Which Salvias should I winter sow?

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

Which Salvias should I winter sow? Are any of the ten listed below terrible ideas to start outside in Zone 8a ... maybe bring them up onto the porch when we get hard frosts?

What should I use as guidance for chgoosing WS varieties? Something like "if perennial & hardy to your Zone minus 2"?

Or which Salvias do you sow outside, as opposed to inside, when starting from seed?

I'm new to Salvia, except for killing all the Salvia seeds I started indoors a few years ago (soggy soil, in front of a window with temperatures cycling between 75+ and 55 - I keep the house cold and have not yet bought a heating pad.)

I was thinking maybe try these 10 outside,
winter sowing on top of very well-draining mix with shredded pine bark,
maybe dust just a little vermiculite or grit on top:

Salvia superba "Violet Queen" [P 7a-11] from Hazzards
Salvia x superba (var unknown) [P 5a-10b]
Salvia farinacea "Strata" Dark Blue/Blue-Violet [A] [P z7]
Salvia farinacea "Victoria Blue" [?P 7b-11 as A? good in PNW?]
Salvia transylvanica "Blue Spires" [P 4a - 8b] from Hazzards
Salvia nemerosasylvestris "Amethyst Blue" [P] from Hazzards
Salvia (sylvestris or nemorosa ?) collected from "East Friesland" [P 3a-8b]
Salvia coccinea 'Forest Fire' - Texas Sage - [P Z 8a ] great color and form
. . . . is "Forest Fire" the same cultivar as "Bonfire"?
Salvia coccinea 'Coral Nymph' [A, but maybe P]
Salvia splendens "Yvonne's Giant " red-orange [A / P?]
Salvia lyrata "Purple Vulcan" [P 4a-11]

Any advice for a newbie?

Edited to say:
now I see I should also WS these Lobelia:
Lobelia cardinalis "Cardinal Flower" red, erect
Lobelia cardinalis "Giant Blue" blue, erect
Lobelia siphilitica erect, tall, boggy

but not these:
Lobelia erinus "Crystal Palace" trailing
Lobelia erinus "Cambridge Blue" trailing

Here's my whole collection of Salvia seeds: you can call me a seed head!

Salvia splendens "Yvonne's giant " red-orange [A / P?]
Salvia coccinea 'Coral Nymph' [A, but maybe P]
Salvia coccinea "Scarlet Sage"
Salvia "Lady In Red"
Salvia coccinea 'Forest Fire' - Texas Sage - [P Z 8a ] great color and form
Salvia 'Bonfire' tall red salvia
Salvia farinacea
Salvia farinacea blue-violet
Salvia farinacea "Strata" Dark Blue/Blue-Violet [A] [P z7]
Salvia farinacea "Victoria Blue" [?P as A? good in PNW?]
Salvia nemorosa "Sensation Rose" [P to z9b]
Salvia nemorosa var? violet [P z4a-7b?] Jonna
Salvia nemerosasylvestris "Amethyst Blue" [P]
Salvia transylvanica "Blue Spires" [P]
Salvia superba "Violet Queen"
Salvia x superba
Salvia lyrata "Purple Vulcan" burgundy, bronze-green foliage [P]
Salvia lyrata, Purple Knockout [P]
Salvia viridis 'Pink' salvia
Salvia viridis 'Marble Arch Rose'
Salvia viridis pink & purple var ? Jonna
Salvia azurea "Grandiflora" [P]
Salvia purpurea
Pineapple sage (A or P in 8a?)
Salvia tiliifolia Lindenleaf sage /Tarahumara Chia, [A]
salvia greggii, 'wild thing'
salvia 'blue chiquita'
Salvia leucantha Mexican Bush Sage [TP]
Salvia (sylvestris or nemorosa ?) collected from "East Friesland"


This message was edited Feb 3, 2011 7:38 PM

Candor, NC

There is not much point in sowing subtropical Salvias in the winter, especially if you are prone to spotty warming spells in the spring. If they do not experience cold in the wild, why risk their loss?

