An Irresistible Lure to Butterflies and Hummingbirds
There are many reasons to love this perennial. First, the color is a deep sky blue—quite unusual for flowering plants. Before the blooms open, the color is so deep it appears almost black, and then the flower spike opens from the top down. When it does, the winged creatures come on an hourly basis to sip nectar.
Second, it is reliably hardy to zone 8 and marginally hardy in zone 7b, so southeasterners get to enjoy this three to five-foot gem every year. Farther north, treat it as an annual or provide some protection from lower temperatures.
Third, there are a lot of cool cultivars, if you like different shades of blue. ‘Argentine Skies’ and ‘Black and Blue’ give you an idea of the variations from the species, Salvia guaranitica.
Fourth, it has a wonderful garden fragrance. Maybe that’s the strongest attractant for the pretty birds and bees and butterflies. Whatever it is, they are crazy about this plant!
Fifth, it is heat and drought-tolerant, once well established. It can take a surprising amount of heavy clay. Even so, it prefers moist, well-drained soils, just like every other plant in the universe. The thing is, most gardens aren’t perfect, and it is nice to know this plant is adaptable.
Sixth, it will keep blooming from early spring to late fall, as long as you clip back spent blooms. Clipping also gives you stronger, denser growth. This plant can get tall and spindly, and will flop over easily and lie horizontally on the ground without some staking. Avoid breaking the delicate stems as you maneuver around a bed of Big Blue.
Finally, it can take both full (eastern) sun and partial shade. In my experience, it does well planted close to a foundation wall with the mass of foliage bounded with a low, inexpensive wire garden fence. The wall provides support from the back, so there is less work for you.
What a great plant! All it asks is that you deadhead and support the clusters of long stems, so they don’t fall to the ground. Deadheading is always a pleasure because of the wonderful smell of the crushed foliage.
Clean up the dead leaf and stem debris after the season-ending heavy frost, and wait for the bright green foliage to sprout again next spring.
If you love cobalt blue, you will love this flower!