Scarlet Sage

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

Learn how to grow and care for Salvia splendens (Scarlet Sage) with expert tips and insights. Discover the secrets to a thriving Scarlet Sage garden in this comprehensive guide.

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Welcome to a comprehensive guide on how to grow and care for Salvia splendens, commonly known as Scarlet Sage. Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or a beginner looking to add a burst of color to your garden, this article will provide you with all the information you need to cultivate healthy and vibrant Scarlet Sage plants.

Salvia splendens, with its striking scarlet red flowers, is a popular choice for gardens and landscapes. Its beautiful appearance and relatively low maintenance requirements make it an ideal choice for both experienced gardeners and novices alike. In this guide, we will delve into every aspect of caring for Salvia splendens, from planting and watering to pest control and propagation.

Scarlet Sage

Salvia splendens (Scarlet Sage) Taxonomy

  • Kingdom: Plantae (Plants)
  • Phylum: Angiosperms (Flowering Plants)
  • Class: Eudicots (Plants with Two Seed Leaves)
  • Order: Lamiales (Mint Order)
  • Family: Lamiaceae (Mint Family)
  • Genus: Salvia (Sage)
  • Species: S. splendens (Scarlet Sage)

This classification places Salvia splendens within the larger group of flowering plants known as angiosperms, specifically in the mint family (Lamiaceae). The genus Salvia encompasses various species commonly referred to as sages, and within this genus, Salvia splendens is the species known as Scarlet Sage, recognized for its vibrant red flowers and ornamental value in gardens and landscapes.

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

Scarlet Sage

Selecting the Right Location

Selecting the ideal location for your Scarlet Sage plants is crucial for their overall health and vigor. Here’s an in-depth look at this important step:

1. Sunlight Requirements

Scarlet Sage, with its brilliant scarlet-red flowers, is a sun-loving plant. To ensure robust growth and abundant blooms, it’s imperative to choose a location that receives ample sunlight.

Aim for a spot in your garden that basks in direct sunlight for a minimum of 6 to 8 hours every day. In regions with particularly intense sun, some partial shade during the hottest part of the day may be beneficial.

Adequate sunlight not only encourages prolific flowering but also enhances the plant’s ability to resist diseases and pests.

2. Soil Quality and Drainage

Well-drained soil is a non-negotiable requirement for Scarlet Sage. These plants despise soggy conditions, which can lead to root rot and other issues.

Before planting, assess the drainage capacity of the chosen area. Ensure that water doesn’t pool around the roots after rain or irrigation.

To improve soil drainage and enhance its fertility, consider incorporating organic matter such as compost or peat moss into the soil. This not only aids in drainage but also provides essential nutrients for your Scarlet Sage.

Additionally, it’s beneficial to check the soil’s pH level. Scarlet Sage thrives in slightly acidic soil with a pH range of 6.0 to 7.0. If your soil falls outside this range, adjust it accordingly with appropriate amendments.

Soil Preparation

Before planting Scarlet Sage (Salvia splendens), it’s essential to prepare the soil properly to create the best possible growing conditions for these vibrant plants. Here’s a detailed look at how to prepare the soil:

1. Organic Matter Enrichment

To begin, focus on enriching the soil with organic matter. Organic matter, such as well-rotted compost or peat moss, plays a crucial role in improving both the texture and nutrient content of the soil.

Adding compost or peat moss enhances the soil’s ability to retain moisture without becoming waterlogged. It also provides essential nutrients that promote healthy growth and robust flowering in your Scarlet Sage plants.

2. pH Level Adjustment

Another key consideration when preparing the soil is the pH level. Scarlet Sage thrives in slightly acidic soil with a pH range of 6.0 to 7.0.

It’s advisable to test your soil’s pH level using a soil testing kit, readily available at garden centers or through local agricultural extension services. This test will reveal the current pH status of your soil.

If the test indicates that your soil’s pH is outside the preferred range for Scarlet Sage, it’s essential to amend it accordingly to create a suitable environment. You can adjust the pH by adding materials like lime to raise pH or sulfur to lower it, depending on the test results.

