Growing Salvia Bonfire

Latest Update 10th August 2016.

Salvia Bonfire
  • Salvias are related to Sage and share its tolerance of hot dry climates, even drought.
  • We bought our original red Salvia (Bonfire) 35 years ago, and since then I have grown new stock from seed every year.
  • Frequent dead heading has enabled us to maintain a good show of flowers most of the year, and they will last several years before they need to be replaced.
  • Because they grow quite rapidly, I prefer to replace them every year with new ones propagated from seed.
  • The photo shows Bonfire salvias decorating one end of an Ecobed.  The rich soil and constant supply of moisture makes an Ecobed an ideal place to grow them just for the fun of it.
  • Binomial name:                                      Salvia splendens.
  • Family:                                                   Lamiaceae.
  • Garden bed type:                                     Drip line irrigated. 
  • Recommended soil pH:                             5.5 - 6.5.  
  • Plant spacings (centres):                          300mm. 
  • Climate:                                                  Warm temperate.
  • Geography:                                              Southern hemisphere. 
    Growing Conditions:
    • Full sun.   
    • Minimise soil disturbances to maintain a natural soil structure.  
    Feed the Soil.  
    • In September select a new bed in which to grow salvias.  The bed should not have grown salvias for at least 3 years.  Remove old mulch, fallen leaves and other decaying organic material.  Dispose of them in the compost heap.   
    • Apply a 60mm thick layer of thermal compost to the soil and cover it with straw mulch.  
    • Leave for 4 weeks to boost worm and microbial activity. 
    Growing Instructions  
    • To propagate salvias allow a few plants to go to seed during summer and collect the seed pods once they have dried out.  
    • Remove the seeds and store them in a sealed envelope.  I keep mine in a sealable plastic container in the fridge (not the freezer).  They stay viable for years.
    • Sow a few seeds in September in mini pots containing organic seed raising mix.  They should be scattered on top of the mix and then covered with about 2mm of finely sieved seed mix.
    • Water them by sitting the mini pots in about 10mm of dilute seaweed extract for an hour.  Transfer the mini pots to a propagator, and sink them about 15mm into the wicking media (sieved compost).
    • Once the seedlings are in 4th leaf and growing strongly, transplant them individually into jiffy pots containing organic potting mix and return them to the propagation bed.
    • When the plants are about 100mm tall, plant them in the prepared bed 300mm apart and water them in well with dilute seaweed extract.  
    • Dead head the flowers as soon as they start to set seed (unless seed saving).  This will give you a new flush of flowers several times a year.  They flower vigorously from early spring to late autumn.
    • In winter harvest seeds for the following year (if needed) and dispose of the finished plants in the compost heap.
    • Apply a foliar spray of aerated compost tea whenever the edible plants are sprayed..
    Organic Pest Control.
    • Powdery mildew. 
      • A monthly foliar spray of aerated compost tea protects susceptible plants from powdery mildew.
      • If your salvia is attacked by powdery mildew use a foliar spray of organic fungicide (Eco-fungicide in Australia).
    • Leaf Spot.
      • A monthly foliar spray of aerated compost tea strengthens plants against airborne pests.
      • If your salvia is attacked by leaf spot use a foliar spray of Eco-fungicide.
    • Aphids (greenfly).
      • I usually just rub them out when I find them with my fingers, but if there are lots of them, I remove them with a jet of tap water.
      • If this strategy fails use a foliar spray of organic horticultural oil (Eco-oil in Australia) as a last resort.
    • General.
      • Regular foliar sprays of aerated compost tea boost the natural defences of plants by colonising the leaf surfaces with beneficial microbes.  These microbes defend the plant against airborne pests and diseases.
      • Similarly, proper soil preparation including regular applications of home made compost boosts the community of beneficial microbes, which defend the plants roots against plant pathogens.