Salvia Nemorosa

The woodland sage Salvia Nemorosa, also known as Balkan Clary, comes in the shape of a hardy herbaceous perennial plant, which is native to both central Europe and Western Asia.

Whether grown in urban landscapes or tropical forests, salvias are one of the most prevalent culinary and ornamental plant species in existence.

It is an aesthetically pleasing plant that is easy to grow and breed and has been popular for many years with horticulturalists as a result.

History of salvia nemorosa

George Bentham, the English botanist, discovered this genus in 1836. One of the most fascinating characteristics of Salvia blooms is that they contain an activating mechanism that is able to deposit pollen on the backside of bees that visit the plant.

This pollen is then transported to female Salvia blooms, which share the same responsive flower parts. This boosts pollination among the same or comparable species.

The attractive Salvia found in modern-day gardens derives from plants from wooded parts of Eurasia. Traditional species include S. nemorosa and S. pratensis. Then there are a number of hybrids to consider, such as S. x sylvestris and S. x superbum. Many refer to these species as Woodland Sage.

How to plant and grow Salvia nemorosa

Salvias (or sages) bloom for a long period of time producing a variety of interesting shapes and colours. They thrive in hot, dry conditions and offer a sweet fragrance.

How to grow salvia plants in your garden

Salvias are part of the mint family and feature square stems, which are enveloped by velvety leaves. They’re a great option for gardeners who wish to attract wildlife to their outdoor space as hummingbirds and butterflies love them!

For best results, plant salvias in a location that achieves full sunlight. It’s also important to use well-drained soil. If your garden sits in the shade, simply pick another variety of salvia, as a number of species also do well in part-shade.

Another growing tip includes planting salvias once all danger of frost has past – these plants are predominantly planted in the spring. Before placing them in the ground, loosen the soil and ensure they sit at a depth of 12 inches.

The next step requires you to mix in a three-inch layer of compost, digging a hole twice the diameter of the container. Once the ground is prepped, remove the plant from its container and ensure the root ball is level with the surface of the soil.

For optimal results, space plants between one and three feet apart then firm the soil around the plant gently and water thoroughly. This does, however, depend on the variety of the plant you choose.

Caring for salvia nemorosa

To encourage the plant to grow, place a thin layer of mulch around the shrub. This will help the plant to preserve moisture and will prevent weeds from forming around the plant.

Throughout the growing season, it’s imperative you keep the soil moist. You can also prune the plant by removing any fading flowers, as this will encourage more blooms to grow.

Before removing old stems, wait until new growth begins. This usually takes place in the early spring. Every three years, you should also separate perennial salvias.

Growing salvia in containers

As well as growing salvia nemorosa in the garden, it’s also a great shrub for containers. One of the reasons for this is that these plants bloom for a lot longer than other species and shrubs when placed in pots.

For best results, water these plants regularly and ensure the container you choose has good drainage holes. The larger the pot, the happier the plant will be. If you must use a smaller container, don’t use anything smaller than 45cm.

You should feed your plant in spring and autumn using a handful of quality fish blood and bone. Once a month, add a liquid plant food such as Miracle Gro. When growing in a pot, frost is not an issue.

Pests and diseases to look out for

Like all shrubs, salvia nemorosa is susceptible to ailments and diseases including aphids, powdery mildew, spider mites, root rot, botrytis blight and white flies. Most of these ailments will be immediately noticeable, but if you are unsure you should contact your local garden centre or florist.

Recommended varieties

There are an impressive 900 or more species of salvias to choose from. In fact, many of the tender perennial species are as prevalent as the annual species; especially in areas where they do not fully winter hardy.

Common salvias usually grown as annuals

A range of salvias are often grown as annual plants, including:

  • Scarlet or Texas Sage (Salvia coccinea) – This specie boasts hot-hued red blooms, which sit upon spikes measuring ten inches in height.
  • Pineapple Sage (S. elegans) – This variant has bright red blooms that are edible in late summer. The leaves boast a pineapple fragrance.
  • Azure Sage (S. azurea var. grandiflora) – Azure sage features aromatic foliage and pretty sky blue flowers, which bloom in late autumn.
  • Bedding Sage (S. splendens) – This plant comes in an array of colours, including scarlet, which is the most popular shade, purple, orange, lavender, yellow and white. This picture-perfect variant has heart-shaped leaves.

The following salvias are usually grown as perennials:

In addition to annual plants, salvias can also be grown as perennials, including:

  • Peruvian Sage (S. discolor) – This specie has green and grey leaves with white undersides and dark purple blooms.
  • Autumn Sage (S. greggii) – This variant is tolerant of drought and comes in an array of hot-hued colours. It blooms in the months of summer and spring.
  • Hybrid Sage (S. x superba) – This option is perfect for colder locations. The plants grow between 12 and 24 inches in height and bloom in late spring to early summer.

Tips for growing perennials

In order to encourage regrowth, you should ensure your faded blooms are cut back. If you’re looking for a pink option, opt for the variant Rose Queen, which has pink flowers.

Fun facts about salvia nemorosa

  • The ancient Greeks and Romans used salvia to improve memory.
  • The name Salvia is derived from the Latin word salvere, which translates ‘to heal’.
  • The active chemical in Salvia is Salvinorin A. Salvinorin A is widely cited as the most potent naturally occurring hallucinogen.


Lily Calyx is our in-house flower whisperer, an expert on all things botanical and an enthusiastic orchids collector. She loves discussing the insights of the secret world of flowers, shares her gardening tips and hacks and moons over the latest additions to Serenata Flowers flower range. Ask Lily anything about flowers and we can guarantee she will have the answer.

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