How to prune salvias – for late season sparkle

Salvias need minimal maintenance so are a good choice if you like a plant that's self-sufficient

How to prune salvias
(Image credit: Bailey-Cooper Photography / Alamy Stock Photo)

If you are hunting for early fall color, then your shrubby perennial salvias should be in full bloom, but you may now be wondering how to prune salvias to ensure they continue to sparkle as we venture further into fall? 

As well as learning how to grow salvias for late summer and fall color, cutting back and pruning your salvias is one of the most important aspects of cultivating shrubby salvias to be proud to showcase in your wildlife garden

How to prune salvias 

What makes this Mediterranean plant stand out, are their elegant, bright, long-lasting flowers. These plants grow to around 3ft (1m) wide and tall with smallish, slightly aromatic leaves and lots of two-lipped flowers, produced along the woody stems. 

There’s an extraordinary range of colors from pink and red right through to blues and purple, and even some more unusual yellows. But how do we keep these elegant flower bed additions in the best shape? We've asked the experts for their tips on pruning these perennial favorites, perfect for your Mediterranean garden ideas.

How to grow salvias

(Image credit: Val Corbett )

When should I cut back salvias?

‘You need to prune twice annually, to promote an attractive bushy growth habit,’ says William Dyson. He recommends pruning fairly hard in late March or early April, removing dead wood. ‘Cut back as low as possible without damaging the emerging new growth,’ he advises. Avoid cutting into bare wood displaying no new growth, for fear of damaging the plant. 

A second pruning is recommended in early July. ‘Not only does this encourage a tidy framework of branches and prevent bushes becoming straggly, but it also removes the spent flowers from the early flush of flowering, fostering another major flush.’ Thereafter, with regular deadheading, plants continue flowering all season without becoming untidy and leggy. Come fall, only prune plants that are being overwintered in a glasshouse.

How to grow salvias in a garden

(Image credit: Getty Images / Sirirak)

When to prune salvias

Early summer or late fall is the best time to prune salvias for the perfect growth year after year.

'Although salvias originate from warmer climates, many varieties have proved themselves quite hardy to about -6.8˚F (14°C) as long as they are in a sunny spot in well-drained soil,' says garden expert Camilla Phelps (opens in new tab). 'Some of the more tender varieties might need protection in really cold weather. If you aren’t sure whether your salvia will cope with colder temperatures, it’s easy enough to take semi-ripe cuttings now to ensure a supply of your favorite salvias next summer.'

'The other super-power of salvias is that not only do they flower reliably, some will keep going well into November. In milder parts of the country, many will stay evergreen and flower seven or eight months of the year. As an added bonus, they are also relatively pest and disease-free (even rabbits don’t like them) and they don’t need staking. Pruning is easy: cut plants back by half in spring to stop them getting too woody and to ensure that you get a long-lasting show. And regular deadheading will also help to keep the flowers coming.'

Jennifer Ebert
Deputy Editor (Digital)

Jennifer is the Digital Editor at Homes & Gardens. Having worked in the interiors industry for a number of years, spanning many publications, she now hones her digital prowess on the 'best interiors website' in the world. Multi-skilled, Jennifer has worked in PR and marketing, and the occasional dabble in the social media, commercial and e-commerce space. Over the years, she has written about every area of the home, from compiling design houses from some of the best interior designers in the world to sourcing celebrity homes, reviewing appliances and even the odd news story or two.