Scarlet Sage

How to Grow and Care for Salvia coccinea (Scarlet Sage): A Comprehensive Guide

Learn how to grow and care for Salvia coccinea (Scarlet Sage) with expert tips and insights. Discover the secrets to nurturing this vibrant plant for a beautiful garden.

Salvia coccinea, commonly known as Scarlet Sage, is a stunning addition to any garden. Its vibrant red blooms and low maintenance nature make it a favorite among garden enthusiasts. Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or just starting, this guide will provide you with all the information you need to successfully cultivate and care for Salvia coccinea.


Salvia coccinea, or Scarlet Sage, is a native plant to the southeastern United States and a member of the mint family, Lamiaceae. This perennial plant is known for its brilliant red flowers and aromatic foliage. It’s not only a beautiful addition to your garden but also attracts pollinators like butterflies and hummingbirds.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the step-by-step process of growing and caring for Salvia coccinea. From selecting the right location to dealing with common issues, you’ll become a Scarlet Sage expert in no time.

Scarlet Sage 5

Salvia coccinea (Scarlet Sage) Taxonomy

Kingdom: Plantae (Plants)

Phylum: Angiosperms (Flowering Plants)

Class: Eudicots (Dicotyledons)

Order: Lamiales

Family: Lamiaceae (Mint Family)

Genus: Salvia (Sage)

Species: Salvia coccine

How to Grow and Care for Salvia coccinea (Scarlet Sage)

Scarlet Sage

1. Choosing the Right Location

Salvia coccinea, also known as Scarlet Sage, is a plant that flourishes when given the proper environment. To ensure its growth and vibrancy, you must carefully choose the right location. Here’s a detailed explanation:

  • 1.1. Sunlight Requirements:

Scarlet Sage is at its best when exposed to full sunlight. It craves the warmth and energy of the sun to thrive. Therefore, when selecting a spot for planting, prioritize areas that receive a minimum of 6 hours of direct sunlight daily. This ensures that your Scarlet Sage receives the necessary light to fuel its growth and vibrant blooms.

  • 1.2. Soil Considerations:

Equally important is the type of soil in which you plant your Scarlet Sage. To prevent root rot and other moisture-related issues, opt for well-draining soil. This type of soil allows excess water to escape, preventing it from accumulating around the plant’s roots and causing damage. Amending your soil with organic matter can also help improve drainage and provide essential nutrients.

Scarlet Sage

2. Planting Scarlet Sage

If you want to ensure the healthy growth of Scarlet Sage (Salvia coccinea), proper planting is key. Here are the essential steps for planting Scarlet Sage:

  • 2.1. When to Plant:

Scarlet Sage thrives when planted during specific seasons. The best times to plant Scarlet Sage are in the spring or fall. These seasons provide favorable conditions for the plant to establish its roots and adapt to its new environment. Planting during these periods maximizes the chances of a successful growth cycle.

  • 2.2. Spacing:

Adequate spacing between Scarlet Sage plants is crucial for their development. Leave approximately 12 inches of space between each plant. This generous spacing allows each plant to receive sufficient sunlight, air circulation, and nutrients from the soil without competing with neighboring plants. Proper spacing ensures that your Scarlet Sage can grow vigorously without any hindrance.

  • 2.3. Soil Preparation:

Preparing the soil is a critical step in promoting the health and vigor of Scarlet Sage. To do this:

  • Amend the Soil: Enhance the soil quality by amending it with organic matter. Organic matter, such as compost or well-rotted manure, improves both drainage and fertility. It provides essential nutrients that nourish the plant and encourages robust growth.

3. Watering

  • Proper watering is crucial for the well-being of Scarlet Sage (Salvia coccinea). Here’s how to manage watering effectively:
  • 3.1. Regular Watering:

Scarlet Sage prefers soil that is consistently moist but not waterlogged. Aim to keep the soil evenly damp, especially during the growing season when the plant is actively putting out new growth and flowers. This means you should water when the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch. Be attentive to the plant’s needs, adjusting your watering schedule based on weather conditions and the moisture levels in the soil.

  • 3.2. Drought Tolerance:

Once your Scarlet Sage is well-established, it displays impressive drought tolerance. This means it can endure periods of limited rainfall or watering without suffering significant stress. However, it’s essential to note that even drought-tolerant plants benefit from occasional watering during prolonged dry spells. Providing water during these times ensures that your Scarlet Sage remains healthy and continues to produce its striking scarlet blooms.

