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Salvia 'Black and Blue'

As a gardener who is always seeking out dark flowers and plants I can’t believe that salvia ‘Black and Blue’ has escaped my notice all these years. The salvia guaranitica ‘Black and Blue’ cultivar is remarkable for the bright blue flowers, dark stems and almost black calyx. Unfortunately, ‘Black and Blue’ is hardy USDA Zones 8-11, and here in Chicago it would be grown as an annual. I encountered it by accident after brushing against the leaves of the plant growing in a public planter and released the most wonderful scent and discovered why one of the common names is ‘Anise Sage.’

Salvia guarnitica 'Black and Blue'

The scented foliage, which I stupidly didn’t photograph, is darker than other salvias. The plants I came across were only about three feet tall but the plant has the potential to grow 6 feet in height provided conditions are right. A search of Google for Gardeners indicates that salvia ‘Black and Blue’ doesn’t like to be over watered and cold and wet conditions will rot the underground tuber out. I suppose in Zones where the plant is not hardy the tuber could be lifted like the tubers of ornamental sweet potato vines and and the rhizomes of cannas and stored indoors until spring.


The bilabiate blooms of salvia are perfectly shaped for humming birds, but as you can see from the picture above they’re also attractive to honeybees who visit for the nectar while the flower deposits pollen on their back.

Bumble bee, Salvia 'Black and Blue'

While I was photographing these salvia plants I noticed that bumble bees didn’t quite fit into the bloom like the honeybees did. Bumble bees were dipping their head’s into the calyx of the flower and I figured it was because they were too fat and could only reach the nectar inside by using the side entrance. But then while editing photographs I noticed that some honeybees were doing the same. Perhaps these bees aren't eschewing their end of the pollination bargain and are just drinking rain water or morning dew from inside the calyx. Whatever it was they were doing it was interesting watching pollinators behaving in a way I wouldn't have expected.

Have you ever grown Salvia guaranitica 'Black and Blue' before? What's your take on this plant? Would you recommend growing it as an annual since it isn't hardy to my Zone or should I overwinter tubers of the plant this year and plant it the next growing season?


  1. I was struck by this plant when visiting Lisa of Greenbow and Dragonfly Beckie & Prairie Rose 2 years ago. I *loved* how the blue stands out, but the black draws you in. I then promptly forgot all about it (oh, hush now!) until now. Thanks for showing it, and now I must find one...

  2. I just planted one that I got at Good Earth in River Forest. I actually liked it because the leaves were lighter (kind of chartreuse) than my other salvia. I like your idea of how to over-winter them here in z5.

  3. This salvia is gorgeous! I have a variety and do not know the name. It grows year round here and blooms all year too...awesome plant. I would grow it however you want to and can there in Chicago! Makes for tons of fun!

  4. I saw this several years ago at the Botanic Garden in large planters and couldn't wait to find it. I had to order it from Logees because no one had it in the area. It did not do very well and I did not grow it again until two years ago. I found it at a local nursery and gave it another try. I am sorry to say, it did not begin blooming until August so I can assume it's not going to be one of my winners.

    I would be anxious to know if there is a trick to getting it do well in our zone 5 area short of buying it full grown and sticking it in my containers and garden.


    1. Hi Eileen you can dig up the tubers and keep them attached to part of a stem. Cure for a week and store over winter as you would other tubers. or you could plant some in a pot and put in sunny window or even a place where they won't get too cold. We have freezing temps quite a bit and mine always come back. Hope that helps Nancy

  5. Fortunately no one told me - until today - that it is not hardy in zone 7b, because I have been growing it successfully for about five years - as a perennial. The clump has not gotten a whole lot bigger (cold winters?) but it blooms reliably and the hummers love it. It's in the dryest part of the garden and may get some shield from winter winds from a nearby hedge, but I love it.

    On another note... what seed company(s) do you recommend for flower seeds. Am planning a big patch for 2012. thanks.

  6. We carry this at my greenhouse (zone 5), and it is a strong grower. Don't be afraid to prune it aggressively, otherwise it will take advantage of your kindness and outgrow its space. It makes a great accent plant in containers because of its unusual color and upright growth habit.

  7. Hello there Mr. Brownthumb : )
    I don't have this plant and it probably is an annual in my zone5b but having run across it in so may posts it makes me want to try it out.
    I have seen different bees "resting" in comical positions early in the morning when I am taking pictures .. it is hard to really know what they are thinking and doing in some flowers .. it does make me smile though !

