The salvia cultivar, Salvia 'May Night', also commonly known as May night salvia or meadow sage, is a fast-growing perennial with upright growth and rich purple-blue flowers that is suitable for a wide range of growing climates and soils. The plant requires full sunlight, well-draining acidic soil, and though it can tolerate infrequent hot, dry spells, it prefers cooler day and nighttime temperatures to preserve its vibrant flower color. Plant in the late spring or early summer and you may have time to enjoy the blooms in cut-flower arrangements.
|Common Name||May night salvia, May night wood sage, woodland sage, meadow sage|
|Botanical Name||Salvia sylvestris|
|Plant Type||Herbaceous perennial|
|Mature Size||1.5-2 ft. tall, 1-1.5 ft. wide|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun|
|Flower Color||Dark purple-blue|
|Hardiness Zones||4-8 (USDA)|
|Native Area||Europe, Asia|
May Night Salvia Care
Here are the main care requirements for growing May night salvia.
- Grow in full sun.
- Use well-draining, acidic soil.
- Water young plants, but pull back when the plants are established.
- Fertilization is unnecessary.
- Do not deadhead last seasonal blooms to allow reseeding.
Grow May night salvia flowers in an area with full sun; a south-facing location is just right for this plant. Make sure the plant will receive six hours of sun a day.
May night salvia needs well-draining soil to be a successful plant. Add sand to the soil to help it drain well.
Although they are drought-tolerant perennials once established, a moderate amount of water, about an inch a week including rainfall, must be supplied to young plants.
Temperature and Humidity
May night salvia flowers are best grown in USDA planting zones 4-8. May night salvia can withstand bouts of hot and dry weather, but it does not do well in high humidity.
Salvias require little or no fertilizer, they're a very easy-going plant to have in your garden. If you're going to feed them, it's best to do so after the blooming season is over.
Types of May Night Salvia
- 'Salvia argentea': The leaves of this salvia are pretty and silver.
- 'Salvia divinorum': This salvia receives the most attention because it is said to have hallucinogenic properties.
- 'Salvia splendens': This type of salvia also has spike-like features but typically blooms with red flowers.
You will only need to prune older May night salvia. The stems will become woody as they age.
Propagating May Night Salvia
May night salvia can be easily propagated with stem cuttings. May night salvia stem cuttings can be grown in either water, soil, or moist compost. Take these very easy steps:
- Use a sharp, clean gardening shear to cut 2- to 8-inch long cuttings.
- Place the stem in clean water or in clean, moist soil in a seedling pot.
- It's time to replant when roots are 3/4 inches long.
How to Grow May Night Salvia From Seed
It is also very easy to grow May night salvia from seed. Doing so eliminates the steps of watching for roots to grow in water or a seedling pot, then transplanting. Here's how to grow the plant from seed:
- Harvest seeds from spent blooms. Take a bunch of the spent spears and rub them to release seeds or manually take the tiny seeds from the pods. The seeds look exactly like poppy seeds.
- You can directly seed into your garden by dropping the harvested seeds into the soil, but your plants will likely do the same without your intervention. Or, for better control of the seeds, sow them indoors about three months before the last frost of the late winter or early spring.
- Press a few seeds into seed starting mix in a pot and keep moist.
- Seedlings will appear in about two to three weeks. Keep pots on a sunny windowsill or under plant grow lights for 16 hours daily and keep in the dark for eight hours.
- When seedlings have two pairs of leaves, they will need to become hardened off before transplanting them outdoors. Move pots outdoors in a sheltered space for a few hours every day for a week. Don't leave plants outside overnight.
- Plant outdoors in full sun, each plant a foot apart, and water.
Potting and Repotting May Night Salvia
May night salvia does well in containers but they need to be large pots to hold about two to three years of growth. A, 8- to 10-inch pot with about an 8-inch depth may be fine. Pots must have enough drainage holes so the plant will not suffer from waterlogged soil. However, the soil also needs the addition of a gravel/mulch mixture to help prevent drought. After a few years of growth, you will need to divide the salvia and repot into new, larger pots (or outdoors).
If you planted May night salvia in containers, bring them inside for the winter months if you live outside the plant's hardiness zones.
