As with so many similar sounding plant names, Salvias are not immune to being mixed up with one another. There are many, many similar sounding Salvia names. Some people have a fixation with some names, while others may not hear the names correctly, hence a lot of confusion with the maze of similar sounding names, especially with so many having similar endings and beginnings of names.
Such names as :confertiflora, curtiflora and curviflora – muirii and muelleri – sinaloensis and coahulensis – lavandulifolia and lavanduloides, ‘Raspberry Royale’, ‘Raspberry’ and ‘Ripe Raspberry’, dolimitica and dominica, ‘Blue bird’ and ‘Blue Cloud’, aurea and aurita,( aurita var galpinnii), tubifera and tubiflora, sonomensis and somalensis , ‘Marachino’ ,Cherry and ‘Marachino Cherry’, coccinea bicolor and greggii bicolor, longistyla and longispictata, purpurea and purberula, ‘African Sky’ and ‘Argentine Skies’, ‘Meigan’s Magic’ and ‘Magenta Magic’, ‘Mystic Spires’ and ‘Indigo Spire’, microphylla and macrophylla, repens and reptans, virgata, viscosa and villosa, canescens and cyanescens, . With so many similar sounding names, it’s no wonder that people get confused.
Much of this confusion with similar names is dissipated when you know your Salvia, unfortunately it is often a case of “growing the Salvia to know the Salvia”.
To sort out some of these names, I’ll briefly describe them which will help separate each one.
- confertiflora – a slender shrub approx 1.5 – 2m, with long orange spikes.
- curtiflora – a tall shrub, 2-2.5m with small burgundy flower spikes, that grows better in a shady sheltered position.
- curviflora – a compact upright shrub, 1.2 – 1.5m with masses of cerise tubular flowers, each slightly curved.
- muirii – a small shrub, 40 – 60 cm with very small grey leaves, often used as a hedge with sky blue flowers with a large white bee line down it’s lower lip
- muelleri – a spreading perennial to 40cm, with wavy leaves and violet flowers.
- sinaloensis – another small densely spreading perennial to 20cm, the dark pointed leaves often colour to burgundy in Autumn. Flowers are a bright blue – It can be herbaceous during the colder months.
- coahuilensis – a small spreading perennial to 15cm with bright green leaves, often mistaken for a greggii type Salvia. Flowers are a dark blue purple .
- lavandulifolia – a small shrub 20 – 30 cm with small thin grey leaves – S.officinalis in a miniature form. It has compact growth with mauve / blue flowers and is equally difficult to keep during the colder months.
- lavanduloides – a mid sized shrub, 1 – 1.2m, with open and upright growth, leaves are long and dark green. Flowers look like grape hyacinth type flowers – small blue /mauve in compact heads .
- ‘Raspberry Royale’ (greggii) a small shrub to 40cm, greggii shaped leaves, flowers are a raspberry pink with a dark coloured flowering stem and calyx.
- ‘Raspberry Ripple’ – (a little known Salvia) a small microphylla / greggii cross, to 40cm, leaves are microphylla shaped. Flowers are a similar raspberry colour but redder with the same flower stem and calyx.
- -‘Ripe Raspberry’ – a mid sized Salvia to 1.2m, often confused with ‘Joan’. Leaves are a darker green and slightly hairy. Flowers are a darker wine colour.
- dolomitica – a mid sized perennial to 1m with a wonderful medicinal aroma, grey leaves and light pink flowers in spring/ summer.
- dominica – a small mid sized Salvia to 1m with strongly aromatic hairy hastate leaves, with creamy white flowers in delicate airy whorls
- ‘Blue Cloud’ – is an upright mid sized perennial to 1.2m. Leaves are lanceolate, often colouring to a dark green with purple overtones. Flowers are a sky blue spike, looking like a blue cloud. This Salvia can spread .
- ‘Blue Bird’ – is a tall upright Salvia to 3m. Leaves are large and cordate, flowers are a dense brush of pale blue small flowers, high above the shrub.
- ‘Blue Abyss’ – a shrub to 1m, very similar to ‘ Anthony Parker’, but with a coloured stem and bluer flowers.
- ‘Blue Ribbon’ – a form of S. urica, but with bluer flowers to 1m. The lower lip tends to be cupped rather than normally hanging down.
- ‘Christine Yeo’ – a low sprawling spreading perennial to 40cm with small rugose cordate leaves and pink / mauve flowers.
- ‘Christine’s Surprise’ – a strong growing upright perennial to 1m, showing the distinctive stripe along the stem. Small cordate leaves and cerise flowers, a profuse and long flowering period.
- somalensis – an upright stiff perennial to 1.2 m from Sth Africa with bright long green leaves and big spikes of pale blue flowers.
- sonomensis – a low spreading perennial from California to 30cm. The leathery obovate leaves are aromatic, with lavender / blue flowers in many whorls around the stem.
