Alan Titchmarsh’s tips on growing salvias | Garden | Life & Style

Do you have a sun-drenched border?

Is it in need of a shot in the arm?

If you have, and it is, look no further than salvias. Now I do not mean those scarlet plants that parks departments in the 1960s used along with French marigolds, lobelia and alyssum to create a so-called “riot” of colour.

The name of that variety was ‘Blaze of Fire’ and it was a particularly strident shade of pillar-box red, which is hard to place in a garden.

But over the past few years a race of slightly tender but perennial salvias has been developed that are absolutely brilliant garden plants for a sunny spot and a patch of well-drained soil.

I say “slightly tender” simply because in my Hampshire garden (which is not completely soft and southern since it sits at 365ft above sea level) many of these salvias come through the winter happily. They are unusually knocked back a bit by frosts but in April I always cut away the dead growth and new shoots spring away to flower right through summer.

As a parecaution I always take a few cuttings in late summer, so that the young rooted plants can be overwintered in a cold frame or cool greenhouse and planted out in spring. The result has been a south-facing border next to the house that has been plastered in flower since June.

These “new” salvias come with wonderful names. One of the best, I think, is ‘Hot Lips’, which has flowers of red and white. Another favourite is ‘Mr Bumble’, which is a rich wine red.

None of the flowers are huge, neither are they carried in the dense cockade associated with ‘Blaze of Fire’ but the entire plant is peppered with small, lipped flowers, perhaps an inch long, and the great plus is that they are carried from June until the frosts.

The plants themselves grow about 18in high and as much across.

Rooting shoot tip cuttings could not be easier.

A seed tray or a few pots of sandy compost is all you need and 3in-long cuttings – trimmed of their lower leaves and with a clean cut made under a leaf joint so that the entire thing is about 3in long – will root in a matter of weeks and can be potted up and kept under cover from October to April until they are planted out next year.

So if you could do with a splash of colour this late in the season, get down to your garden centre and see what they have in the way of salvias. I promise that you’ll not be disappointed.   

Don’t miss Alan’s gardening column today and Tip Of The Day every weekday in the Daily Express. For more information on his range of gardening products visit

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