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Long, narrow leaves grow in rosettes near the ground. Flower stems shoot upward to 2 feet with 3-inch-wide, petunia-like, purple, blue, or scarlet flowers marked with broad veins of gold. Cultivars include 'Splash,' 'Bolero,' and the more compact-growing 'Casino'.
Throughout the summer, 'Mystic Spires Blue' produces long stalks of dark blue flowers, which continue to reward in abundance when deadheaded. Refresh tired plants in midsummer by cutting them back by half. This cultivar makes an excellent bedding or container plant.
This drought-tolerant perennial bears abundant pure blue flower spikes in early summer and until fall if spent flowers are removed promptly. It forms an erect clump 20 inches tall by 18 inches wide, with wrinkled, softly hairy leaves.
Pitcher sage is a wonderful wildflower found growing over a wide area of the Great Plains. Blooming in late summer and early fall, this perennial is admired for its sky blue flowers and remarkable xeric qualities. This salvia grows to 30 to 36 inches in height, but may be pinched back for bushier growth.
This choice species boasts narrow, downy sage-green leaves and true sky-blue blossoms from summer to fall. It has woody stems and forms a beautiful specimen 12 inches tall by 18 inches wide.
Found in the Great Basin deserts of the western U.S., Salvia dorrii is by far one of the most beautiful native Salvia species. A small, woody shrub, it comes into bloom in late spring with short spikes of showy purple bracts and blue flowers. The semievergreen foliage is distinctively silvery gray and highly aromatic. It grows to 18 inches high.
This perennial forms a shrubby upright clump 2 feet tall by 1 foot wide, with white mealy stems and glossy green leaves. It bears deep, lavender-blue flowers on tall spikes from early summer to frost. Salvias are some of the showiest plants for containers, annual borders, and mixed borders. Butterflies and hummingbirds love them.
This compact perennial forms a bush less than 1.5eet tall by 1 foot wide, with indigo stems and glossy green leaves. It bears deep, navy blue flowers on medium spikes from early summer to frost.
This perennial produces long spires of large, deep blue flowers from mid-summer to frost. It forms a tall bush 6 feet tall by 2 feet wide that is great for the back of the border. It is drought tolerant because of its unusual, moisture-conserving rhizomes.
This short-lived perennial from the Himalayas has scented, hairy leaves and forms a small shrub 2 feet tall by 2 feet wide. It bears 1.5-inch-long purplish-blue flowers with white lips (called bee lines) from early to late summer. The flowers are clasped by rusty colored calyxes that accent color of the blooms. Salvias are some of the showiest plants for containers, annual borders, and mixed borders. Butterflies and hummingbirds love them.
This sage is eye-catching in and out of bloom, with its attractive basal rosette of feathery foliage and showy display of dense flower spikes. The flowers come in shades of blue, white, and light pink, but the dark blue strain (S. jurisicii 'Blue') is the most desirable. Best planted in enriched garden loam, Yugoslavian cutleaf sage blooms in late spring.
This unusual tender perennial displays an electric color combination when its vibrant purple-blue flowers open from bright chartreuse calyces. Fortunately, glossy, bright green leaves hold their own until the show gets started in August (and continues until frost). It forms a tall bush, 6 feet tall by 6 feet wide, which is great for the back of the border. Salvias are some of the showiest plants for containers, annual borders, and mixed borders. Butterflies and hummingbirds love them.
This drought-tolerant perennial is noted for its vivid indigo flowers along deep purple-black stems, which gives it a bicolor appearance. It blooms in early summer and then sporadically if spent flowers are deadheaded. It forms an upright clump, with the flower spikes rising to 2 feet in height; its wrinkled, softly hairy leaves form a mound 1 foot high. Plants spread 1 or 2 feet wide. These are some of the showiest plants for containers and mixed borders. Butterflies love them.
Dwarf common sage is a tightly compact form of the culinary common sage (S. officinalis), which is notable for its narrow, fragrant, gray-green leaves and lavender-blue, white-lined flowers in late spring or early summer. It is extremely xeric and does not self-seed. 'Minimus' grows to just 15 to 18 inches tall.
Giant-flowered purple sage has been winning over gardeners the past few years for its remarkable summer blooms and tough-as-nails demeanor. Native to the dry foothills and mountains of southern California, this sage is considered a woody shrub. It features showy, aromatic silver foliage and bicolored flower spikes with lavender-purple calyces and long, hummingbird-pollinated blue flowers. It grows from 24 to 36 inches high.
This moisture-loving perennial produces clear blue flowers with white highlights in late summer to mid-autumn. It forms an airy clump to 6 feet tall by 3 feet wide, and is great for the back of a border. It is tolerant of heavy soils.
This Scabiosa cultivar is a compact perennial with gray-green leaves and a long bloom period featuring pretty lavender-blue flowers that look like pincushions surrounded by frilly petals. It's nice when used as edging or in large groups in borders or rock gardens.
This heat and drought tolerant plant is an evergreen perennial, often grown as an annual. It has spoon-shaped leaves and fan-shaped bluish flowers.
This clump forming, semi-evergreen, grass-like perennial blooms in summer, with a long succession of yellow-centered blue flowers. It grows to 20 inches high and 6 inches wide, and self-sows easily.
Coleus are tender tropicals that are generally grown as annuals because they are hardy only in Zone 11. The variously shaped leaves of these popular bedding plants typically combine several colors, such as chartreuse, rust red, cream, and purple-black. Some cultivars sport almost all of these colors combined. The darker the red in the leaf, the more sun the plant will tolerate. Coleus blooms in summer, but the blue to white nettle-like flowers are unremarkable and tend to detract visually from the impact of the foliage. -Debra Lee Baldwin, Regional Picks: Southern California, Fine Gardening issue #127
Heirloom dahlias, gladioli, and cannas offer flower colors and forms unmatched by more recent introductions
by Scott Kunst
Annuals Pep Up Perennial Borders
Use the flowers and foliage of annuals to spark summer’s show
by Elisabeth Sheldon
Experts Pick Their Favorite Plants
We asked 42 gardening experts from around the country to select their favorite plants. Now you can see the complete results of the survey.
Alliums All Season Long
Deer resistant and dynamic, these bulbs provide color from the first showers of spring to the last leaves of fall
by Stephanie Cohen
Sweetly Scented Annuals
Pique your senses all season long with colorful, long-blooming beauties
by Danielle Ferguson
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