On Gardening: Amistad salvia gives your beds the royal treatment

May 4, 2015
The native coreopsis will bring in bees and butterflies like this striking American Lady.

Until something unseats it, Amistad salvia is the most beautiful salvia to ever hit the market. Amistad is a Salvia guaranitica or anise sage and is a rich purple violet color fit for royalty. You canít fault a name like Amistad or Friendship salvia. This plant is special and deserving of something regal.

But as Shakespeare said, "Whatís in a name?" The most important thing is that you buy it and include it in your flower border. Do it for the beauty it exudes but also for the tremendous number of hummingbirds and other pollinators it will attract.

We received ours as part of the Southern Living plant collection trial program. When local nurserymen came to our garden party, they were stunned by the salvia to the point that this year it was included in their product line. Lucky for us we received for trial the Sunshine ligustrum in the same shipment. This golden leafed beauty just so happens to perform equally well and makes an absolutely stunning partner for the Amistad salvia.

The Amistad is rated to 10 degrees in cold hardiness. I assure you the rest of you will want to grow it as an annual much like you do Salvia splendens or scarlet sage. Amistad, however, will dwarf it as it will form a clump 4 feet tall by 4 feet wide.

Black and Blue salvia guaranitica has been my favorite and performs best in morning sun and afternoon shade. Amistad with its elegant royal purple blooms and black calyxes will thrive in full sun which allows its beauty to be reveled in all day long. Ours were already in full bloom the third week of April, and the show will continue until frost.

To grow yours, choose a site in full to part sun for best flowering. Again, our beds get direct afternoon sun. This plant is winter-hardy from zones 8-10 but only with good drainage. If cold winters are coupled with soggy soil, the plant will be history. In colder areas this will be one of the finest annuals you can grow, blooming from summer through frost. If I lived in zone 7, I would plant it on the south side of the house, give it a little extra mulch headed into winter and hope for a spring return.

To help with those drainage issues, prepare your soil before planting by adding 3 to 4 inches of organic matter like fine pine bark or compost, and till to a depth of 8 to 10 inches. While preparing the bed, incorporate 2 pounds of a 12-6-6 slow-release fertilizer with minor nutrients. Plant in the place them at the same depth they are growing in the container spacing 2 to 3-feet apart.

Amistad will have no trouble reaching 4 to 5 feet in height so plant toward the back of the border. In addition to including the Sunshine ligustrum, we gave a tropical look to our bed by incorporating bananas for the element of bold leaf texture. We also planted a few of the golden-yellow version of the tropical milkweed. Yellow and gold makes the perfect complementary color scheme.

Iíve always suggested that if you want to look like youíve used a landscape designer, then try partnering some blue with the violet. There is just something about the color combination that makes you go WOW. In this case, try planting with Blue Fortune agastache. This will give you give you an incredible backyard habitat for bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.



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