4. Fertilizing

Fertilizing plays a significant role in ensuring the vitality and bloom quality of Scarlet Sage (Salvia coccinea). Here’s how to fertilize your Scarlet Sage effectively:

  • 4.1. Moderate Feeding:

To provide your Scarlet Sage with the nutrients it needs, apply a balanced, slow-release fertilizer in the spring. This is a critical time as the plant is emerging from its dormancy and entering a period of active growth. A balanced fertilizer typically has equal proportions of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). This balanced approach ensures that your plant gets the necessary nutrients to support overall health and blooming.

  • 4.2. Avoid Overfeeding:

While feeding your Scarlet Sage is essential, it’s equally important to avoid overfeeding. Excessive fertilizer can lead to several issues, including leggy growth (long, weak stems) and a decrease in the number of blooms produced. Overfertilization can disrupt the natural balance of nutrients in the soil, negatively impacting your plant’s development.

To prevent overfeeding, follow the recommended dosage instructions on the fertilizer packaging and refrain from applying more than instructed. Remember that Scarlet Sage is relatively low-maintenance, and a moderate, well-timed application of fertilizer in the spring is usually sufficient to support healthy growth and abundant blooms.

5. Pruning

Pruning is an essential aspect of caring for Scarlet Sage (Salvia coccinea) that can contribute to healthier growth and more abundant blooms. Here’s how to approach pruning effectively:

  • 5.1. Deadheading:

To encourage continuous blooming, it’s important to practice deadheading. Deadheading involves the removal of spent or faded flowers from the plant. By doing this, you stimulate the production of new flower buds and extend the flowering period of your Scarlet Sage. Deadhead regularly throughout the growing season, and you’ll be rewarded with a longer-lasting display of those vibrant scarlet blooms.

  • 5.2. Cut Back in Fall:

Trimming your Scarlet Sage in late fall is another beneficial pruning practice. This late-season cutback helps the plant prepare for winter dormancy and promotes bushier growth in the following growing season. To do this, simply trim the plant back by about a third, removing any leggy or dead growth. Be mindful not to prune too early in the fall, as you want to allow the plant to capture as much sunlight as possible before winter sets in.

Pruning, when done correctly, not only keeps your Scarlet Sage looking tidy but also encourages it to flourish. By removing spent blooms and providing the right late-season trim, you’ll ensure that your Scarlet Sage remains vigorous and continues to grace your garden with its stunning red flowers.

6. Pest and Disease Management

Keeping your Scarlet Sage (Salvia coccinea) healthy involves safeguarding it against common pests and diseases. Here are some essential guidelines for pest and disease management:

  • 6.1. Common Pests:

Two common pests that can affect Scarlet Sage are aphids and spider mites. These tiny insects can harm the plant by feeding on its leaves and disrupting its growth. Keep a watchful eye for signs of these pests, such as distorted or discolored leaves.

  • 6.2. Preventative Measures:

To protect your Scarlet Sage from pests and diseases, follow these preventative measures:

  • Regular Inspection: Periodically inspect your plants for any signs of trouble. This includes looking for unusual discoloration, wilting, or the presence of insects. Early detection allows for prompt action.
  • Organic Pest Control: If you notice an infestation of aphids or spider mites, consider using organic pest control methods. These can include introducing beneficial insects like ladybugs, using neem oil or insecticidal soap, or simply spraying the affected areas with a strong stream of water to dislodge the pests.

7. Winter Care

As the winter months approach, it’s important to provide proper care for your Scarlet Sage (Salvia coccinea) to ensure its well-being during the cold season. Here’s how to prepare your Scarlet Sage for winter:

  • 7.1. Mulching:

Apply a protective layer of mulch around the base of your Scarlet Sage plants. Mulch acts as insulation, helping to regulate soil temperature and protect the plant’s roots from freezing temperatures. A layer of mulch, about 2 to 3 inches thick, is ideal. Ensure that the mulch does not touch the stems directly to prevent rotting.

  • 7.2. Prune Wisely:

In early spring, before new growth begins, take the time to trim back any dead or damaged growth on your Scarlet Sage. Pruning away dead or diseased parts of the plant promotes a healthier start to the new growing season. Use clean and sharp pruning shears for this task to avoid causing unnecessary stress to the plant.