Planting Scarlet Sage

Planting your Scarlet Sage (Salvia splendens) correctly is a critical step in ensuring their successful growth and vibrant blooming. Here’s a comprehensive guide on how to plant Scarlet Sage:

1. Timing and Frost Considerations

The ideal time to plant Scarlet Sage is in the spring when the threat of frost has passed. These plants are sensitive to cold temperatures and frost can damage or kill them.

Before planting, check local climate and weather conditions to determine when it’s safe to put your Scarlet Sage into the ground. A frost-free environment is essential for their well-being.

2. Spacing for Proper Air Circulation

Proper spacing is vital to allow for adequate air circulation around your Scarlet Sage plants. This helps prevent the development of fungal diseases and ensures healthier growth.

Space individual plants about 12 to 18 inches apart from each other. This spacing provides ample room for the plants to grow without crowding each other.

3. Digging Holes and Planting

Scarlet Sage

Dig holes in the prepared soil that are slightly larger than the root balls of your Scarlet Sage plants. This extra space allows the roots to spread out comfortably.

Carefully remove the plants from their containers or root balls and gently place them into the holes at the appropriate depth. Ensure that the top of the root ball aligns with the soil surface.

Fill the holes with soil, gently pressing it down to eliminate air pockets. This helps secure the plants in place and ensures good root-to-soil contact.

4. Thorough Watering

After planting, provide your Scarlet Sage with a thorough watering. This helps settle the soil around the roots and ensures the plants receive the moisture they need to establish themselves.

Ensure that the soil is evenly moist, but not waterlogged. Proper watering in the initial stages of planting encourages root development and plant stability.


Watering your Scarlet Sage (Salvia splendens) properly is a fundamental aspect of their care. Maintaining the right moisture levels in the soil ensures the health and vitality of these vibrant plants. Here’s a detailed guide on how to water Scarlet Sage effectively:

1. Deep and Infrequent Watering

Proper watering for Scarlet Sage involves deep watering but on an infrequent basis. This means that when you do water, you should ensure that the water penetrates deeply into the soil.

Watering deeply encourages the development of a robust root system as the roots will naturally grow deeper to seek moisture. This, in turn, makes your Scarlet Sage more resilient and less dependent on frequent watering.

2. Allow Soil to Dry Slightly

It’s crucial to allow the soil around your Scarlet Sage plants to dry slightly between watering sessions. These plants are susceptible to root diseases when the soil is consistently wet.

To determine when it’s time to water again, stick your finger into the soil about an inch deep. If it feels dry at that depth, it’s time to water. If it’s still moist, hold off on watering for a day or two.

3. Mulching for Moisture Retention and Weed Suppression

Applying a layer of mulch around your Scarlet Sage plants offers several benefits. Mulch helps retain soil moisture by reducing evaporation, ensuring a more consistent moisture level for your plants.

Additionally, mulch acts as a natural weed suppressant, reducing competition for water and nutrients. Apply a 2-3 inch layer of organic mulch, such as wood chips or straw, around the base of the plants, taking care not to mound it against the stems.


Fertilizing your Scarlet Sage (Salvia splendens) is an essential aspect of their care, ensuring they receive the necessary nutrients for robust growth and abundant flowering. Here’s a detailed guide on how to fertilize Scarlet Sage effectively:

1. Timing and Fertilizer Type

It’s recommended to feed your Scarlet Sage with a balanced, slow-release fertilizer. Opt for a well-balanced granular or pelletized fertilizer with a balanced N-P-K ratio, such as 10-10-10 or 14-14-14.

Apply fertilizer in the early spring, as the plants start their active growth phase after winter dormancy. A second application in mid-summer can further support their growth and flowering.

2. Application Technique

When applying fertilizer, carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding dosage. Over-fertilizing can have detrimental effects, such as excessive foliage growth at the expense of flowers.

Sprinkle the granular or pelletized fertilizer evenly around the base of each plant, avoiding direct contact with the stems. This ensures that the nutrients are distributed to the root zone where they are needed most.

Gently work the fertilizer into the soil surface to help it incorporate into the root zone during watering or rain.

3. Watering After Fertilization

After applying fertilizer, water your Scarlet Sage thoroughly. This helps dissolve and activate the nutrients in the fertilizer, making them available to the plants’ roots.

