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Xeriscape Gardens

Salvia Guaranitica ‘Black and Blue’ Care Guide


10 min read

Salvia guaranitica black and blue is an attractive perennial that bears cobalt blue flowers and either light green or black calyces. Also known as “Black and Blue” Salvia, the cultivar belongs to the Salvia genus of evergreen shrubs. Native to southern South America, especially Brazil, the plant height is 6′ feet tall and is grown as an annual.

The sometimes pale blue flowers, sometimes deep blue flowers, and pale green leaves to deep green leaves are not only gorgeous, they are a pollinator attractant that hummingbirds love. They’re highly pest-resistant plants that love full sun, and bloom through mid summer to fall.

This salvia received the Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit! So, pick one up at your local nursery, and let’s learn to grow this purple plant with dark stems that attracts hummingbirds!

Salvia Guaranitica Quick Care Guide

Salvia guaranitica flower head
Perfect for the long beaks of hummingbirds, these salvia with their black calyces and blue flowers are a great addition to your ornamental planting. Source: J.G. in S.F.
Common Name(s)Black & Blue salvia, blue anise sage, anise-scented sage, Brazilian sage, giant blue sage, sapphire sage, hummingbird sage, blue ensign, purple splendor
Scientific NameSalvia guaranitica
FamilyLamiaceae
Plant Height & Spread2-5′ tall and 2-5′ wide
LightFull sun to part shade
SoilRich, loamy, well-drained soil
Water1 inch per week
Pests & DiseasesWhiteflies, leafhoppers, spider mites, aphids, downy mildew, powdery mildew, root rot

All About Blue Anise, Salvia Guaranitica

Black and blue salvia, or Salvia guaranitica black and blue is also known as blue anise sage, anise-scented sage, Brazilian sage, giant blue sage, sapphire sage, blue ensign, purple splendor, and hummingbird sage. Its lovely flowers and pale green foliage that smells lovely is perfect for pollinator gardens, and borders.

The plant originates in Brazil, Paraguay, and Northern Argentina. It’s naturalized in Central America, too — namely, Costa Rica. At the beginning of the blooming period the plant has pale blue flowers with a lightly toothed lower lip. The flower deepens to deep cobalt blue flowers toward the end. In Brazil, Paraguay, Northern Argentina, and Costa Rica, the plant grows along woodland streams and in forest clearings.

Brazilian sage is a drought tolerant perennial as it has moisture-conserving rhizomes. It’s a tall shrub with an anise scent, dark stems, and a running root stock that forms wide clumps of stems. The stems are covered with ovate dark green leaves and 1-2″ long dark blue flowers that sit atop either yellow green calyces or black calyces. Each green calyx blooms deep blue flowers in mid summer through autumn. The Argentina skies plants are sun lovers. The plant height is up to 5′ feet tall.

Salvia guaranitica black and blue is a species within the Salvia genus and belongs to the Lamiaceae family. This plant can be biennial, annual, evergreen, or herbaceous. It is known for its simple or pinnately-lobed, fragrant pale to dark green leaves and two-lipped blue flowers on spikes. It’s quite similar to its cousin, Salvia rhinosinia, with a plant height up to 8′ feet tall with vigorous and often invasive tubers. Like Black and Blue Salvia, this one also loves sunny to partial shade areas.

The Argentina skies plant takes about 1-2 years to reach its full height. It’s a low-maintenance, drought tolerant plant, with a bloom time that lasts from June to frost. Its fragrant foliage and deep blue color of the flowers attract butterflies and birds. It makes for an excellent planting choice to add to your garden border due to its unique characteristics.

Black and Blue Salvia Care

Close up of black and blue salvia flower
Notice the green calyx and lower lip of black and blue sage. Source: dermoidhome

Blue anise sage is definitely a low to no maintenance plant when it’s planted in the right conditions. Here’s what it needs to thrive.

Light & Temperature

Anise-scented sage requires full sun to partial shade to grow well. Plant your Argentina skies in well-lit spot (some light shade is ok), preferably south-facing or west-facing. Avoid a north facing spots, or planting in too much shade if possible. It’s a winter hardy plant that grows well in USDA Zone 8-10 and can tolerate heat, even in full sun conditions.

As for frost, in cooler areas it acts as a tender perennial, dying back when temperatures are consistently below freezing. Before winter, mulch around the base of the plant to protect the roots in winter, or bring container plants indoors. Overall, for growing conditions, remember where this plant grows naturally in Costa Rica.

Water & Humidity

Salvia guaranitica likes regular watering when it’s getting established. After transplanting, water once or twice a week, especially during the mid summer. After the plant is established, it will subsist just fine with very little to no water at all. Give it at least weekly water during droughts or periods where little to no rainfall has occurred. Because it is drought tolerant, in particularly humid areas look out for mildews. We’ll talk more about this in later sections.

Soil

Salvia guaranitica plants love rich, well-drained soil. Avoid poorly-drained soils as they can cause root rot. Go for sandy, chalky, and loamy soils with a slightly acidic pH of 5.5 – 6.5. Here in North Texas, black and blue sage does just fine planted in our heavy clay soil that’s amended with well-rotted compost. Refresh the soil annually with a little more well-rotted compost to keep the nutrient content up in the soil. Container plants do best with a rich, well-draining potting soil that’s refreshed annually in the same way.

