What are the common problems that can affect salvias? And more importantly, how do you fix them? let’s have a look and find out.
Common Problems With Salvias
To start with I will be talking about perennial salvias here, but there is a section at the bottom on red salvias which are commonly grown as an annual in the UK.
When it comes to salvias there is one problem gardeners encounter more than most others and that is the salvia flop.
As the name suggests this is where your salvias flop over and start looking really sorry for themselves.
This is probably the most common problem with salvias and the one that most gardeners will encounter, there are a few reasons why your salvias may flop and also a few other common salvia problems so let’s get into them!
Why Are My Salvias Floppy?
So we know that floppy salvias are a really common problem, but what causes it?
Not Enough Water
All plants that are parched and not got enough water will droop, sag and wilt. Salvias are no exception.
They are a fairly drought-resistant plant though, particularly in the UK. So if this is the problem we will be experiencing a general drought or your salvia are in a really poor spot in the garden that doesn’t see any rainfall.
The good thing here is that it should be easy to identify and fix if this is your problem. To determine whether it is a lack of water just look at the soil, is it scorched and cracked? Has it not rained for quite a while? Are other plants nearby struggling?
If you think it is a lack of water then give them a good soak and keep watering regularly for a while or until it rains and check to see if your plants perk up.
A quick tip if you are watering onto very dry ground is to give the plants a quick water, wait around 5 minutes and then water again. This is because very dry soil becomes water phobic and can actually repel water, so we wait a while to let the first lot of water start to soak in, this means your water won’t just run off.
Too Much Water
At the complete opposite end of the spectrum is too much water, which can also result in floppy salvias. Again it should be fairly easy to identify if this is the problem.
This is more common than not enough water for us in the UK as salvias do like well-draining soil. They do not fare well in heavy clay soils which many of us have.
If it is too much water you should be able to tell by looking at three factors, to start with look at the soil itself. Is the water pooling? Is the drainage really poor? Does the water sit on the surface for a while after watering?
Next up just think about the amount of water these plants are getting. There can only be two places this is coming from, you the gardener or the weather.
So look at how often you are watering and how often it is raining. Is either of these excessive? If so then too much water could be your problem.
If you think it is too much water then you have two options, move the plant to a better spot or improve the drainage where they or. Well actually there is a third option if the overwatering is caused by you, stop watering them soo much!
To improve drainage dig in plenty of organic matter, compost and a bit of gravel into the soil.
Not Enough Sunlight
Salvias love full sun and if not planted in a sunny enough spot they can end up flopping.
What tends to happen is that the plant will grow long and straggly searching for more sunlight, eventually, the growth gets too much for the plant to be able to support itself and it flops over.
To fix there is only one real solution, move the plant to a sunnier spot. You can also support the plant to stop it from flopping over but this isn’t really addressing the core problem.
Over time salvias can grow too large and end up floppy. The best solution for this is to divide your plants in autumn and split them into new smaller plants.
It is a good idea to support older plants when they flop and before you can divide them.
Dying Off Over Winter
This is definitely a common problem for UK gardeners trying to over-winter salvias. While some are hardy some are only semi-hardy and even the hardy types can die off over winter on these isles.
The reason is simply the soil conditions in the UK. Salvias love a really free draining and often quite stony soil. Where we often have wet clay soils.
Salvias hate clay soil and if left in one over winter they will probably die.
But don’t despair, this doesn’t mean you can’t grow them, you just need to work on improving your soil.
Add lots of organic matter and compost to your soil, particularly in the hole you plant your salvias in.
It is also a good idea to add some grit to the bottom of the hole and even to your compost mix.
Problems With Red Salvias
Red salvias are grown as an annual bedding plant here in the UK and as such are not beset with problems as much, after all, there aren’t around for long so there is not as much time for things to go wrong.
They can still have their fair share of problems though so let’s look at some of the more common ones.
Aphids are known to attack red salvias. They will cluster together on the stems and leaves and suck the sap out of the plant.
If the infestation is bad enough your salvia will begin to droop and even die.
There are lots of ways to get rid of aphids, let’s talk about a few.
To start with you can squash them with your fingers, just run your fingers along the stem and squash the little buggers.
Next, you can knock them off with a hosepipe. These are the really easy and free methods but they often won’t get rid of an aphid infestation but can keep the numbers in check.
If aphids are still a problem after this then you need to bring in the big guns. This can either be a spray, although I try to avoid insecticides if possible and would rather just lose an annual plant than use them.
Your other option is natural predators. Ladybirds love to eat aphids so if you have too many aphids you probably don’t have enough ladybirds. The good news is you can buy ladybirds online believe it or not and they will be delivered to your door.
These are ladybirds in their larvae form and they will immediately begin eating aphids right from the word go.
These native British Adalia Bipunctata ladybird larvae have a huge appetite for soft -bodied garden pests such as aphids (greenfly and blackfly), spider mite, scale, mealy-bug etc.
Yellow leaves can often be a sign of a nutrient deficiency in the soil. Try giving them a multi-purpose plant feed and see if this perks them up. If it does then you know your problem and may need to feed them throughout the season.
Salvias are not known to be heavy feeders but if your soil lacks important nutrients then this can still be a problem.