  8. One of my favorites in our Zone 8 garden here in Portland Oregon. I love it because it is a longtime bloomer, often being the sole source of food for hummingbirds up through Thanksgiving and sometimes until Christmas. It's late to come out of the ground, but is easy to divide and multiply throughout the garden or give to friends. The color is gorgeous! I never noticed it had a scent.

  9. Such a great plant, it looks really nice planted with yellow edged duranta!

  10. Thanks for the feedback everyone. I think you've all encouraged me (peer pressure?) to buy one of these this year and see if I can overwinter it indoors.

    Webb, I'd try Renee's, D. Landreth Seeds, and Botanical Interests for some cut flower seeds. The three combined would produce a nice cut flower garden with some diversity.

  11. I've never tried overwintering it... but what the heck? I'll try digging it up this year and see if I can overwinter it somehow, and let you know how it goes!

    It started blooming for me before August, but it IS a later bloomer in my garden. It's one of the few plants that keep going right up until the end of the growing season here, though, so it's still worth it IMHO. And the hummingbirds apparently love it, too.

  12. Anonymous4:38 PM

    In cleaning up my garden today, I spaded up a plant of this salvia and was stunned to see big fat tubers that had formed . This plant was in a 14-16" pot last summer. I guess the mild winter and VERY early spring here were conducive to this happening! I will be re-potting the whole wad of them later today!!!

  13. Anonymous2:06 PM

    This is hands down, the BEST Hummingbird plant!!!

  14. Anonymous9:21 PM

    Well, last year was the first I noticed this amazing salvia at either Lowes or HD late in the season, we are in zone 7 or 6 depending on where you look.

    It was love at first sight and at the time I didn't even look to see what the zone rating was, sorry to say she didn't make it through our winter.

    This year I have been going bat guano crazy trying to find her again for this season. Lucky for us, there is a serious garden manager at one of the Lowes we frequent and after making the rounds to the nurseries and other big box garden stores I stopped in to see if she had any (I almost blew it off out of discouragement) Bingo, she had just gotten them in along with the portulaca's and hadn't put them out yet, I've got this beautiful baby again this year and I'll pick her up every year if I have to, to have her in our garden.

    Very special.

  15. Hi we are in zone 4 in Southeastern Minnesota (just moved here from Chicago!) and I most heartily recommend it. Especially in a full sun area where it can grow into it's splendor. I may try and dig a portion of it up to over winter it. But if we have a winter like last Year's it may even come back as a perennial. If not I will absolutely make the investment again and for more that one place! The hummingbirds and bees it drew, along with the stunning color make it a no brainer for me. Good Luck!

  16. Sheri goggin7:03 PM

    I'm in the Richmond, va area. I grow this as a foundation planting perennial in a part-sun recessed area behind my main shrubs. It's spread like crazy. I was assuming it was reseeding but not sure. I think it would even be invasive were it not for lawn mowing up to the shrubs. It blooms June through November. Hummingbirds arrive in may and must find something else for a few wks but then I got TONS of activity. Beautiful, interesting, hummingbird favorite, but possibly invasive in perfect conditions. I have a formal brick house, formal shrubbery, and I think this lightens the formality up a bit. Bordering on weedy but not quite.

  17. Anonymous6:02 PM

    We are in Zone 5 here in Iowa, and I've been growing this beautiful plant for a few years--starting out with well-established plants from a local seller.
    Since the hummies love it so much, I put 3 such plants into a hanging basket, which gets them off to a much quicker start--and then my visiting hummies can enjoy them much earlier in the year.
    The tubers they produce are kept over winter, in wood shavings and plastic bags, placed near a cellar window, so they maintain a little cooler temperature. I then check them in January, and change shavings if they are damp. The tubers are then planted in the flowerbeds the following year because they are so large.
    Last year, my sister saved some seed which my brother started in the spring. Every seed sprouted and was true to form. They grew so fast that they soon were apace with the tubers planted around the same time. They both also tried taking slips from their early-sprouting tubers, and they were a bit touchy in getting started, with about a 2/3 success ratio. (Seeds were so much better.)
    Enjoy this wonderful plant!

  18. i have just been introduced to this plant and love it, love the hummies and am a beekeeper so wanted more info about propagating this hard to find gem. anonymous, did your sister stratify the seeds, meaning put the in the fridge for a period to replicate winter did your brother start them in dirt, a paper towel i want to try every way I can think of since I have heard they are tempramentalthanks for this great blog

  19. Anonymous5:55 PM

    I have grown these for about 10 years in VA as an annual. I love them as they flower all Summer into late Fall. The hummingbirds love them and come all the time, plus bees. I will try to dig up the tubers this fall and overwinter them in the garage. Love the lighter green leaves, dark stems and flowers. Very easy to grow.



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