101 Salvia farinaceaCommon Names: mealycup sage, blue sage Family: Lamiaceae (mint Family)
Salvia farinacea is a herbaceous perennial that is commonly grown as an annual in most cold winter areas. Several cultivars are available ranging in height from 12 in (30.5 cm) to about 4 ft (1.2 m). Mealycup sage, as this plant is commonly called, bears multiple spikes of blue flowers over a long season starting in spring. Leaves are long and toothed, soft and light green tending to silver, especially the undersides.
The species isn't often seen in gardens as the are many popular and beautiful cultivars. These include 'Blue Bedder' which only grows to about 1 ft (0.3 m) high and 'Strata' which is a bit taller with blue and white two-tone flowers. Possibly the most popular cultivar is 'Victoria', a robust grower with intensely blue-violet flowers that grows in a bushy mound to about 2.5 ft (0.8 m).
Salvia farinacea is originally from Mexico and Texas, where the species grows to 3-4 ft (0.9-1.2 m).
CultureGrows in lean to average soil. Fertilize only as needed. Blooms continuously in warm weather, and survives light freezes. Light: If planted early in the season, can usually withstand full sun. Afternoon shade is appreciated in very hot areas, and prolongs the life of the plant which may last several years. Moisture: Well drained, average to slightly dry soil. Water as needed during dry spells. Hardiness: USDA Zones 8 - 10. Grown in other zones as a warm weather annual, but survives light freezes without damage. In ideal conditions, plants may last up to 5 years. Propagation: From seed planted after danger of frost has passed. Clumps can also be divided in the spring.
Tall Salvia farinacea cultivars can be used as a stunning blue-flowered hedge which will be in bloom for months. It can be used at the back of a border and in combination with a great many other flowering annuals and perennials for an English cottage garden effect. The shorter cultivars lend themselves nicely to container gardens and to broad borders.
S. farinacea is a hardier plant than its cousin, S. splendens, and may last for several years in mild winters. It is less prone to damage by snails and slugs, and is fairly self-sufficient except in extreme weather conditions. Flowers last well when cut and can be combined with a variety of other flowers and foliage. This plant was one of the few in my garden that is not routinely destroyed by hungry deer and rabbits, a trait shared by many of the sages (members of the genus Salvia).
Jack Scheper 01/30/99; updated 5/1/03, 2/13/05