The Eurasian ones from alpine regions can tolerate winter sowing, but if the particular strain or species does not need stratification, I see no point in winter sowing. This is especially true for seed where you have fewer than 30 to 50 seeds. I always splint my seed lots just in case, so I can do a second sowing if I need to.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

Indeed, we do tend to have a long, warm, late-winter-and-spring, interrupted by occasional hard cold spells. I've re-sowed outside as many as three times in one spring after several cold "gotcha"s.

I can cross off the ones where I have few seeds, that narrows my field.
But I don;t seem top have mastered starting difficult seeds indoors, and was hoping that WS might reduce things like damping off.

>> Eurasian ones from alpine regions

For example? Most of my seeds came from trades with just 2-3 words on the pkt, and I've been guessing at synonyms in Plant Files. I see that even within one species there can be a wide range of quoted hardiness zones for different cultivars.

>> not much point in sowing subtropical Salvias in the winter

Very true, that's what I'm trying to figure out.

Would you go by the lower zone quoted for hardiness?
Or the upper? I assume "lower".

For example if two Salvia show up in DG Plant Files as:
7a-11 and
4a - 8b
should I pay more attention to the "7a and 4a" or the "8b and 11"?

And given that I'm in Zone 8a, where is the transition from "maybe" to "don't waste the seeds"? Zone 6? Zone 5?

BTW, I'm also puzzled by the warm limits on hardiness - is that saying that they need a colder winter to survive, or to re-sow? Or does warmth hurt Salvia in some way I don't know about?

For example, I see one pretty violet S. nemorosa variety that Jonna suggests only for Zone 4a to 7b. I wonder what its problem is with Zone 8?


DeLand/Deleon Spring, FL(Zone 8b)

Salvia's where the upper zone is say 7b as you say above, often don't like the warmer temperatures associated with the upper zones. Even here where I grow almost exclusively tropical Sages I can't place many of them full sun, they would fry in the heat of July - September. S. nemorosa is one that I don't even bother with here. While it would survive our winter easily, it wouldn't make it thru the summer. And I am one that will stretch the limits for sure.....

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

>> where the upper zone is say 7b as you say above, often don't like the warmer temperatures ... I can't place many of them in full sun, they would fry in the heat of July - September

That's very helpful - especially because my hardiness zone indicating mild winter (8a) does NOT mean a hot summer!

Quite the opposite: our summer is so cool (especially at night) that tomatoes and peppers can be a challenge to ripen.

So I think I will get wild and attempt to grow semi-tropical Salvia, and let THEM tell me how they like the maritime PNW. (Actually, I just won't think about that, and plant whatever looks pretty.)

I guess I do need to figure out which species and varieties need warm soil to germinate. Even if I do try WSing them to avoid my clumsy indoor seed technique, I might as well wait another month to put them out! Or, the advice I'm getting seems to be "don't WS salvia", maybe except for S. superba and S. patens, and even then, bring them indoors after stratifying.

So I guess the lesson is: I need to learn how not to kill seeds indoors!
AND ... bottom heat is not only for tomatoes and peppers.

The Virtual Seeds Database says:

HHA: Early/ late spring. Normally 4-8 weeks before planting outside
HA: Late winter/early spring.

Salvia HHA, HA 10-14 days to germinate
Needs Light to germinate. Sow on surface.
Slow and irregular germination.
---> 68-80 germination temperature

Candor, NC

If you get to the San Francisco Bay area, a visit to Cabrillo College in Aptos, near Watsonville (on the coast) is in order, as iare visits to Strybing Arboretum, now called SFBG, and UC Berkeley BG.. Check out the Salvia catalogs on Pacific Coast nurseries like Digging Dog and Flowers by the Sea for ideas. You also have a few mail order nurseries in Washington State. Coastal areas where you are are like cloud forests, so you would do well with sages from Latin America that have these climates.

You can grow Chinese and Japanese sages quite well, as Heronswood Gardens demonstrated when Dan Hinkley ran the place.

