Culinary sage, Salvia officinalis, is a useful herb that holds its leaves over winter and makes a great addition to planting, in a border or pot. The purple variety is particularly ornamental. But there are thousands more salvias to choose from in a mouth-watering array of colours from blues and purples to hot pinks and yellows. Native to the Americas, Europe and Asia, they tend to cope well with dry conditions and go on flowering into autumn. So, pop a few of these must have plants into your borders now to rev up the colour in your garden come summer.

There are the shrubby Mexican group which have a woody framework and includes the well-known red and white Salvia ‘Hot Lips’ as well as other bicoloured varieties such as ‘Amethyst Lips.’  These salvias have the biggest range of colours from pinks and purples such as the deep purple S. ‘Nachtvlinder’, to pure white, peach and yellow such as delicate S. ‘Lemon Light’. There are also lots of lovely blues such as S. ‘Sky Blue’. Most salvias like a free draining soil and sun, but the shrubby Mexicans which have small leaves are particularly drought-tolerant and can cope with a lot of sun and dry impoverished soil. They can suffer in severe frosts but usually bounce back. These look great underplanting roses which Sarah Raven does to ward off fungal diseases.

Keep shrubby Mexican salvias in a tight bush by pruning them back in mid-April by up to a half but make sure you don’t cut down below the new growth. In mid-summer, as well as taking off spent flower heads, you can give shrubby Mexicans a ‘Hampton hack’ by taking a third of the height to tidy them up and increase the number of flowers for later in the season.

Popular herbaceous salvias such as the fabulous deep blue S. nemerosa ‘Caradonna’ and other ‘cousins’ such as S. nemerosa ‘Amethyst’ are the European salvias. They cope better with moisture retentive soil such as clay but may still need added grit or organic matter for improved drainage. Cut back in early summer for late flowering, or remove the flower heads as soon as they’ve finished.

Half-hardy salvias include the very tall and striking S. guarantitica ‘Amistad’, which has stunning large dark purple flowers that go on into autumn, and the more unusual pinker S. ‘Amigo’, S. guaranitica ‘Blue Enigma’ and S. ‘Black and Blue’ are also lovely. Keep the flower stems in autumn or mulch over the crowns in winter to protect the roots and developing shoots from frost. Prune the dead stems to ground level only after new growth has emerged in mid to late April. These salvias cope with a little shade and richer soils.