- tubifera – a tall upright shrub, to 2m with large cordate leaves and pink/ red flowers, flowering in Autumn – Spring.
- tubiflora – is a low bushy shrub to 50cm with broad soft hairy grey / green leaves and thin long tubular, bright red vermillion/orange flowers with the stamens protruding. The flower buds are hairy, terminal and have a tight formation.
- longispicata – a robust bushy shrub to 2.5m,with large dark green cordate leaves on long stems and a profusion of pale blue flower spikes.
- longistyla – a bushy upright shrub to 2m, cordate leaves with long tapering tips. Flowering in winter, producing long spikes of long narrow green calyxes and long narrow dull red flowers.
- ‘Mystic Spires’ – This is the dwarf form of ‘Indigo Spires’. The leaves are exactly the same, but grown hard in full sun and it will remain dwarfed.
- ‘Indigo Spires’ -A mid sized lanky shrub, that should be grown among other shrubs to keep it’s structure.
- microphylla – these are small shrubs, 40 – 60cm, with often a spreading habit. Flowers are often brightly coloured in reds and pinks.
- macrophylla – is a midsized shrub, to 1.5m. Leaves are large and ovate, Flowers are true blue, with sticky stems, calyx and seed capsules.
- repens – a groundcover from Sth Africa, forming a rosette with long lobed , bright green and tough leaves. Flowers are sky blue with a large bee line on the lower lip.
- reptans – a hardy perennial to 60cm, with dark bluish long thin leaves, in clusters around the stems. Flowers are a mid blue and very small, but a large flared lower lip.
. ‘Greek Sage’ – is S. fruticosa, a tough shrub to 60-80cm, with velvety trilobed leaves and pale pink flowers.
- ‘Greek Skies’ – a tough shrub to 60cm with pointy rugose leaves and pink / mauve flowers. This is a cross x between S. officinalis and S. fruticosa.
- greggii bicolor – a small sprawling shrub to 40cm, small greggii leaves with a bicolor flower of cream and pink together – beautiful
- coccinea bicolor – a small upright bushy shrub, cordate hairy leaves, flowers are semi tubular, with the hood being almost white / light pink and the lower lip being a brighter coral pink.
- ‘Argentine Skies’ (guaranitica) – an upright herbaceous perennial, leaves are cordate, slightly hairy, flowers are a pale sky blue. This also has tubers that need to be contained with a bottomless pot.
- ‘African Sky’ – a dense shrubby bush, very hardy to 1m. Leaves are rough, rounded and lobed. Flowers are profuse that are a blue / mauve / sky blue
- coccinea ‘Coconut Ice’. – This is an upright shrub to 60-80cmH, cordate lvs , hairy stems. An interesting shrub as it can grow in a sunny sheltered position ( frost tender) and can grow in a shady position. Once in flower, it can continue for most of the year. Seed stems need to be cut off as the seed in very variable
- microphylla ‘Coconut Ice’. A small compact subshrub to 60cmH. Best grown in a sunny position, but not crowded. Will flower for most of the year. Best to keep the flowers dead headed to encourage more. Quite hardy for summer conditions
- involucrata ‘Coconut ice’. This is a tall arching shrub to 3mH. Like other involucrata’s . it loves the shade, needing water in the warmer months. Flowers in Winter/ spring.
- viscosa – a herbaceous rosette perennial, leaves are large and long, slightly lobed and rugose. Flowers are maroon and white on a sticky flower stem to 60cm, long flowering time.
- virgata – a herbaceous rosette perennial, leaves are large, long and thin. Profuse blue /mauve flowers that are densely packed along an often coloured
- villosa – a small shrub to 30cm, needing good drainage, a sunny sheltered position and frost tender. Small blue/ green leaves that are hairy. Flowers are slender, with wiry stems and bright violet / blue small flowers.
- canescens – a very small clumping perennial to 20cm, the leaves are long and thin, white and woolly. Flowers are violet / purple with brownish / purple sticky bracts on stems to 45cm.
- cyanescens – a small perennial in the form of a rosette. Leaves are ovate, with masses of white silky hairs and entire margins. Flowers are unusual, on stems in spring to 75cm, the blue lilac flowers have a hood that is spotted with purple and the lower lip is a flushed pale yellow.
- ‘Meigan’s Magic’ – the progeny of ‘ Anthony Parker’ grows to 1.5m, leaves are similar but the flowers are a pure white corolla with a dark purple calyx.
- ‘Magenta Magic’ – a midsize shrub, very similar to ‘Waverly’ in leaves and growth habit, but with long magenta flower stems, flowering for long periods.
Hopefully this has sorted out some of those confusing names. While some plants are easily obtainable, others can only be grown from seed, which are often hard to find. But by growing more of these Salvias, you will get to know your plant, which will help to dispel some of the confusion surrounding these names.