Scarlet Sage


What is Scarlet Sage, and what makes it unique among garden plants?

Scarlet Sage, scientifically known as Salvia coccinea, is a striking perennial plant known for its vibrant red flowers and aromatic foliage. What sets it apart is its ability to attract pollinators like butterflies and hummingbirds, making it a favorite among wildlife enthusiasts.

When is the best time to plant Scarlet Sage?

Scarlet Sage is best planted in the spring or fall. These seasons offer favorable conditions for the plant’s establishment and growth.

How much sunlight does Scarlet Sage require?

Scarlet Sage thrives in full sunlight but can tolerate partial shade. To ensure its optimal growth, it’s recommended to provide it with at least 6 hours of direct sunlight daily.

What type of soil is suitable for Scarlet Sage?

Well-draining soil is essential for Scarlet Sage to prevent root rot. Amending the soil with organic matter can improve both drainage and fertility, creating an ideal environment for the plant.

How often should I water my Scarlet Sage?

Scarlet Sage prefers consistently moist soil but not waterlogged. It’s advisable to water when the top inch of soil feels dry. In hot weather, this may require more frequent watering.

Is Scarlet Sage drought-tolerant?

Yes, once established, Scarlet Sage exhibits impressive drought tolerance. It can withstand dry periods, making it a resilient addition to your garden.

Do I need to deadhead my Scarlet Sage?

Yes, deadheading is recommended to encourage continuous blooming. By removing spent flowers, you stimulate the production of new blooms, extending the plant’s flowering period.

How can I prevent common pests like aphids and spider mites on my Scarlet Sage?

Regular inspection is key. If you notice these pests, consider using organic pest control methods like introducing beneficial insects, using neem oil, insecticidal soap, or simply spraying with water to dislodge them.

Can I grow Scarlet Sage in a container?

Absolutely! Scarlet Sage can thrive in containers, provided the pot has good drainage. Be sure to use a well-draining potting mix to create a suitable environment for the plant.

Is there any special pruning required for Scarlet Sage?

Pruning your Scarlet Sage is beneficial. In late fall, trim it back by about a third to encourage bushier growth. You can also deadhead regularly to maintain its appearance.

How can I prepare my Scarlet Sage for winter?

To protect your Scarlet Sage during winter, apply a layer of mulch around the base to insulate the roots and trim back dead growth in early spring before new growth begins.

Can I propagate Scarlet Sage, and if so, how?

Yes, you can propagate Scarlet Sage through softwood cuttings in late spring or early summer. Dip the cuttings in rooting hormone and plant them in a well-draining soil mix to encourage successful propagation.

Is Scarlet Sage suitable for attracting pollinators to my garden?

Absolutely! Scarlet Sage is known for its ability to attract pollinators, including butterflies and hummingbirds. It can be a valuable addition to your garden if you want to encourage these beautiful visitors.

How can I keep my Scarlet Sage looking its best year after year?

To maintain the health and appearance of your Scarlet Sage, consider dividing and replanting it every few years. This helps rejuvenate the plant and keeps it thriving.

What should I do if my Scarlet Sage becomes leggy?

If you notice that your Scarlet Sage is developing long, weak stems (leggy growth), trim it back by about a third in early spring. This pruning will promote bushier growth and help maintain its shape.

Can I use Scarlet Sage for culinary or medicinal purposes?

While some salvias have culinary and medicinal uses, Scarlet Sage is primarily grown for its ornamental value. It’s essential to research and verify the specific properties and uses of any plant before using it for culinary or medicinal purposes.

Are there any companion plants that pair well with Scarlet Sage?

Scarlet Sage can complement other sun-loving perennials and annuals in your garden. Consider planting it alongside flowers like marigolds, zinnias, or lavender to create a visually appealing and pollinator-friendly garden bed.

Does Scarlet Sage require any special winter protection in regions with harsh winters?

In regions with severe winters, providing additional winter protection, such as covering the plant with burlap or a protective layer of mulch, can help safeguard Scarlet Sage from frost damage.

Is Scarlet Sage suitable for indoor cultivation?

Scarlet Sage is primarily an outdoor plant due to its preference for sunlight. However, you can grow it indoors if you can provide it with the necessary light conditions. Place it in a sunny window where it receives at least 6 hours of direct sunlight daily.

How long does Scarlet Sage typically bloom during the year?

