If you’re like me and prefer that your perennials power on through the dog days of summer and well into fall, salvias (Salvia spp. and cvs., Zones 5–11) are the way to go. These wonderful plants start displaying beautiful colors as early as late spring in the Southwest and continue blooming till the first frost.
The many strengths of salvias
Salvia is the largest genus of plants in the mint family, Lamiaceae. The distinctive scent and taste of salvias are what keep most critters from feasting on their blooms. Salvias attract butterflies and hummingbirds and are deer and rabbit resistant. The following are a few low-maintenance salvia nativars that provide fragrant foliage and flowers and have extended bloom periods. Plant salvias in areas that receive full sun in early summer to allow roots to establish well before winter temperatures arrive. With so many different sizes, colors, and shapes to choose from, one of these selections is sure to fit your garden.
Salvia ‘Maraschino’, Zones 6–10
This salvia starts blooming in summer with a spectacular display of deep cherry-red flowers. Morning sun with afternoon shade is preferred, especially in hotter locations. ‘Maraschino’ is beloved by hummingbirds and is drought resistant. It reaches 3 feet tall and 1½ feet wide at maturity.
Raspberry Delight® salvia
Salvia ‘Raspberry Delight’, Zones 6–10
Raspberry Delight® is a stunning native salvia hybrid with aromatic foliage that has a sweet, herbal scent. This salvia has a summer-long bloom period with gorgeous raspberry-red flowers. It’s an easy-to-grow, low-maintenance plant, preferring full sun and having low water needs. Raspberry Delight® reaches 3 feet tall and 3 feet wide at maturity. Its flowers attract hummingbirds as well as other birds and pollinators.
‘Cold Hardy Pink’ autumn sage
Salvia greggii ‘Cold Hardy Pink’, Zones 6–10
‘Cold Hardy Pink’ autumn sage aims to please with its long-blooming deeply pink flowers. It’s drought resistant and prefers full sun with light irrigation. This salvia reaches 18 to 20 inches tall and 18 to 24 inches wide. It’s a great container candidate, with flowers that bloom all the way from late spring to early fall.
‘Hot Lips’ littleleaf salvia
Salvia microphylla ‘Hot Lips’, Zones 7–10
This salvia is a long-blooming variety with eye-catching red-and-white bicolor blooms. I planted ‘Hot Lips’ in my front garden and entry containers this year. I’m so happy with the results. It powered through the blazing summer temperatures and was still blooming in late October, with bees continuing to buzz around it through late fall. This is a lovely container plant that still allows you to add companion plants around it. It thrives in rock gardens as well. ‘Hot Lips’ grows best in full sun and doesn’t require a lot of water. It grows 3 to 4 feet tall and 2 to 3 feet wide with fragrant foliage.
These salvias have too many benefits to overlook, especially for our region of the country. Your garden will thrive with wonderful, long-blooming flowers summer after summer if you install a generous mix of these beautiful plants. Remember to plant early to get strong root systems before winter. Avoid planting later than July for best results in cooler Southwest zones.
—Mark Brotton, APLD, owns and operates Living Water, Irrigation, and Landscape based in Santa Fe, New Mexico.