Ensure that the soil is consistently moist but not waterlogged in the days following fertilization.

4. Monitoring Growth

Keep a close eye on the growth and development of your Scarlet Sage after fertilization. Healthy plants should exhibit vigorous growth and produce an abundance of vibrant flowers.

If you notice excessive foliage growth with limited flowering, it might be an indication of over-fertilization. In such cases, reduce the fertilizer application in the following season.

Pruning and Deadheading

Pruning and deadheading are vital aspects of caring for your Scarlet Sage (Salvia splendens). These maintenance practices help ensure that your plants continue to produce vibrant blooms throughout the growing season while maintaining an attractive, compact form. Here’s a comprehensive guide on how to prune and deadhead Scarlet Sage effectively:

1. Purpose of Pruning and Deadheading

Pruning and deadheading serve two primary purposes: to encourage continuous blooming and to maintain the plant’s shape and appearance.

Removing spent flowers redirects the plant’s energy away from seed production and toward new flower production. This results in a longer blooming period and more abundant flowers.

2. Tools and Timing

To begin, you’ll need a pair of sharp, clean pruning shears or scissors. It’s essential to maintain the hygiene of your tools to prevent the spread of diseases.

Start deadheading and pruning your Scarlet Sage in the early to mid-summer. This is when they are in their peak flowering period.

3. Deadheading Spent Flowers

Regularly inspect your Scarlet Sage for faded or spent flowers. These are typically easy to spot, as they lose their vibrant color and appear wilted.

Snip off spent flowers just above a set of healthy leaves or a leaf node using your pruning shears or scissors. This encourages new flower buds to form at that location.

4. Trimming Leggy Growth

To maintain a compact and bushy shape, trim any leggy or overly long growth. Look for stems that have grown significantly taller than the rest of the plant.

Use your pruning shears to cut back these stems to a desirable length, ensuring that you make the cut just above a healthy set of leaves.

5. Regular Maintenance

Continue deadheading and pruning throughout the growing season as needed. The frequency may vary depending on the rate of growth and the extent of flowering.

Regular maintenance not only keeps your Scarlet Sage looking tidy but also prolongs the flowering period well into late summer or early fall.

Pests and Disease Control

While Scarlet Sage (Salvia splendens) is known for its relative resistance to pests and diseases, it’s still important to remain vigilant and take preventive measures to maintain their health and vitality. Here’s a comprehensive guide on how to control pests and diseases for Scarlet Sage:

1. Pest Monitoring and Identification

Regularly inspect your Scarlet Sage plants for signs of pests. Common pests that may occasionally affect them include aphids and spider mites.

Aphids are small, soft-bodied insects that cluster on the undersides of leaves and flower buds. Spider mites are tiny arachnids that create fine webbing and can be found on the leaves.

2. Early Detection and Treatment

If you detect aphids or spider mites, it’s crucial to address the issue promptly to prevent damage to your plants. These pests can cause damage by sucking sap from the leaves and spreading diseases.

Treat affected plants with neem oil or insecticidal soap, following the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. These natural solutions effectively control pests while minimizing harm to beneficial insects.

3. Preventing Fungal Diseases

Scarlet Sage is generally resistant to fungal diseases, but it’s important to take preventive measures to minimize the risk.

One key prevention strategy is to avoid overhead watering. Fungal diseases thrive in damp conditions, and wet foliage can encourage their development. Instead, water at the base of the plants, directing the water to the root zone.

4. Pruning and Air Circulation

Maintain good air circulation around your Scarlet Sage plants by following the pruning and deadheading guidelines mentioned earlier. Adequate airflow helps prevent the buildup of humidity, which can create favorable conditions for fungal diseases.

Remove any diseased or yellowing leaves promptly to prevent the spread of diseases.

5. Healthy Plant Practices

Keeping your Scarlet Sage plants healthy through proper care practices, such as appropriate watering and fertilization, can enhance their natural resistance to pests and diseases.

Avoid overcrowding plants, as this can reduce air circulation and increase the risk of disease.


Propagating Scarlet Sage (Salvia splendens) through cuttings is a fantastic way to create new plants and expand your garden without the need for seeds. Here’s a comprehensive guide on how to propagate Scarlet Sage effectively:

1. Selecting Healthy Parent Plants

Begin by selecting healthy, well-established Scarlet Sage plants to serve as the parent plants for propagation. Healthy parent plants will yield strong and vigorous offspring.

