Salvia discolor

Salvia discolor

Salvia discolor: An open bushy  perennial 1m H, with graceful arching white stems and clusters of black flowers most of the year.

Salvia discolor
Salvia discolor

Salvia discolor is an unusual shrubby perennial with black flowers liking full sun.

Flowers : are semi tubular, pendant and almost black, making it difficult to see easily. Both the hood and bottom lobes are about the same length, with the lobes facing downwards. All parts of the corolla are the same colour- a very dark shade of indigo. Except for a very faint pale area around the throat, which guides both the bees and small birds into the flower. the dark stigma can bee seen curling backwards just beyond the hood.

Flowers are produced on a long thin, green arching stems that are extremely sticky ( attracting pollinating insects)  in whorls of 4-6 flowers at regular intervals along the stem, all hanging downwards.
Flowers appear in late winter/spring,in fact  flowering for most of the year.
These stems are held way above or beyond the foliage to attract passing insects and small birds with long beaks that can penetrate the flower.

Calyces: are a beautiful pale green white colour, enclosing about half the corolla. these are velvety to touch with lovely soft hairs all over the lobes. Each lobe is pointed, slightly ribbed and a smooth green colour inside. These fall off after the flower is finished  if not pollinated.

Leaves: are elliptic with entire edges, quite leathery , smooth , olive green above and pale green whiter beneath with a white margin.

Salvia  discolor is not as delicate as it looks, tough and hardy in full sun, too much shade and it may become lax, growing low along the ground. In sunny areas it will grow upright, sending up masses of strong white woolly stems. Hardy for summer heat, quite drought tolerant and cold and frost tolerant.

This dramatic looking plant works well in white themed garden, looking equally at home in a gravel garden with other colourful perennials and small shrubs. Best planted in the middle of the bed or at the back of a narrow bed to allow the branches enough room to arch.
When the major flowering period is finished, it’s always good to tidy the bush by cutting off all the spent flower stems, cutting out any dead or twiggy stems. If the shrub has grown to large, then cut back to a good green bud to encourage new growth. keep tip pruning to keep the shrub compact. Feed and mulch well to keep the root area cool over the cold winter months.

Propagation: usually by tip cuttings of firm new growth. They will often rot if the leaves are wet. Keep out in the open or a protected area. Both birds and bees love these black pendant  flowers.

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