How to Prune Salvia

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Salvia is a catch-all name for a variety of sage plants, including autumn sage, meadow sage, lilac sage and blue sage. Although some sages are annuals, most are herbaceous–or woody–perennials. These useful herbs, many of which can be used for cooking, present fragrant ornamental foliage and aromatic blooms, usually in some shade of pink, red or purple. Salvia flower from spring to fall, and flourish in mixed borders, rock gardens, flower beds and native meadows. The plants tend to develop old, woody stems and require pruning. Autumn sage and caradonna sage particularly benefit from a trim–not only to clean up the plant, but to elicit a second burst of blooming and encourage growth. If your salvia looks a little listless, a haircut may be all it needs.

Moderately Easy


things you’ll need:
  • Sharp pruning shears or scisscors
  • Thick gardening gloves
    1. Plant salvia in well-drained soil in full sun. Provide a light mulching to protect the roots, and very little fertilizer. Over-fertilizing produces lush plants that lack flowers.
    2. Deadhead salvia in the fall to remove old flower spikes. This also helps shape the plant and neaten its appearance. Hold the end of a spent flower spike and move down with your other hand until you find the place you want to make your cut. This method prevents you from chopping off a stalk you don’t want to cut. Snip each stalk down to the greenery at the center of the plant.
    3. Cut off old, woody stems in spring, after the plant has begun to grow again and after any danger of frost has passed. The old stems, although unsightly, protect new growth. According to Global, many gardeners recommend waiting to prune until you see new shoots emerging near the base of the plant.
    4. Trim your salvia very low in the summer to encourage re-blooming. Wait until your salvia has enjoyed a burst of early summer blooms, then cut the long stalks back deeply, removing at least half of the plant. If you have a mass planting of salvia, the plants will be at different heights. Cut these at varying levels, but cut back at least 50 percent of the plant. The salvia will reward you by bouncing back quickly with renewed vigor and lots of blossoms.
    5. Pick up all fallen leaves and dead flowers around your salvia to reduce chances of fungal infection.
    6. Finish your pruning session by inspecting the salvia for aphids and spider mites. Aphids are tiny, green and tear drop-shaped. Spider mites leave wispy gray webs on the undersides of leaves. Control aphids with yellow sticky cards, sold at garden supply stores. Treat mites with an organic spray made of 1 tsp. blackstrap molasses per gallon of water.
    7. Prune your salvia again in late summer to encourage a third blooming.

Tips & Warnings

  • Plant salvia close to your house or in a windowbox to enjoy the plant’s fragrance, as well as the butterflies and hummingbirds it attracts.

  • To avoid injury, wear heavy gardening gloves while pruning. Use a sharp shears that makes clean, effortless cuts.

  • It’s OK to prune salvia deeply, but remember never to cut down to bare wood.

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