Crop Vignette: Salvia

Plant Information

Salvia is the largest genus of plants in the family Lamiaceae, with the number of species estimated to range from 700 to 1,000. There are 3 main regions for radiation of Salvia: Central and South America with approximately 500 species, Central Asia and the Mediterranean with approximately 250 species, and eastern Asia with approximately 90 species. Members include shrubs, herbaceous perennials and annuals. One of several genera commonly referred to as “sage”, Salvia includes the widely produced culinary herb Salvia officinalis that has been cultivated for thousands of years for its leaves that can be used in cooking or in teas. Some of the popular perennial sage genera include Salvia splendens, S. greggii, S. microphylla, S. nemorosa, Salvia x sylvestris, and Perovskia atriplicifolia. Salvia coccinea is a common annual sage.

A species Salvia divinorum has a long and continuous tradition of religious use by Mazatec Indians in Mexico to facilitate visionary states of consciousness during spiritual healing sessions. It is a plant species with transient psychoactive properties when its leaves are consumed by chewing, smoking or as a tea. The leaves contain opioid-like compounds that induce hallucinations.

Salvia is grown in the greenhouse to be sold as potted environmental horticulture plants for landscape uses. Generally, any standard bedding plant production methods will work very well. They tolerate a fairly wide range of pH and soil types. Height control is commonly a problem with salvia because they grow quickly and can become so big for consumers. Shifting to cooler production temperatures after plants have rooted and the use of plant growth regulators are methods to manage height during production. High light levels are also essential; they not only give a more compact plant but also speed flowering. Fairly high fertility level is the key to dark green foliage. Irrigation should keep plants lightly moist at all times.

Some salvia species and cultivars are a favorite of hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees. Their drought-resistant nature and low maintenance make them a perfect choice for an easy-care garden.


According to the USDA NASS Census of Horticulture 2014, salvia (combined annuals and herbaceous perennials) rank in the top 25 crops for units (containers & flats) sold with more than 7.5 million produced annually and have an annual production value of more than $27 million.

Main Disease Problems

Salvias have several main disease problems including leaf spots, powdery mildew, rust, Botrytis blight, gray mold, and stem and root rots.

Main Pest Problems

Salvias have a wide variety of pests such as aphids, spider mites, thrips, snails / slugs, whiteflies, flea beetles and mealybugs.

IR-4 Research

Most of the research IR-4 has sponsored has been related to crop safety (156 trials with 90 products), and we have screened new actives and products with Salvias for effective management of root rots (Phytophthora cactorum, P. nicotianae), red headed flea beetle (Systena frontalis), whiteflies (Bemisia tabaci), and brown garden snail (Cryptomphalus asperses). In addition, Salvia guaranitica ‘Black ‘n Blue’ and annual salvia are being studied as model crops to determine amount of systemic insecticide residues in nectar.

Sources Cited

USDA-NASS Census of Horticulture, 2014


Ely Vea, IR-4 Environmental Horticulture Program Assistant Manager, Jackie Cavaliere, IR-4 Environmental Horticulture Program Coordinator, and Cristi Palmer, IR-4 Environmental Horticulture Program Manager