Scarlet Sage is known for its extended blooming period, which can last from late spring well into the fall. With proper care, you can enjoy its vibrant red flowers for several months.

Can Scarlet Sage be used in landscaping and garden design?

Certainly, Scarlet Sage can be an excellent addition to your landscaping and garden design. Its striking red blooms and attractive foliage make it a versatile choice for borders, flower beds, and container gardens.

What are some common issues or diseases that Scarlet Sage may face, and how can I address them?

While Scarlet Sage is relatively disease-resistant, it can occasionally face issues such as powdery mildew or fungal infections. To address these problems, ensure proper air circulation around the plant, avoid overhead watering, and promptly remove any affected leaves. Applying fungicidal treatments may be necessary in severe cases.

Can I use Scarlet Sage as a cut flower in floral arrangements?

Yes, Scarlet Sage’s vibrant red blossoms make it an eye-catching addition to floral arrangements. Its long-lasting blooms can add a pop of color to your indoor floral displays.

Is Scarlet Sage an annual or perennial plant?

Scarlet Sage is a perennial plant in regions with mild winters, but it is often grown as an annual in areas with harsh winters. In colder climates, it may not survive the winter and is replanted in the spring.

Are there different varieties or cultivars of Scarlet Sage available?

Yes, there are several cultivars of Scarlet Sage, offering variations in flower color, height, and growth habit. Some popular cultivars include ‘Lady in Red,’ ‘Coral Nymph,’ and ‘Forest Fire.’

Is Scarlet Sage deer-resistant?

Scarlet Sage is considered deer-resistant due to its aromatic foliage, which deer tend to avoid. This quality makes it an excellent choice for gardens in areas with deer populations.

Are there any specific tips for growing Scarlet Sage from seeds?

Growing Scarlet Sage from seeds is possible and can be an economical way to propagate the plant. Start by sowing the seeds indoors about 6-8 weeks before the last expected frost date. Ensure good seed-to-soil contact, keep the soil consistently moist, and provide ample light. Transplant the seedlings outdoors when they have developed a couple of true leaves and the weather is suitable.

Can I use Scarlet Sage for xeriscaping or in drought-tolerant gardens?

Yes, Scarlet Sage’s drought tolerance makes it an excellent choice for xeriscaping or water-wise gardens. Its ability to withstand dry conditions while still producing vibrant blooms can be an asset in landscapes where water conservation is a priority.

What are some potential companion herbs or plants that go well with Scarlet Sage in herb gardens?

In herb gardens, Scarlet Sage pairs nicely with other aromatic herbs like lavender, rosemary, and sage. Its vibrant red flowers can also provide a colorful contrast to the green foliage of culinary herbs.

Can I use Scarlet Sage in naturalized or wildflower gardens?

Scarlet Sage can be a valuable addition to naturalized or wildflower gardens, as it attracts pollinators and adds bursts of color to these settings. Its adaptability and low maintenance make it a suitable choice for such environments.

How can I encourage Scarlet Sage to self-seed and naturalize in my garden?

Allowing Scarlet Sage to go to seed is a simple way to encourage it to naturalize. Leave some spent flowers on the plant, and they will produce seeds that can germinate naturally, creating new plants in your garden.

Are there any reported allergies or adverse reactions associated with Scarlet Sage?

Scarlet Sage is generally considered safe for most people and is not known to cause allergies or adverse reactions when touched or handled. However, it’s essential to exercise caution when handling any plant if you have known allergies or sensitivities.

What are some creative landscaping ideas or design themes that incorporate Scarlet Sage?

Scarlet Sage can be integrated into various garden themes and design styles. Consider using it in cottage gardens, butterfly gardens, or as part of a red-themed garden to create a visually appealing and cohesive landscape.

Can I grow Scarlet Sage in containers on a balcony or patio?

Yes, Scarlet Sage can thrive in containers, making it suitable for balcony or patio gardening. Ensure the containers have proper drainage, and use a well-draining potting mix to provide the ideal growing conditions.


Cultivating and caring for Salvia coccinea, or Scarlet Sage, can be a rewarding experience for any gardener. By following the guidelines provided in this comprehensive guide, you’ll be well-equipped to grow healthy and vibrant Scarlet Sage plants that will grace your garden with their stunning red blooms.

Remember that proper sunlight, well-draining soil, and regular maintenance are key to success. With a little effort and attention, your Scarlet Sage will thrive and become a focal point of your garden.