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Salvia farinacea

Previously known as:

  • Salvia amabilis
  • Salvia earlei
  • Salvia virgata
Phonetic Spelling
SAL-vee-ah fair-in-ah-SAY-ah
Description

Mealycup sage is a tender herbaceous perennial in the Lamiaceae or mint family that has a long blooming season and attractive spikes of small violet-blue flowers. They bloom intermittently from spring until frost. Their coarsely serrated, green leaves are aromatic, and they are borne on squared stems. The plant grows in thick, rounded clumps and up to 2 to 3 feet tall and 1 to 2 feet wide. The nectar of the flowers attracts bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. It is hardy from zones 8 to 10, and it is frequently grown as an annual in areas where it will not survive in winter.

It is native to the south-central United States and northeast Mexico. It is typically found in prairies, plains, meadows, pastures, and woodland edges. 

The name, Salvia, is derived from the Latin term salveo which means "to save or heal" and refers to some of the plants in this genus's ability to be used for their medicinal properties. The epithet, farinacea, is from the Latin word farina which means "flour or meal." This refers to the powdery white hairs on the calyx of the flower and upper stems. The common name, Mealycup, is a combination of the words "mealy" meaning covered with a powdery meal and "cup" which refers to the shape of the calyx.

Grow this sage in full sun. It prefers well-drained, moist soil but tolerates dry clay soil. Although mealycup sage is reliably perennial only in the outer coastal plain, it grows beautifully during the spring, summer, and fall and functions as an annual in the mountains and piedmont. Propagate it by stem cuttings or seed. Pruning after a long blooming period will help encourage the plant to produce thicker compact foliage and prevent it from becoming leggy.

Mealcup sage is an excellent choice for prolonged color and low maintenance in the home landscape, particularly in areas of extreme heat. Different cultivars offer flower colors from blue to purple and even white. It is an excellent bedding plant that looks neat and attractive all summer. Because the flower spikes are strong and upright it makes a good cut flower. Plant this sage in annual beds, along borders, and in naturalized areas. It is an ideal plant for butterfly, cottage, drought tolerant, or pollinator gardens. This plant is seldom damaged by deer.

Seasons of Interest:

Bloom: Spring, Summer, and Fall               Foliage: Spring, Summer, and Fall

Quick ID Hints:

  • 2 to 3 feet tall, herbaceous perennial with erect, squared stems
  • Opposite ovate-lanceolate green leaves with coarsely serrated margins
  • Chalices short, cup-like, inconspicuous teeth
  • Corollas zygomorphic, large lower lip, blue purple

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems:  Mealycup sage generally has no serious insect or disease problems.  It is susceptible to downy mildew. powdery mildew, and damping-off. Well-drained soil and good air circulation are required.

VIDEO created by Andy Pulte for “Landscape Plant Identification, Taxonomy and Morphology” a plant identification course offered by the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Tennessee.

 

 

More information on Salvia.

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscapes:
Courtyard Garden Rock Wall Garden, Scott Arboretum
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Blue Bedder'
  • 'Blue Frost'
    blue bracts, lavender flowers, grows 1-2 feet tall
  • 'Celebration Blue'
  • 'Indigo Spires'
    heat and drought tolerant, velvety purple-blue flowers
  • 'Mystic Spires Blue'
    tall spikes of blue flowers, grows up to 18 inches tall
  • 'Rhea'
    compact, purple-blue flowers, dark purplish stems
  • 'Sallyfun Blue Emotion'
  • 'Victoria'
    large, intense violet-blue flowers and dark stems
'Blue Bedder', 'Blue Frost', 'Celebration Blue', 'Indigo Spires', 'Mystic Spires Blue', 'Rhea', 'Sallyfun Blue Emotion', 'Victoria'
Tags:
#purple#hummingbirds#full sun tolerant#annuals#perennials#white flowers#wildlife plant#purple flowers#nectar plant#blue flowers#fall interest#cottage garden#cpp#bicolor#summer flowers#deer resistant#rock garden#border planting#bedding plants#cutting garden#spring interest#pollinator plant#fantz#clay soils tolerant#dry soils tolerant#butterfly friendly#partial shade tolerant#bee friendly#landscape plant sleuths course
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Blue Bedder'
  • 'Blue Frost'
    blue bracts, lavender flowers, grows 1-2 feet tall
  • 'Celebration Blue'
  • 'Indigo Spires'
    heat and drought tolerant, velvety purple-blue flowers
  • 'Mystic Spires Blue'
    tall spikes of blue flowers, grows up to 18 inches tall
  • 'Rhea'
    compact, purple-blue flowers, dark purplish stems
  • 'Sallyfun Blue Emotion'
  • 'Victoria'
    large, intense violet-blue flowers and dark stems
'Blue Bedder', 'Blue Frost', 'Celebration Blue', 'Indigo Spires', 'Mystic Spires Blue', 'Rhea', 'Sallyfun Blue Emotion', 'Victoria'
Tags:
#purple#hummingbirds#full sun tolerant#annuals#perennials#white flowers#wildlife plant#purple flowers#nectar plant#blue flowers#fall interest#cottage garden#cpp#bicolor#summer flowers#deer resistant#rock garden#border planting#bedding plants#cutting garden#spring interest#pollinator plant#fantz#clay soils tolerant#dry soils tolerant#butterfly friendly#partial shade tolerant#bee friendly#landscape plant sleuths course
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Salvia
    Species:
    farinacea
    Family:
    Lamiaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Annual
    Perennial
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    S. Central U.S.A. to NE. Mexico
    Distribution:
    CT, FL, LA, NM, OH, OK, and TX
    Wildlife Value:
    Flowers attract bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Goldfinches enjoy eating the small, dried brown fruits that appear after the flowers fade.
    Play Value:
    Attractive Flowers
    Attracts Pollinators
    Colorful
    Easy to Grow
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    Deer, drought, and dry soil
    Dimensions:
    Height: 2 ft. 0 in. - 3 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 1 ft. 0 in. - 2 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Annual
    Native Plant
    Perennial
    Habit/Form:
    Clumping
    Erect
    Mounding
    Multi-stemmed
    Growth Rate:
    Medium
    Maintenance:
    Low
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Dry
    Available Space To Plant:
    12 inches-3 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    8b, 8a, 9b, 9a, 10b, 10a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Fruit Type:
    Capsule
    Fruit Description:
    The fruit is small, dried, and brown.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Blue
    Purple/Lavender
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Raceme
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Good Cut
    Good Dried
    Long Bloom Season
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Fall
    Spring
    Summer
    Flower Shape:
    Lipped
    Tubular
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    Flowers are blue to purple; calyx minute, short-cylindric, teeth obscure, blue beneath mealy-white pubescence; corolla zygomorphic, blue to purple, short, tube to .3 inches long, lower lip enlarged, upper lobes short. The inflorescence is a terminal. interrupted, verticillate raceme; verticillasters 10-16 flowered. Blooms from April to October.
  • Leaves:
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Glossy
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Opposite
    Whorled
    Leaf Shape:
    Lanceolate
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Serrate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    Leaves are opposite, short-petiolate, ovate-lanceolate to narrowly oblong, irregularly serrate, minutely pubescent, acute, rotund to attenuate, minutely pubescent.
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Cross Section:
    Square
    Stem Description:
    The stems are erect, branching, and squared.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Coastal
    Meadow
    Naturalized Area
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Cottage Garden
    Drought Tolerant Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Design Feature:
    Border
    Mass Planting
    Small groups
    Attracts:
    Bees
    Butterflies
    Hummingbirds
    Pollinators
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Drought
    Dry Soil