Mealy Cup Sage - Growing the Cool Blues of Salvia farinacea

Mealy Cup Sage (Blue Slavia)
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Sage plants are garden staples, but you may not have heard of mealy cup sage. 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. Despite its unfortunate common name, this Texas native flower grows into a shrubby plant with tall, sturdy spikes of flowers that repeat bloom throughout the summer. They make a 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 lifespan you can expect from it 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 grazing animals such as deer.

  • 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

Sun 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 lifespan of the plant.

Hardiness Zones

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 Plant Size

Plant size varies with the variety you are growing, but most grow from 2 - 3 ft.tall and get about 8 - 12 inches wide.

Bloom Period

Mealy cup sage repeat blooms from mid-summer through fall. Some varieties don't really get blooming until summer is in full swing.

Great Varieties of Mealy Cup Sage to Grow

  • "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. They are 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. Mealy cup sage 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.

Tips for Growing 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 mealy 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 passed. 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.

Caring for Mealy Cup Sage

No pinching or pruning is required to get mealy cup sage plants to branch. Sunshine will do the trick. And only minimal deadheading is required to keep the 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 mealy cup sage at all. If you’re growing it in leaner soil, fertilizer mid-summer, to prolong the bloom.

Pests & Problems of Mealy Cup Sage

Although Salvia farinacea can attract aphids, mealybugs, spider mites, and whiteflies, pest problems are actually rare. With the exception of the mealybugs, you can usually control all of 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.)