Look for plants with vibrant foliage and abundant flowering. Avoid plants that show signs of disease, stress, or pest damage.

2. Preparing Stem Cuttings

In the spring or early summer, when the plants are actively growing, prepare your stem cuttings. Use sharp, clean scissors or pruning shears to take 4-6 inch cuttings from the parent plant.

Choose stems that are free from signs of damage or disease. Cut just below a node, which is the point where leaves or branches emerge from the stem.

3. Rooting in Potting Mix

Plant the stem cuttings in a well-draining potting mix. You can use a commercial potting mix designed for seedlings or make your own mix by combining equal parts of peat moss and perlite or vermiculite.

Insert the cuttings into the potting mix, burying them about 1-2 inches deep. Firmly press the soil around the cuttings to ensure good contact.

4. Consistent Moisture

To encourage root development, keep the potting mix consistently moist but not waterlogged. You can use a misting spray bottle to lightly mist the cuttings and maintain humidity.

Consider covering the cuttings with a clear plastic bag or a plastic dome to create a mini-greenhouse effect. This helps retain moisture and promotes root growth.

5. Monitoring Root Development

Over the course of several weeks, monitor the cuttings for signs of root development. Gently tug on the cuttings, and if you feel resistance, it indicates that roots have formed.

Once the cuttings have developed a healthy root system, they can be transplanted into individual pots or directly into your garden.

6. Transplanting

When transplanting rooted cuttings, ensure they are planted in well-draining soil and receive proper care, including sunlight and regular watering, to help them establish themselves.

Winter Care

In regions with cold winters, it’s essential to provide appropriate care to ensure the survival of your Scarlet Sage (Salvia splendens) plants. Scarlet Sage is typically considered a tender perennial, and its ability to withstand winter conditions varies. Here’s a comprehensive guide on how to care for Scarlet Sage during the winter:

1. Assess Your Climate Zone

Start by determining your specific climate zone. Scarlet Sage is more likely to survive mild winters but may struggle in areas with harsh, freezing temperatures.

2. Bring Potted Plants Indoors

If you’re growing Scarlet Sage in containers or pots, consider bringing them indoors before the first frost. Place them in a well-lit location, such as a sunny window, where they can receive adequate sunlight.

Indoor temperatures should ideally remain between 55°F and 70°F (13°C to 21°C) for the plants to thrive.

3. Provide Adequate Protection Outdoors

If your Scarlet Sage is planted directly in the ground, there are a few protective measures you can take to increase their chances of surviving a cold winter.

Apply a thick layer of mulch around the base of the plants to insulate the roots and protect them from freezing temperatures.

Consider covering the plants with frost cloth or blankets on particularly cold nights to shield them from frost damage.

4. Treating Scarlet Sage as Annuals

In regions with extremely cold winters, it may be practical to treat Scarlet Sage as annuals. This means allowing the plants to complete their life cycle during the growing season and replanting new ones the following spring.

Remove any remaining, spent plants in late fall to prevent them from becoming a source of disease or pests during the winter.

5. Overwintering Indoors

Another option, especially if you have a particularly beloved Scarlet Sage plant, is to overwinter it indoors. This involves digging up the plant before the first frost and potting it in a suitable container.

Place the potted plant indoors in a cool but well-lit location. Reduce watering and allow it to go into a dormant state during the winter.

In early spring, reintroduce the potted plant to outdoor conditions when the danger of frost has passed.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is Scarlet Sage (Salvia splendens)? 

Scarlet Sage, scientifically known as Salvia splendens, is a stunning flowering plant renowned for its vibrant scarlet-red blossoms. It belongs to the mint family (Lamiaceae) and is characterized by its lush, green foliage and tall, upright stems covered in striking, tubular flowers.

Is Scarlet Sage an Annual or Perennial Plant? 

Scarlet Sage is often grown as an annual in many regions due to its sensitivity to frost and cold temperatures. However, in warmer climates, it can behave as a perennial, returning year after year.

How Tall Does Scarlet Sage Typically Grow? 