If the plants are in the ground, and you live within the correct hardiness zones, remove dead foliage and cover the plants with a layer of mulch once the ground freezes. Mulch can be raked away in the spring.
Common Pests & Plant Diseases
Scale insects, leafhoppers, spider mites, aphids, and whiteflies have been known to attack salvias. If any of these insect pests bother your plants, spray them with neem oil, a popular product for organic pest control.
Fungal infections can cause stem and root rot, powdery mildew, and Botrytis blight, specifically when May night salvia experiences extended cool wet weather. Typically, fungal infections occur when the soil is not well draining or plants do not have enough air circulation.
How to Get May Night Salvia to Bloom
May night salvia blooms from May through June. If the flowers are deadheaded, they may bloom throughout the summer.
What Do May Night Salvia's Flowers Look and Smell Like?
May night salvia's tall spikes will be covered with tiny deep blue-violet flowers. Although May night salvia is part of the mint family, there is no minty fragrance to the flower. Salvias aren't particularly fragrant, however, and sometimes there's a faint sulfuric smell to May night salvia's foliage that may not be welcome. If using in flower arrangements, find flowers on stems minus the leaves.
Deadheading May Night Salvia Flowers
If you deadhead the spent blooms, May night salvia plants will bless you with flowers all summer long. Such long-blooming perennials are a joy to grow for gardeners who care about the sequence of bloom. May night salvia can be deadheaded by hand (the best way to save emerging buds that grow tightly next to faded blooms) or by using clean, garden shears. You can deadhead or prune a swath of the flower by using a string trimmer. Once deadheaded, look out for more blooms within a few weeks.
Common Problems With May Night Salvia
May night salvia needs very little maintenance to thrive. However, there are two main problems: legginess and leaf damage. Here's why:
Legginess and Flopping Over
May night salvia can become leggy or floppy for many reasons:
- It needs to be cut down or divided to encourage new growth because there's not enough air circulation between clumps.
- It is not getting enough sunlight.
- It could be overfertilized—this plant is a very light feeder and doesn't even need to be fed.
Leaf Damage and Discoloration
The leaves of May night salvia can become damaged, discolored, deformed, and lesioned due to feeding pests, including:
- Foliar nematodes, also known as soilborne parasitic worms, can cause lesions on the foliage leading to leaf death and possibly bud malformation. Remove damaged plants and avoid overhead watering.
- Leafhoppers suck sap from the underside of leaves, which then turn brown. Insecticidal soap can remedy this pest.
- Scale insects also suck sap from leaves, then secrete a waxy substance onto the leaves to kill them. Foliar spray (diluted fertilizer) helps with large infestations.
- Whiteflies attack the underside of the leaves, as well, and also leave behind a waxy film. Neem oil applied under the leaves can help.
- Spider mites turn leaves light yellow and leave fine white webs on a leaf's underside, which can result in the stunting of the leaf's growth. Use horticultural oil to handle large infestations.
Does May night salvia come back every year?
Yes. The long blooming period of May night salvia makes it a workhorse in the perennial garden bed.
Where should I plant May night salvias?
Plant a mass of May night salvia in a garden bed, lining a pathway, or on a hill. Choose a sunny, well-draining spot. The plant will die if the ground is soggy or waterlogged. It will attract butterflies, hummingbirds, honey bees, and bumblebees to your landscaping. The plant's aroma keeps deer and rabbits away.
Does May night salvia bloom all summer?
The plant can bloom all summer if it's deadheaded after its first flowers have faded.
Should I cut back May night salvia?
After the second or late-season blooms are spent, do not deadhead so the plant can reseed itself. Then, since this plant is flexible and grows well regardless of cutting back or not, you can trim all stems down a couple of inches to encourage spring growth, or, leave the stems intact when the plant is dormant.
What are some May night salvia companion plants?
Plant companion perennial flowers with the same bloom schedule as May night salvia (late May through summer), that need full sun, and will thrive in well-drained average but somewhat acidic to neutral soil. Some ideas include daylilies, peonies, oriental poppies, and yarrow.
Salvia. Connecticut State Agricultural Experiment Station.