All of the European sages you listed are alpine. msjponies is right about them growing in the humid southeastern USA. In Washington state, pratensis and sclarea are on the invasives list, especially for the interior part of the state.

A lot depends on the humidity, since this controls the difference between day and night temps. Deserts can get to 110 by midday, and near freezing by early morning.

Send me a D-mail for more details.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

>> In Washington state, pratensis and sclarea are on the invasives list


>> especially for the interior part of the state.

Whew, I'm a mile or two form the coast.

>> in Washington State. Coastal areas where you are are like cloud forests, so you would do well with sages from Latin America that have these climates ...
>> You can grow Chinese and Japanese sages quite well

If I find a source of information that identifies Salvia names (and synonyms) with the climate they came from or thrive in, that would be very helpful to me. I've seen a few expensive books, but would rather buy several cubic yards of compost than one book, and my budget for the decade was exceeded in the first two years.

However, that is kind of what I was asking in the OP.

Any further tips along those lines would be very gratefully recieved.

>> transylvanica (alpine? hence cold-friendly?)
>> Mexican Bush Sage (desert, hence dry and hot preferred?)
>> "East Friesland" (German, hence what?)


DeLand/Deleon Spring, FL(Zone 8b)

I can't help you with those except if by Mexican Bush Sage you mean Salvia leucantha, I've tried it several times and it always bits the bullet on me. I don't think it's a heat thing, and I had read where it should grow here, but so far for me no luck. I pretty much stick to the Tropical, Japanese and Chinese sages now. I can't post too much now ( time issue), but I'll try to post more about the ones I do know about if you think that would help. I am sure Rich can give you a great deal more info about the Salvia's you are intersted in.
Here's one of my favorite, a Chinese Sage.

Thumbnail by mjsponies
Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

>> Mexican Bush Sage you mean Salvia leucantha

Yup. But I think WA and FL are not just at opposite corners of the country, we have very different summers despite similar Hardiness Zones. My summer is cool and dry, I know FL is hot. My winter is WET and not-very-cold, but several frosts and a little snow.

>> Chinese Sage

Wow, that's like an orchid!

Family: Lamiaceae (lay-mee-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Phlomis (FLOW-miss) (Info)
Species: tatsienensis var. hirticalyx
Zone 8a - 11
Tropicals and Tender Perennials

Is that it?

This year, I'll just establish whatever grows, and re-try those that don't. Being my first year growing Salvia ever, I'm bound to learn something. I'm not really looking for a challenge, yet.

I guess I'll save my WS space for Penstemon, some Lobellia, Allium, Columbine and Delphinium.

Maybe I'll luck out the first time I WS, and EVERYTHING will sprout, and I won't have room to plant them out or be able to give starts away fast enough.

But I have a plan for that contingency. There are several "over 55" manufactured home parks within driving distance. I'll abandon seedlings near their offices with names and pictures. They'll go fast!


DeLand/Deleon Spring, FL(Zone 8b)

You might enjoy this site: http://www.robinssalvias.com/blue/default.htm

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

Thanks, it was on my hot list of sites to visit when I have time ... hmmm, now I see that some varieties have comments about sowing!

For example, S. farinacea "S. farinacea originates from Texas and New Mexico.".
"farinacea can be somewhat feeble in a cool summer in England,"
"Strata: ... best grown as an annual here. Seed sown in late winter will ... "

Probably the UK is pretty close to maritime PNW ... assuming they have frosts.

I appreciate the reminder that research need not be expensive in money!


Sierra Foothills, CA(Zone 8a)

Corey ~ If it were me, I would wait 'til late spring to sow the S. farinacea or sow them under lights, and for sure the S. splendens as that one is the tenderest of all. The others I have not grown, so I will leave it to those who have grown them to chime in.

DeLand/Deleon Spring, FL(Zone 8b)

evelyn, as far as my opinion counts, you are right on the mark.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)


Mainly I put out ones with hardiness zones of 5 or colder, or ones that I had a lot of seed for!

