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Linda Naeve, Reiman Gardens, (515) 294-8946,
Jean McGuire, Continuing Education and Communication Services, (515) 294-7033,

Victoria Blue Salvia is an "Oldie, but Goodie"

By Linda Naeve
Extension Coordinator
Reiman Gardens

This week's Reiman's Pick is an "oldie but goodie," "tried and true" and "true blue." All of these phrases apply to Victoria Blue salvia, Salvia farinacea. Its rarely used common name is Mealy-cup sage.

Victoria Blue salvia is a member of the mint family, which is characterized by square stems and an aromatic fragrance. The salvia genus is a large group within this family that includes more than 900 species of shrubs, herbs, herbaceous perennials and annuals. Salvia comes from salveo, which means "save," referring to the medicinal value associated with this genus.

Salvia farinacea has been grown for its ornamental beauty prior to the 1850's. It is native to Texas and Mexico where it grows on rocky, alkaline soil. Today's hybrids maintain that resilient characteristic with their tolerance to heat, humidity and challenging soils.

Victoria Blue is probably the most popular and commonly planted S. farinacea on the market. It is one of a few summer annuals that offer a true, deep blue color. The small flowers are tightly arranged on 8- to 10-inch spikes that rise above the sturdy plants. The attractive green foliage is arranged in whorls on the stems.

There are other cultivars of S. farinacea that merit attention, such as Strata. It was a 1996 "All America Selections Winner" and it produces flower spikes with both white and blue flowers, giving the spike an overall powder-blue appearance.

Victoria Blue salvia is grown as an annual in the Midwest. It is sometimes considered a tender perennial because it is hardy as far north as USDA Zone 7. Occasionally it will survive mild Iowa winters and if it is planted in a protected location. It performs best in full sun and well-drained soil.

Victoria Blue has many uses in the garden. It is beautiful planted in containers and looks incredible in a mass planting. The uniform plant height, between 18 to 24 inches, makes a large planting appear tidy and organized. It is an excellent choice for large flowerbeds that need to be showy, yet require low maintenance. Unlike its cousin, Salvia splendens, it does not need frequent "dead-heading," as the blooms last a long time. The plants will flower continuously from early summer through the first frost. They are also relatively pest-free.

In addition to being an outstanding garden flower, Victoria Blue salvia spikes are excellent cut flowers and dry beautifully. To dry the spikes for long-lasting arrangements, cut them before the top fourth of the flowers are open. Band several stems together with a rubber band and hang them upside down in a dark, well-ventilated area. They will dry straight and strong and the flowers will retain their dark blue color.

Victoria Blue salvia can be found throughout Reiman Gardens. They not only provide a beautiful upright spike form to the gardens, they also fit into this year's theme --"The Year of the Butterfly"-- because the flowers attract butterflies and hummingbirds.

To learn more about the Reiman Gardens at Iowa State University visit us on the Web at


Editors: A color photo, suitable for publication, is available at right. Click on the thumbnail photo to go to the fullsized photo. The picture's fullsize photo is 447K.

Caption: Victoria Blue Salvia

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