How to Grow Mealycup Sage

Mealy cup sage with light purple flowers on thin stems

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Mealycup sage gets its common name from the powdery meal, or dust, that covers the cup-shaped flowers. It is one species among many garden plans in the Salvia genus, a group known for its "saving" or healing properties. Like other salvias, it has the familiar fragrant, lance-shaped leaves and spikes of colorful lobed flowers. But the leaves of mealycup sage are not fuzzy or thick like many other sage plants. Instead, they are shiny, 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. The flowers are generally blue or violet, though there are cultivars offering white or bicolored flowers. This short-lived perennial is native to Mexico and Texas and can be grown as a perennial in warmer climates. In cooler hardiness zones, however, it is grown as an annual.

Sage plants, with their silvery leaves and delicate blooms, make great garden staples. And mealycup sage is among the favorite varieties of landscapers. Despite its unappealing common name, Salvia farinacea grows into a beautiful shrubby plant with tall, sturdy spikes of flowers that repeat bloom throughout the summer.

Mealycup sage is normally planted in spring from seeds or plants purchased from online sources (it is somewhat rare to find it in garden centers). From seeds, this fast-growing perennial will flower within about four months. As a perennial, it lasts about five years before it dies back and needs to be re-propagated.

Botanical Name   Salvia farinacea
Common Name   Mealycup sage, blue salvia
Plant Type  Herbaceous perennial, often grown as an annual
Mature Size  1–3 feet tall, 1 to 2 feet wide
Sun Exposure  Full sun to part shade
Soil Type  Tolerates any soil
Soil pH  6.0 to 7.0, but tolerates nearly any soil pH
Bloom Time  Spring to frost
Flower Color  Violet blue
Hardiness Zones  7–10 (USDA), grown as an annual elsewhere
Native Area  Texas, Mexico
Toxicity  Non-toxic

Mealycup Sage Care

Start mealycup sage by seed, cuttings, or divisions in the springtime after all danger of frost has passed. These plants aren't found at every garden center, so you may need to order seeds or live plants from online retailers. In cooler climates, planting container-grown plants will give you a head start, as seeds may take up to four months to achieve flowering maturity.

These plants are largely trouble-free. Ideally, they should have regular water, but they will survive drought quite well. In warmer climates where they are grown as perennials, it is standard practice to shear them off at ground level for winter; they will return with new growth in the spring. In colder climates where growing them as annuals, pull the plants from the ground after frost kills them, roots and all, and discard them.

Mealy cup sage with purple flowers and leaves next to park pathway and bench

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Mealy cup sage with light blue flowers in leaves and other red flowers

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Mealy cup sage with purple flowers on thin stems closeup

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Light

Mealycup sage will do well in full sun to part shade. Shadier conditions may make the plant somewhat leggy, but staking is rarely necessary.

Soil

This plant does well in almost any soil and has a good tolerance for dry, poor soils where other plants struggle. The preferred pH is 6.0 to 7.0 (the pH level of most average garden soils), but this plant has a wide tolerance for both acidic and alkaline soils.

Water

Water seedlings regularly until they establish good roots, then you can allow the soil to dry out fully between waterings. During drought periods, enlist the help of a sprinkler to get the job done.

Temperature and Humidity

These plants are reliably perennial in zones 8 to 10, and borderline hardy in zone 7. In colder zones, you will need to grow it as an annual plant. Though it likes warm weather, it does not do well in intense heat in excess of 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Mealycup sage does equally well in humid or arid climates, however very humid, wet weather can foster non-lethal fungal spots. In humid climates, it's best to give the plants plenty of space for good air circulation.

Fertilizer

In nutrient-rich soil, there is no need to fertilize this variety of sage at all. However, if your soil is such that you find that most of your plants requiring soil amendment, mealycup sage will benefit from a mid-summer fertilizer to prolong the plant's display.

Mealycup Sage Varieties

There are quite a number of mealycup sage cultivars, which are usually aimed at fine-tuning the flower colors or fostering different plant sizes. Some popular ones include:

  • 'Henry Duelberg': This is a large, 36-inch tall variety with pure blue flowers. It can grow up to 4 feet across.
  • 'Victoria Blue': This is the most common cultivar sold in North America, growing 18 to 24 inches tall with intense blue-violet flowers and contrasting dark stems.
  • 'Evolution': This cultivar is more compact, at 16 inches tall, with dark purple flowers.
  • 'Blue Bedder': This plant is a dwarf form that grows only 12 inches tall. The flowers are deep purple.
  • 'Victoria White': This is one of the few mealycup sages with white flowers. It grows 15 to 24 inches tall.
  • 'Strata': This cultivar has two-tone flowers—clear blue with white calyxes. It grows about 18 inches tall.

There are also hybrid forms available, generally the result of crossing S. farinacea and S. longispcata. Named cultivars include 'Mystic Spires Blue' and 'Indigo Spires'.

How to Grow Mealycup Sage From Seed

If planting mealycup sage from seeds, start them indoors eight to 10 weeks before the last frost date. Simply press the seeds into the surface of a seed-starting mix and keep moist until germination, which occurs in 10 to 30 days. The seeds require light in order to germinate. Once sprouted, keep the seedlings growing in a bright location and well-watered until planting time—when outdoor soil temperatures have reached at least 65 degrees.

Seeds can also be direct-sown into the garden, but it will take longer for the plants to mature and flower.

Propagating Mealycup Sage

Mealycup sage is easy to propagate by collecting seeds from old flower spikes and saving them to plant the following spring. It is also quite easy to propagate these plants by rooting softwood cuttings—dipping the ends into rooting hormone and planting the cuttings in ordinary potting soil until roots develop.

Finally, you can divide the plant into clumps and plant them in pots to overwinter indoors, then replant in the spring. If you do this, make sure to give them a bright but cool sunny window for the winter. Warm-weather gardeners can divide and replant the sections right in the garden in fall or spring. These are not temperamental plants, and they generally survive rough division.

Common Pests/ Diseases

Salvia farinacea can attract aphids, mealybugs, spider mites, and whiteflies; however, serious 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 waterings.