And based on your suggestions and others' - indoor under lights for most.


Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

When I lived on Lake Stevens (near Everett) and basically gardened in beach sand almost any Salvia would grow for me, except "Black and Blue", and a red one from Chile- I think they needed more heat. Now I live on a hill overlooking the lake, in glacial till/clay, it is warmer but I have a lot more trouble-most Salvias do not survive the soggy winter, even on a slope. Salvia argentea looked fine the first year but never came back.I can and do grow Salvia uliginosa (bog sage) in my dry garden! I read somewhere it can survive in Seattle and it does. It makes a big 5 foot cloud of blue that I love.
Good luck and keep us posted on your success!

DeLand/Deleon Spring, FL(Zone 8b)

Salvia uliginosa - Bog Sage is one of my favorites. It is sooooo easy, uncomplaining, does it's thing wonderful fragrance to the foliage and yes, willowy clouds of blue flowers that sway in the breeze. It's a big hit with the Butterflies and Bees. Will always have a home in my garden.

Thumbnail by mjsponies
Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

Thanks, mlmlakestevens.

>> basically gardened in beach sand almost any Salvia would grow for me
>> in glacial till/clay, ... most Salvias do not survive the soggy winter, even on a slope.

I keep reading that Salvia like well-draining, sandy soil, and you confirm it. I figured that rainy PNW climate might be a challenge for sage, which i associate with "desert".

I bought a cubic yard of coarse sand, and another yard of shredded pine bark, and made a narrow raised bed for Saliva and Lavatera. Hopefully it will drain well enough! If not, I may try building a roof over it for the rainy season, and add yet more sand. maybe make the walls higher.

>> .I can and do grow Salvia uliginosa (bog sage) in my dry garden!

Do I understand right that "bog" sage grows in your DRY garden? The Pacific NorthWet really IS wet!


Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

yep- "Bog Sage" does grow in my "dry" garden ( terraced east facing, full sun), which here of course means from Nov to may is wet, but drought all summer- last year I probably watered it 3 times all summer- The stuff that grew best included the Salvia uliginosa, Blue Oat Grass, Sidalcia"Party Girl", a couple of different blue flax species, a daisy, catananche, Itoh Peony Bartzella, Phlomis and Ceanothus "Victoria". Also many weeds did great. Also the nasty English Ivy from next door. I have tried twice there to grow Caryopteris "Dark Knight" which always looks fabulous the first year, then dies in the winter. I have some Cistus, and some Hebes that do ok but never look special. Chocolate cosmos did fine, but are so hard to see from a distance that I took them out. Annual cosmos are totally easy there and fill in the gaps. What do you grow in your less watered areas?

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

I'm still building rasied beds and happy each year if ANYTHING grows, down to zinnias and marigolds.

I have two lavatera that sprawled so much I had to dig them up and move them. I planted bulbs last Fall 9for the first time ever).


Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

I'm delighted that a few Salvia seeds have sprouted (indoors, over a heating mat).

Salvia coccinea 'Coral Nymph'
and Salvia superba "Violet Queen"

They popped up only 4-5 days after I started soaking them! Danita suggested an overngiht soak for Salvia, "until they look like frog's eggs", and it seems to have worked well. I expected 3-4 times as long.


Fate, TX(Zone 8a)

really? you soaked the salvia seed. really? lol. i have to try it. last year i sowed my seeds last of feb./first of march. had great luck with salvia. i sowed them as you do when you winter sow...i.e. in outside containers and left them out. too many types to list. all germinated wonderfully.

Houston Heights, TX(Zone 9a)

Cory , the top of the fridge makes a great heat mat and you can use plastic bags to make little greenhouses for each container. Once the seeds come up you can move to more light unless there is a flourescent right over your fridge.

Candor, NC

Beware of molding from Botrytis and other species. While humidity helps, you need warmth, bright light, and air flow to avoid loss. You need at least 70 degree temperatures to germinate Salvias well.

