strata' - Two-toned. Blue flowers are cupped with white sepals. 18 inches

     

  • 'Victoria Blue' - The classic deep purple-blue. 18 inches

     

Design Suggestions:

Because Salvia farinacea blooms so steadily, they make wonderful container plants. It is also the perfect solution to keeping the garden in bloom in spots where you know your perennials will be out of bloom for a brief period. It is tall enough to make an impact, but the roots will not interfere with nearby plants.

The bluish purple color really shines next to pale yellows, like Coreopsis 'Moonbeam' or the buttery 'Yellow' Flower Carpet Rose. It’s also a great way to blend oranges into your garden, and for tempering harsh, red tones.

Growing Tips for Mealy Cup Sage:

Soil: Salvia farinacea isn’t really particular about soil pH. It does, however, need a well draining soil. Mealy cup sage is fairly drought tolerant, but will bloom best if watered during dry spells.

Planting: You can start meaaly cup sage by seed, cuttings or divisions. In cooler climates, it is readily available as a bedding plant. Although Salvia farinacea can tolerate a light frost, it’s best to start seeds or plants outdoors, after all danger of frost has past.

You can start seeds indoors, about 6 weeks before transplanting out, but they won't start blooming much earlier than plants started outdoors. Spring is also the best time to divide plants.

No pinching or pruning is required to get the plants to branch. Sunshine will do the trick.

Maintenance:

Minimal deadheading is required to keep Salvia farinacea plants blooming. Just be sure to keep them watered during dry periods and keep watch for pests.

In rich soil, you shouldn’t need to fertilize at all. If you’re growing your mealy cup sage in leaner soil, fertilizer mid-summer, to prolong the bloom.

Pests & Problems:

Pests are rare, although Salvia farinacea can attract aphids, mealybugs, spider mites and whiteflies. With the exception of the mealybugs, you can usually control these pests with a few strong blasts of water.

Fungal diseases may occur, if the plants are grown too close together or in wet soil. Be sure to provide them with good air circulation. (That's true for most plants.)