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Growing and caring for Salvia viridis: A vibrant (annual) addition to your garden

Updated: Aug 24, 2023

Salvia viridis, commonly known as Clary Sage or Painted Sage, is a captivating annual plant that can add a burst of color and texture to our garden. And it'll keep giving that color and texture all season long.

With its striking bracts and aromatic foliage, Salvia viridis is a favorite annual here in our perennial garden. In this blog post, we'll delve into the world of Salvia viridis, exploring how to grow and care for this beautiful plant. And if you’re not sure what bracts are, keep reading and we’ll explain why that’s what makes the Clary Sage so special.

Photo of Annual Clary Sage 'Pink Sunday' in The Perennial Garden in Fredericia, Denmark
Salvia viridis 'Pink Sunday' in our garden

Understanding Salvia viridis

Salvia viridis belongs to the Lamiaceae family and is native to the Mediterranean region. It's prized for its showy, colorful bracts that surround its small, tubular flowers. The bracts come in a variety of shades, including pink, blue, purple, and white, making Salvia viridis a versatile choice for both flowerbeds, borders and containers.

Here's a step-by-step guide to successfully grow Salvia viridis in your garden:

Choosing the right location

Salvia viridis thrives in full sun but can tolerate partial shade.

Select a well-draining location with soil that's rich in organic matter. The plant can tolerate slightly alkaline to neutral soil pH.

Salvia viridis typically grows to a height of about 1 to 3 feet (30 to 90 cm) and spreads to a width of approximately 1 to 2 feet (30 to 60 cm). This compact size allows it to fit beautifully in beds, borders, or containers, making it a versatile addition to gardens of various scales.

Planting Salvia viridis

Start seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost date in your area.

Sow the seeds in seed-starting trays filled with a light seed-starting mix. Press the seeds gently into the soil without covering them, as they require light to germinate.

Keep the soil consistently moist until germination occurs.

Once seedlings have developed a few true leaves, they can be transplanted into larger pots or directly into the garden.

Transplanting the seedlings

Transplant the seedlings outdoors after the danger of frost has passed and the soil has warmed up.

Space the plants about 12 to 18 inches (30-45 cm) apart to allow for proper air circulation and growth.


Salvia viridis prefers moderate watering. Keep the soil evenly moist but not waterlogged.

Water at the base of the plant to prevent fungal diseases, as wet foliage can promote issues.


Use a balanced, slow-release fertilizer in the soil before planting. Alternatively, you can feed the plants with a liquid fertilizer every 4-6 weeks.

Pruning and deadheading

Pinch back the growing tips of young plants to encourage bushier growth and more flowers.

Deadhead spent flowers to promote continuous blooming.

Salvia viridis: Pests and diseases

Salvia viridis is relatively resistant to pests and diseases. However, keep an eye out for aphids, whiteflies, and spider mites. Treat any infestations promptly with appropriate insecticidal soap or neem oil.

Understanding bracts

When exploring the incredible world of plants like Salvia viridis, one term that often captures the attention of gardeners is "bract."

Bracts are an integral part of the plant's anatomy and play a significant role in its overall appearance and reproduction.

In the case of Salvia viridis, the bracts are one of the main attractions, contributing to its visual allure. Let's take a closer look at what bracts are and why they make Salvia viridis a captivating choice for any garden.

What are bracts?

Bracts are modified leaves that are distinct from the plant's regular foliage.

They are usually located just below the flowers or inflorescence, serving as protective structures or accessories that enhance the attractiveness of the plant. While bracts might resemble petals or sepals, they have unique functions that set them apart.

What do bracts do?

Protection: Bracts often serve as protective coverings for flowers, buds, or fruits. They shield delicate reproductive structures from environmental factors, such as excessive sunlight, wind, or rain. This protective function ensures the reproductive success of the plant.

Attractiveness: Bracts are responsible for the vibrant colors and intriguing patterns that catch the eye. In the case of Salvia viridis, the colorful pink, blue or white bracts surround the inconspicuous tubular flowers, transforming the plant into a mesmerizing spectacle. These eye-catching bracts play a role in attracting pollinators, such as bees and butterflies, to aid in the process of pollination.

Camouflage: Some plants use bracts to mimic petals or other structures, thereby enhancing their chances of being pollinated. This strategy can be observed in various plant species, where bracts imitate petals to attract pollinators without expending the energy required to produce numerous showy petals.

The bracts of Salvia viridis

Salvia viridis is renowned for its stunning bracts that come in an array of vibrant colors.

The bracts of Salvia viridis surround the inconspicuous tubular flowers, forming a visually striking contrast between the small flowers and the larger, colorful bracts. The array of colors — ranging from soft pinks and purples to bold blues and whites — adds depth and dimension to the plant's appearance, making it an ideal candidate for ornamental use.

Can you eat Salvia viridis?

While Salvia viridis itself is not primarily grown for culinary purposes, you can eat it.

The leaves can be used sparingly in salads or as a garnish, infusing a mild herbal flavor. However, it's essential to exercise caution and moderation, as excessive consumption may have adverse effects for some people.

As dedicated gardeners, our journey with Salvia viridis takes us beyond the blooms and bracts, into the realm of sustainability and future growth. Just as an artist preserves their work through time, so too can we collect and store seeds from Salvia viridis to ensure that its vibrant colors continue to grace our gardens in the seasons to come.

How to collect Salvia viridis seeds

The art of seed collection begins with timing. Allow the bracts to mature fully on the plant, and wait until the flowers have faded and the seeds are visible within the bracts. This ensures that the seeds are fully developed and ready for collection.

To collect the seeds, delicately remove the dried bracts from the plant. Place the bracts in a clean, dry container, and gently rub or crush them between your fingers to release the seeds. Take care not to damage the seeds in the process.

After gently breaking apart the bracts, you may notice that the seeds are mixed with other plant material. To separate the seeds from the chaff, you can lightly blow on the mixture or use a fine mesh sieve. This process helps to isolate the seeds, ensuring that you collect pure, viable seeds.

Once the seeds are separated, spread them out on a clean, dry surface, such as a paper towel or a fine mesh screen. Allow them to air dry for a few days in a cool, well-ventilated area. Make sure the seeds are completely dry before storing them.

To safeguard the seeds for future planting, place them in an airtight container, such as a small glass jar or a seed envelope. Label the container with the plant's name and the date of collection.

Store the container in a cool, dark, and dry location, such as a pantry or a refrigerator. Proper storage conditions help maintain the viability of the seeds over time.

Salvia viridis, with its dazzling bracts and aromatic foliage, is a fantastic addition to any garden. By following these simple steps for growing and caring for Salvia viridis, you can enjoy its vibrant colors and unique beauty throughout the growing season.

Whether planted in beds, borders, or containers, this stunning annual is sure to captivate the senses and elevate the visual appeal of your outdoor space.


Welcome to my garden

Hi! I'm Lars (Denmark).

Thanks for joining me as I share tips and inspiration for perennial gardening. 

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