Fate, TX(Zone 8a)

richard that prob. goes for agastache too as well right........70 degree temps i mean? i am sure my little "greenhouses" worked but it is amazing to think how warm it does get inside a winter sowing container.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

I forget who taught me to soak Salvia, but it makes a huge difference.
They really do swell up to 2-3 times their size with some kind of gel capsule.

I was told to use dilute hydrogen peroxide, but it works with or without.
I use plastic ice cube trays so I can soak a dozen varieties at once.

0.1% H2O2: start with 3% (not 35%):

1 cup of water + 1.5 teaspoons 3% H2O2
1 pint of water + 1 tablespoon 3% H2O2

Sierra Foothills, CA(Zone 8a)

Corey ~ Do you do that for the ones that you start inside on heat and lights?

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)


I don't think I've ever tried to start Salvias outside. The half-life of a seedling in Slug Season is "overnight". For a few years I tired to put out Delphinium seedlings with just a few pairs of leaves. They (completely) disapeared so fast that I half suspected plant-nappers.

Sierra Foothills, CA(Zone 8a)

I meant do you use peroxide when you start your salvias indoors?

Candor, NC

The hydrogen peroxide may act as a fungicide. Mostly, I have heard of smoke and gibberellic acid GA-3 being used to break dormancy in seed. The smoke treatment is for those species that germinate after a fire, and GA-3 (as th e potassium salt) for those that have a winter dormancy, or to pep up old seed at the edge of losing viability..

Seeds with hard seed coats sometimes can be started by notching with a fine, small file (often these are large seeded members of the bean family or Fabaceae

Sierra Foothills, CA(Zone 8a)

I do have some seeds that mention smake as a possibility to break dormancy. Can "liquid smoke" be of use in this instance, or do you have to actually light them on fire?

Elk, CA(Zone 9a)

For all Salvias except the truly easy to germinate types like patens of coccinea, we use GA-3 at 500 PPM as a 12 to 24 hour soak before sewing at a bottom heat of 75 to 78 degrees. We also use either liquid smoke (good) or the Kirshenbock liquid smoke (best) for all California natives and South Africian species.

It makes a great deal of difference, but complicates the care of the seedlings as they greatly elongate after germination as a result to the treatment. Disease becomes an issue, solved by us with GREAT attention to cleaning and great, almost extreme air circulation and with very careful watering. We use innoculants as well, which very much seem to help across the board.

Lots of seed sewing going on here now.


Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

Hi Evelyn, yes that's what I meant. For me, it was mostly "monkee see monkey do", but it sounds very logical that "fungicide" was the reason for the original advice I got from someone.

Now I have small samples of several unusual Salvias, one of which is of unknown age. I guess I should invest in some gibberellic acid!

I wonder if the smoke treatment is where someone got the idea for smudging things (with smoke from smouldering White Sage) to remove evil influences (dormancy)?

Leesburg, FL(Zone 9b)

>>small samples of several unusual Salvias,

Rick -- after getting my 'box', i'm up to 49 different ones!! some i'd never hear of, some common -- but i love them anyways.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

>> i'm up to 49 different ones!!

Really cool!

I cringe and whimper when i hear that Salvia seed doesn;t keep very well.
But I've heard that GA-3 (gibberillic acid) perks up old seed and helps it germinate.

My next move to increase the number I can grow out is to try big pots.

Salvia daghestanica
Salvia forskaohlei "Indigo Woodland Sage"
Salvia roemeriana 'Hot Trumpets'
Salvia clevelandii, Cleveland Blue Sage, Fragrant Sage, Jim Sage, Mountain Sage

Elk, CA(Zone 9a)

Be careful with watering the S. clevlandii, as it is quite xeric. Easy to kill these seedlings with a high humidity environment. Air movement via a fan helps.


Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

I got my seed from Risisngcreek, who said every effort to pamper them failed.

Then, as I recall, he threw them on some old dry clay in a corner outside, and they eventually thrived.

Very prickly seedheads, and I got rather few seeds per head that I recieved. I eventually pounded them to bits and picked out seeds with tweezers.

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