Fertilizer for Salvia Guaranitica

Only the container-grown Salvia guaranitica plants benefit from fertilizer. A slow release fertilizer, like Espoma Garden Tone, sprinkled sparsely around the base of the plant will provide enough nutrition to keep your plant healthy throughout the year. In-ground plants should not be fertilized, especially if they are planted in rich soil.

Repotting Black and Blue Salvia

When your salvia gets too big for its container, it may need to be up-potted. To start, prepare a pot with good drainage holes. Fill the pot with potting soil and lightly compact it. Make sure the pot is slightly bigger than the root ball by about 1″ inch. Dig out the plant and lightly prune off the root tips to make the root ball more manageable. Use a knife to split the roots into sections. Keep the segments evenly moist, not soggy. Carefully replant into the pot.

Blue Anise Sage Propagation

Blue anise sage can be propagated through softwood cuttings several weeks after the last spring frost date or semi-ripe cuttings in late spring to mid summer. Make sure the stem or rhizomes are evenly moist but not overly hydrated, which can cause root rot. Plant them in early autumn in a cool, dark place, leaving a little soil around the root ball. When they grow, move them to a bright, warm spot.

I’ve had success propagating this plant by cuttings in fall, and keeping it in a pot indoors through winter. Then after the last spring frost date, I planted it in late spring. It started blooming in late summer, and many more blooms will come throughout the fall season.

Pruning Salvia Guaranitica

Once your black and blue sage flowers fade on the yellow green calyces in late fall, you can remove spent flower spikes all the way to the ground. Alternatively, you can leave the stems on the plant, and dark green leaves will grow again on the remaining woody stems. This provides habitat for overwintering insects, including beneficial pollinators. Thankfully, whatever you choose, this perennial will return in early spring and should be fully growing in late spring. Blooms don’t need last year’s growth to produce that lovely flower color.

Of course, throughout the season, remove any dead or diseased branches with sharp pruning shears as needed.

Troubleshooting Salvia Guaranitica, Black and Blue

Salvia guaranitica is a low-maintenance type of plant. Let’s explore some common growing problems you may face while growing it. As for larger mammals, this sage is deer-resistant.

Growing Problems

If your Salvia guaranitica black and blue is grown in too much shade, the stems may elongate and fall over. Therefore, when you place them in your garden, always keep them in areas with full sun to partial shade. Over-watering can also cause root rot. Therefore, always make sure you plant and grow in well drained soils.

If you prune heavily at the incorrect time, in the active growth phases of spring, late summer, and early fall, your plant may suffer and could die. But most of the time it will survive an onslaught of issues with ease.

Pests

While Salvia guaranitica black and blue is highly pest resistant, you may notice the following common insects on your plants. The leaves of Black and Blue sage are susceptible to whiteflies, aphids, spider mites, and leaf hoppers that can suck on the plant juices. Use insecticidal soaps, neem oil, and a jet of water to keep them away from your plants in the garden. However, if you’re planting to attract pollinators, stick with water, and only spray in the early morning before pollinators have gotten to work. Black and blue salvia can handle infestations of most pests.

Diseases

These plants can also suffer from downy and powdery mildew due to poorly drained soils and high humidity. The best way to prevent this is by pruning for air flow and removing weeds to promote aeration. Water early in the morning so the plants can dry out during the day. Always plant in well drained soils

If powdery mildew or downy mildew becomes a significant issue, remove the infected branches. If this doesn’t help your plants, remove them entirely and dispose of them. You can use a copper spray to treat on the leaves during the wet months as a preventative. Again, this could harm pollinators.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Is salvia invasive?

A: The Black and Blue cultivar is not invasive. However, Salvia aethiopis and Salvia sclarea are two invasive species, native to Washington.

Q: Will Blue Anise Sage grow in shade?

A: Yes, the lightly toothed flower of this plant can grow in partial shade. However, it needs full sun for healthy root development.

Q: What are some other cultivars of Salvias that I can grow in my garden?

A: Argentina Skies, Blue Ensign, and Costa Rica Blue can all grow well in mild climates. They produce deep cobalt blue flowers just like Black and Blue Salvia.

Q: Is anise scented sage a perennial?

A: It is! In colder zones, before winter, mulch substantially as Salvia guaranitica is considered a tender perennial. In its hardiness range, it dies back in freezes and returns when conditions are favorable.

Q: Do you cut back blue anise sage?

A: You certainly can the stalks it to the ground after their bloom time and their leaf color is turning brown. Or leave the woody stems through winter for beneficial insects.

Q: What can I plant with salvias?

A: Perhaps the best thing about Salvia guaranitica black and blue is that it can be planted with almost any other plants as long as they don’t crowd each other out.

Q: What do you use blue sage for?

A: During its bloom time the plant is great for attracting pollinators, like butterflies and hummingbirds, as well as a host of pollinating insects. They are great for separating areas of gardens with two lipped flushes of deep blue.

Q: Can you eat blue anise sage?

A: You can. It’s non-toxic, but it packs more of an anise scent than a punch of flavor. That’s why culinary sages are more often chosen for the kitchen.

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