Salvias Saving Grace

Salvias are their own saving grace hence their name being very aptly derived from “salvere”, which is Latin for “to save” or “to heal”. The plant has always been believed to have medicinal properties, from ancient Greek and Roman times, with results so compelling that even modern day trials are still being carried out today.


Pliny the Elder was a Roman scientist and historian who was evidently the first to use the name salvia. The Romans were so serious about this sacred herb they even performed a special ceremony to honour it during harvesting. In ancient Greece it was historically used for snake bites and digestive problems.

Salvia_splendens2249Salvia splendens, hailing from a somewhat cosmopolitan genus of around 1000 species, it is one of the most loved and respected garden variety annuals commonly found around South Africa today. It is a versatile, unfussy and floriferous addition to gardens that even a novice gardener will love. Although most commonly referred to as Red Salvias, Salvia splendens is actually available in a whole range of colours!

The splendor of Salvias can be enjoyed all year round in warmer climates and will even give gardeners a good run for their money on the Highveld. With brilliant bursts of colourful flowers that can be enjoyed outdoors and then cut for extended enjoyment in a vase, indoors, they’re capable of warming all areas of your home and heart. Don’t be shy when it comes to deadheading or using them for cut flowers as this will encourage new flushes of flowers, leaving you wondering if you’d even removed any to start!

Salvias do well in both full sun and dappled shade but if you’d like a richer red in your garden, go for as much sun as possible as it seems to enhance it. If you have some barren spaces to fill, these beauties are the perfect choice with the colour reward being almost instantaneous. Most people rest during the heat of the day because everything is more tiring and seems to take double the amount of energy, right? So, always transplant your seedlings in the late afternoon so the heat of the day doesn’t compromise your chances of success. A bit of extra water while they’re settling in won’t go amiss either.

Salvias are not partial to drought but they’re also not very thirsty, a nice middle ground plant. Giving them adequate water in well-draining, composted soil, with a little extra during dry spells and success will be yours for the taking. They’ll encourage butterflies and bees to visit your garden with their rich source of nectar and pollen but you should watch out for pesky snails, since they’re just as partial to these attractive specimens.

Whether you’ve a container to fill, bed to edge or a few gaps to fill between some shrubs and perennials, Salvia splendens is the annual for you so pop into your local garden centre and introduce some colour into your life today.


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