Mealy-Cup Sage – Salvia farinacea

To many gardeners, Salvia mean the bright scarlet spikes that are so popular in bedding and container schemes, but there are lots of much more subtle-coloured species and varieties in cultivation. These are represented by both perennials and annuals and, in spite of the former’s tendency to be on the tender side, their popularity is growing rapidly.

English: Mealy-cup sage blossom, seeds provide...

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One that has become very popular as an annual, although in fact it is a tender perennial from Texas, is Mealy-Cup Sage (Salvia farinacea). The foliage part of this plant is relatively low and compact, but from this rise slender spikes of light purple flowers on darker purple stems. The ‘mealy cup’ of the name refers to the fine white hairs around the calyx or casing that carries each flower.

The foliage is a grey-green that sets off the flowers well. The greyness is provided by the fine hairs that cover the leaves and stem.

There are several forms in cultivation, of which the most popular is ‘Victoria’. In this, the spikes are a rich violet-blue.

This plant is quite short, only about 45cm (I 8in) high. There are white forms, often referred to as alba. Of these, ‘Argent’ (also known as ‘Silver’) and ‘White Porcelain’ are the most popular; both have silvery-white flowers. An older variety, which many still think is the best, is ‘Blue Bedder’, which has deep blue flowers.

These Salvia can be used as bedding plants or introduced into a mixed border with perennials and even shrubs. They go well with silver-leaved plants or with plants in a purple-flowered border. As a contrast they can be used with yellows, but avoid overdoing this, as the overall effect may become unpleasant. Plant out after hardening off towards the end of May. Set them out at about 45cm (18m) apart.

Like most Salvia. Mealy-Cup Sage likes an open position with maximum sunlight.

Water should only be needed during dry weather or if there is any sign of distress.

Good garden soil will suit if it is free-draining and fairly moisture-retentive. Add grit to heavier soils.

These tender perennials won’t normally survive a Winter except in mild areas, where they will flower earlier in the season.

They can be lifted and over-wintered in a frost-free place.

Very little attention is required once these have been planted out, apart from removing any dead flower spikes.

Sow under glass, in gentle heat, in late Winter or early Spring. Prick-out into deep trays or into individual pots as soon as the seedlings are large enough to handle.

The Mealy-Cup Sage is a good bedding plant for the more subtle planting schemes.

The various cultivars of Mealy-Cup Sage are ideal for indoor cut flower displays.

FAMILY Labiatae


Height: 60cm (2ft)

Spread: 45cm(l8in)

HABIT bushy

GROWTH moderate


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