Image courtesy of PanAmerican Seed
Set aside some garden space for growing sage (Salvia), and you’ll fall in love with a plant group that boasts wonderful variety and low-maintenance beauty. Many salvia seeds sprout easily and make trying different sage plants a project you can tackle from seed to harvest. Try your hand at growing perennial or annual salvia seeds.
One group of salvia seeds worth sprouting are the annual bedding types. This group of salvias includes Salvia farinacea (mealycup sage), Salvia coccinea (Texas sage or scarlet sage) and Salvia splendens (also known as scarlet sage). Start these salvias indoors to get a jump on the growing season and have flowers sooner than seeds sown outdoors.
If you’re growing named varieties or cultivars of these bedding salvias, saving seed to sprout won’t yield plants similar to the parents. With Salvia farinacea, you’ll likely find offspring disappointing compared to parent plants. For Salvia coccinea, the offspring plants from seed may produce interesting flower colors.
Sprouting perennial salvia seed is also a task you can start early indoors. For types that are hardy in cold-winter regions, try winter sowing techniques to sprout a crop of salvia plants. Again, though, be warned that seed of some cultivars may be sterile and won’t yield offspring similar to parent plants.
Most salvia seed need light to germinate. If you’re starting seeds indoors, moisten seed starting mix, then sprinkle seeds on top of the mix. Gently press them to make contact between moist mix and seed. Most gardeners cover their seeds with some type of plastic dome or sheeting to retain moisture and improve germination. To avoid disease problems, make sure your cover doesn’t touch seeds or seedlings.
One of the most famous salvia seeds is that of Salvia hispanica, the chia plant. Chia seeds are celebrated for two opposite roles. The first is as a highly nutritious healthy food. The second is as the famous sprout on Chia Pets. Chia seeds bring a wealth of healthy benefits to diets, including calcium, protein, omega-3 fatty acids and many vitamins.
While it’s possible, most gardeners don’t try to grow culinary sage from seed. Sprouting this type of salvia seed is a slow-growing process, and the result, if it’s from seed you collected yourself, may not yield the same flavorful leaves you treasure from your favorite sage. This is especially true if you are growing several culinary sage plants and cross-pollination occurs.
For the native chaparral sages, like bee sage (Salvia apiana), cleveland sage (Salvia clevelandii) and Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha), you can let plants self-sow in a naturalized setting. For gardeners in areas where these salvias aren’t hardy, it’s best to start seeds early indoors or purchase seedlings from garden centers.