Mealycup sage, also commonly known as Victoria blue salvia, is a perennial plant valued for the deep blue flowers that run up and down its showy spikes. Native to North America, mealycup sage gets its common name from the powdery meal, or dust, that covers the cup-shaped flowers. It's one species among many garden plants in the Salvia genus, a group known for its "saving" or healing properties.
Like other salvias, mealycup sage has the familiar fragrant, lance-shaped leaves and spikes of colorful lobed flowers. However, 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 on the underside.
Mealycup sage is normally planted in spring and will grow quickly, flowering 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, Victoria blue salvia, Victoria Blue flowering sage, mealy blue sage|
|Plant Type||Herbaceous perennial|
|Mature Size||1–3 ft. tall, 1–2 ft. wide|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun, partial shade|
|Soil Type||Moist but well-drained|
|Soil pH||Neutral to acidic|
|Bloom Time||Late spring, summer, fall|
|Flower Color||Violet blue|
|Hardiness Zones||8–10 (USDA)|
|Native Area||North America|
Mealycup Sage Care
Mealycup sage plants are easy to care for and trouble-free. Ideally, they should have regular water, but they will survive in drought-like conditions quite well. In warmer climates, where they are grown as perennials, it's standard practice to shear them off at ground-level for winter—they'll return with new growth in the spring. In colder climates, when growing them as annuals, pull the plants from the ground (roots and all) after frost kills them and discard them.
Take advantage of the plant's long season and vibrant colors by using it to fill holes in your sequence of bloom (mealycup sage is also a favorite of pollinators like hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees, which are especially drawn to blue flowers).
Mealycup sage plants do best in full sunlight, especially when grown in cooler northern climates. If you live in the south or somewhere that experiences extremely hot weather, a bit of afternoon shade can help protect the plants from intense sunlight. Ultimately, you should aim to give your mealycup sage plant at least six to eight hours of sunlight daily.
For the best results, plant your mealycup sage in a soil mixture that is well-draining. Other than that, the plant can do well in almost any soil blend and has a good tolerance for dry, poor soils that other plants may struggle in. Additionally, the plant has a wide tolerance for both acidic and alkaline soils.
Although mealycup sage is drought-tolerant once established, it's important to water young plants regularly. For gardeners that live in northern climates, this can mean watering the plant regularly all season long, since the short growing season doesn't give the plant enough time to establish strong, drought-resistant roots. Gardeners that live in a climate that can sustain mealycup sage year-round can allow the soil to dry out completely between waterings once the plant has been in its final planting location for a few months.
Temperature and Humidity
Though mealycup sage 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.
In nutrient-rich soil, there is no need to fertilize mealycup sage at all. However, if your soil requires amendment, mealycup sage can benefit from a mid-summer fertilizer to prolong the plant's display. You can also mix organic compost into the soil annually for an added boost of nutrients.
Mealycup Sage Varieties
There are quite a number of mealycup sage cultivars, many of which are focused on fine-tuning the flower colors or fostering different plant sizes. Some popular varietals include:
- Salvia farinacea 'Henry Duelberg': A large, 36-inch tall variety with pure blue flowers.
- Salvia farinacea 'Victoria Blue': The most common cultivar sold in North America. It grows up to 24 inches tall and features intense blue-violet flowers and contrasting dark stems.
- Salvia farinacea 'Evolution': A more compact cultivar that reaches just 16 inches tall, with dark purple flowers.
- Salvia farinacea 'Blue Bedder': A dwarf form that grows only 12 inches tall, with deep purple flowers.
- Salvia farinacea 'Victoria White': One of the few mealycup sage varietals with white flowers. It grows between 15 to 24 inches tall.
- Salvia farinacea 'Strata': A cultivar with two-tone flowers—clear blue with white calyxes. It grows about 18 inches tall.
Pruning Mealycup Sage
It is a good idea to deadhead your mealycup sage plants if you're striving for the best flowering display possible. Some gardeners avoid deadheading, preferring to let the flowers go to seed in the hopes of naturalization.
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. Simply dip the ends of a cutting into a rooting hormone and plant 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 the plants a bright but cool window for the winter. Warm-weather gardeners can divide and replant the sections right into the garden in either the fall or spring. These are not temperamental plants, and they generally survive rough division.
Common Pests and Diseases
Mealycup sage plants rarely experience pest issues, but they do tend to get powdery mildew on their leaves. If you are growing the plant as a perennial, you may not consider this a big problem, since powdery mildew does no real harm and the plant will come back just fine next spring. However, if you're growing the plant as an annual and therefore have a small window of opportunity in which to enjoy it, powdery mildew can spoil your season. Since powdery mildew is a fungus, the key to preventing it is having good air circulation.
Provide your plants with good airflow by giving them enough space—do not plant them tightly together. When watering, do not spray the plants from overhead—this introduces excess water into the foliage and can invite fungus. Instead, run your garden hose so that the water is directed at the base of the plant, at ground level.