Scarlet Sage plants can vary in height, but they generally grow to be between 12 to 36 inches (30 to 91 centimeters) tall. The exact height depends on factors like the variety of Scarlet Sage and growing conditions.

What Are the Flower Colors of Scarlet Sage?

While the most common color of Scarlet Sage is vibrant red, you can also find varieties in shades of pink, purple, and white.

When Does Scarlet Sage Typically Bloom?

Scarlet Sage is known for its long blooming period, which typically starts in late spring or early summer and can continue through the fall. This extended flowering makes it a favorite for adding color to gardens and landscapes.

What Type of Soil Does Scarlet Sage Prefer? 

Scarlet Sage thrives in well-drained soil with a slightly acidic to neutral pH level. Soil that is rich in organic matter promotes healthy growth and flowering.

How Much Sunlight Does Scarlet Sage Require? 

Scarlet Sage is a sun-loving plant. It requires at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight daily for optimal growth and abundant flowering.

How Often Should I Water Scarlet Sage? 

Watering requirements for Scarlet Sage depend on factors like temperature and soil type. Generally, it’s best to keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged. Allow the top inch or so of soil to dry between watering.

Are There Any Common Pests or Diseases that Affect Scarlet Sage? 

Scarlet Sage is relatively resistant to pests and diseases. However, it may occasionally encounter aphids and spider mites. These can be managed with neem oil or insecticidal soap. Proper care, including good air circulation and avoiding overhead watering, can help prevent fungal diseases.

Can I Propagate Scarlet Sage from Cuttings? 

Yes, you can propagate Scarlet Sage through stem cuttings. Take 4-6 inch cuttings from a healthy plant and root them in a well-draining potting mix. Keep the soil consistently moist until roots develop.

How Do I Prune Scarlet Sage for Continuous Blooming? 

Regular pruning and deadheading are essential for continuous blooming. Remove spent flowers and trim leggy growth to maintain a compact and bushy shape.

What Should I Do with Scarlet Sage in Cold Winters? 

In areas with cold winters, consider bringing potted Scarlet Sage plants indoors or treating them as annuals. Protect outdoor plants with mulch and frost cloth, or dig up and overwinter them indoors in a dormant state.

Is Scarlet Sage Toxic to Pets or Humans? 

Scarlet Sage is not typically considered highly toxic, but it’s best to exercise caution and keep it out of reach of pets and children. Ingesting any plant material can lead to gastrointestinal discomfort, so it’s advisable to avoid consumption.

How Do I Care for Scarlet Sage in Containers or Pots? 

When growing Scarlet Sage in containers, ensure the pots have good drainage, use a well-draining potting mix, and provide adequate sunlight. Water consistently and fertilize as needed to support healthy growth.

Are There Different Varieties of Scarlet Sage? 

Yes, there are numerous varieties of Scarlet Sage, each with its unique characteristics, including flower color, size, and growth habit. Some popular varieties include “Red Hot Sally,” “Coccinea,” and “Lady in Red.”

Can I Attract Pollinators with Scarlet Sage? 

Scarlet Sage is a favorite among pollinators, especially hummingbirds and butterflies. Planting Scarlet Sage in your garden can help attract and support these beneficial insects.

How Do I Overwinter Scarlet Sage Indoors Successfully? 

To overwinter Scarlet Sage indoors, dig up the plant before the first frost, pot it in a suitable container, reduce watering, and place it in a cool, well-lit location. Reintroduce it to outdoor conditions in the spring.

What’s the Best Way to Ensure Scarlet Sage Thrives and Blooms Profusely? 

The key to success with Scarlet Sage is providing it with the right growing conditions: full sun, well-draining soil, proper watering, and regular maintenance, including pruning and deadheading. By following these guidelines, you can enjoy a stunning display of colorful blooms throughout the growing season.


Growing and caring for Salvia splendens (Scarlet Sage) can be a rewarding experience for garden enthusiasts. By following the guidelines provided in this comprehensive guide, you can enjoy the vibrant beauty of Scarlet Sage in your garden and provide a welcoming habitat for pollinators. Remember to water, fertilize, and prune your plants regularly to ensure they thrive year after year. Happy gardening!