Scarlet Sage – Salvia splendens

The large brilliant red spikes of Scarlet Sage are a common sight in gardens and parks in the summer. For those who like colourful and flamboyant blooms, this plant is ideal.

The flowers are small, only 13-38mm (½-1½in) long, and are surrounded by bracts. They are packed together in clusters at the end of the flower stem.

Scarlet Sage grows to a height of 38cm (15in). The newer forms usually only grow to 30cm (12in) and are more suitable than the species for planting in window-boxes.

Colours and varieties Forms developed from Salvia splendens include the scarlet ‘Blaze of Fire’ and the purple-flowering ‘Royal Purple’. Another sage, S. horminum, is a taller plant with branched stems and pink or purple bracts.

Display ideasScarlet Sage - Salvia splendens

The brilliant red Scarlet Sage will overwhelm paler flowers and should be grown with white or other bold-coloured plants. Try mixed plantings of white petunias, marigolds and blue lobelia. For a simpler statement, grow it with foliage plants such as a variegated ivy.

Growing from seed

1 Grow seeds February—March in a box or propagating tray of seed compost. Sprinkle some compost over them and keep evenly moist.

2 Cover with the lid or piece of glass. Keep at 18°C (68°F). If you do not have a heated propagating tray, a position on a warm windowsill or shelf over a radiator is fine.

3 When seedlings are large enough to handle prick them out into pots. Pinch out the tips of young plants when they are 5-8cm (2-4in) high to encourge bushy growth.

Looking after your plant

Harden your plants off before planting them out in their final position at the end of May. Put them outdoors in a sunny spot during the day and bring them in again at night.

Plant in window-boxes, large pots or tubs, using a good soil-based potting compost. Place the plants about 23cm (9in) apart. They need a good deal of sun but should be protected from the wind, so grow in a warm but sheltered position and they will flower all season.

Water moderately and regularly. Feed with a standard liquid fertilizer once or twice during the summer.

Pests And Diseases

Scarlet Sage is generally trouble-free. However, it may be attacked by insect pests.

Yellow stippling on the leaves is caused by the red spider mite.

Treatment: Spray the plants with a suitable insecticide.

Weak growth can be a sign of attack by aphids. Treatment: Spray the plants with cold water. If the attack is serious, use an insecticide.

PLANT CARE

This is a fairly easy plant to look after but do not plant it out until the danger of frosts has passed. Pinch out the growing tips of young plants when 5-8cm (23m) tall to encourage bushy growth.

  • Potting: Use a soil-based potting compost. Pot into individual pots when the plants are large enough to handle. Repotting is unnecessary.
  • Water moderately at regular intervals throughout the growing season. It may be necessary to water daily in very warm weather.
  • Feeding: Feed 2-3 times during the summer with a standard liquid fertilizer.

BEST GROWTH ENVIRONMENT

  • Light: The plant thrives in full sun.
  • Temperature: Seeds should be germinated at 18°C (65°F). Put young plants outdoors in a warm but sheltered position.

Buying Tips

  • Bedding plants are usually available from garden centres and nurseries in late spring for planting out in May. Alternatively, sow seeds in February or March.
  • Choose plants with good growth and healthy leaves.
  • Scarlet Sage is a half-hardy perennial that is usually grown as an annual.

A bold plant with fiery-red flowers, Scarlet Sage is impressive when grown in massed groups. It is suitable for the back of a window-box or for tubs on the patio or balcony.

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