Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sky-blue Salvia - Salvia azurea


Perhaps my favorite native salvia is sky-blue salvia (Salvia azurea).  This exceptionally lanky perennial wildflower is found throughout the northern half of Florida and in most states and provinces in the eastern half of North America.  It is a plant of sunny locations with well-drained sandy soils, though it can tolerate semi-shade as long as the soils do not remain wet for long.
Sky-blue salvia is completely deciduous during the winter.  In the spring, a few basal leaves appear early before the flower stalk arises, but these wither as soon as it does.  This is not a foliage plant.  The flower stalk lengthens throughout the summer and eventually reaches a length of up to 6-8 feet,  Few thin linear leaves occur along its length and at maturity it often bends a bit under the weight of the developing flower buds.
Though sky-blue salvia is not an attractive plant during most months, it is breath taking when in bloom.  The typical salvia flowers are a brilliant azure blue in color; a shade of blue not quite matched by any other Florida wildflower.  A stand of this plant, with its flowers caught in the sunlight, can be seen for hundreds of feet away and are especially showy.  They are pollinated by a wide assortment of bees and butterflies.
Sky-blue salvia is regretably difficult to find from commercial sources.  We have collected a bit of seed this fall and hope to have some available at Hawthorn Hill sometime during 2011 or 2012.  It requires full fun and sandy soil to persist.  Use it at the back of a wildflower garden or in the center of an expansive planting.  It mixes well with other taller wildflowers, such as the palafoxias (Palafoxia spp.), the taller blazing stars (Liatris spp.), eastern silver aster (Symphyotrichum concolor) and standing cypress (Ipomopsis rubra), as well as large native grasses such as the Indiangrasses (Sorghastrum spp.) and bluestems (Andropogon spp.). If you are especially interested in this species, let us know - hopefully, we will have some to share with you in the future.

2 comments:

  1. Thank you for this post. I came across this aster in a public garden and took a cutting, not knowing what it was. I planted it in 2013 and it is spreading by underground runners. Now, knowing that it is a native, I'll let it have it's way and see how it does.
    ct

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  2. Found a patch of this plant, in bloom, this morning, and brought a few home. They are so pretty. I'm from Pa. originally, and have sorely missed seeing chicory in bloom. This may be a sweet replacement.

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