How to Grow Salvia Nemorosa Flowers (Woodland Sage)

Salvia nemorosa, or woodland sage, brightens the landscape with spikes of blue-violet flowers above gray-green foliage. A member of the mint family, this easy-to-grow perennial is deer- and rabbit-resistant. It’s also relatively pest-free and handles occasional drought and dry soil with ease. I find Woodland sage to be an excellent choice for sunny parts of the garden and will bring bees, butterflies, and birds to your landscape. Here, I’ll take you through everything you need to know about growing and caring for Salvia nemorosa at home, including planting, soil considerations, light preferences, feeding, pruning, and over-winter care. 

How to Grow Salvia nemorosa (Woodland sage)

Key Takeaways:

Botanical Name:Salvia nemorosa
Also Known As:Woodland sage, Balkan Clary, meadow sage, violet sage
Hardiness Zones:USDA zones 4a to 8a
Flowering Months:June through September
Growing Difficulty:Easy to grow, low maintenance, suitable for beginners
Type of Plant:Perennial
Light Requirements:Full sun to partial shade
Temp & Humidity:Thrives in ambient temperatures with average humidity
Watering Needs:Drought-tolerant; water moderately once per week
Soil Preferences:Well-drained soil that’s high in organic matter and a slightly acidic pH
Feeding:Apply a balanced fertilizer such as 15-15-15 in early spring and again in summer
Growth Expectations:Up to 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide
Toxicity:Non-toxic to humans and pets

How to Grow Salvia nemorosa

Salvia nemorosa flowering in a well manicured garden

Best Locations to Plant

Given its 3-foot-tall height, woodland sage is an excellent choice for mid-borders or along paths. It also grows well in rock gardens, butterfly gardens, and sunny spots in the landscape.

Growing From Seed vs Nursery Plants

If growing S. nemorosa from seed, you may sow indoors 10 to 12 weeks before the last frost. Press seeds lightly into potting soil and keep moist. Once seedlings emerge — usually 15 to 21 days later — place the seedlings in direct light.

Fertilize with a starter solution when plants are about a month old. Harden the seedlings off before planting outdoors by placing them in a sheltered place for a week. Keep them protected from frost and hot, intense sun.

When planting nursery stock, Plant in the afternoon or on a cloudy day. After planting, water thoroughly and apply up to two inches of mulch.

What to do Before Planting

Remove all weeds from the planting area. Using a hand rake, turn the soil from six to 12 inches deep. Add organic matter, such as compost or treated manure.

Best Soil Types

A garden spade in the soil in a garden

S. nemorosa prefers sandy or gravelly soils with good drainage. Aim for a moderately acid soil, from 6.0 to 6.5 pH.

How to Plant

Plant in the afternoon or on a cloudy day to avoid direct sun during planting. Dig a hole as deep and slightly wider than the root ball. Holes should be 12 to 16 inches apart.

Loosen the plant’s root ball gently, then place the plant in the hole. The top of the root ball should be level with the surrounding soil. Fill in the hole and gently tamp. Water thoroughly. Apply one to two inches of mulch.

Light Preferences

Woodland sage prefers full sun exposures so aim for a location that receives as much direct light throughout the majority of the day.

How to Care for Salvia nemorosa

A cluster of purple flowering Salvia nemorosa


Woodland sage grows best in moist, well-drained soil. It will tolerate drought and occasional dry periods. Water about once a week or when the soil feels dry to the touch.


Apply a balanced fertilizer, such as 15-15-15, when the plants emerge from winter dormancy. Apply again in early summer to encourage growth and blooming.

Pruning & Cutting Back

Tall purple Woodland Sage flowers in bloom in a garden

After woodland sage’s first flush of flowers is over and flower stems brown, cut the plants back to about one-third their size. This will encourage a new flush of blossoms in a few weeks. Repeat this during the growing season for multiple blooms.


Propagate S. nemorosa by taking cuttings in April, August, or September. Cut a non-flowering stem, remove lower foliage and cut each below a node.

Place stems into moist cutting compost and cover with a plastic bag. Keep cool and protect from strong sunlight. The cuttings should be ready for potting in about three weeks.


A close shot of purple Woodland Sage

If you live in USDA zone 4a or below, you may overwinter woodland sage indoors. Dig up the plant and rinse the foliage well. Drench the roots and attached soil and place them in a close-fitting container. Place the pot in a second, bigger container and pack the space between the pots with crumpled paper or packing peanuts. Put the pot in a cool place and check regularly to make sure the soil doesn’t dry out completely.


When growing woodland sage in containers, you may need to repot in the spring. Add fresh compost to the new pot this time. At the minimum, top-dress woodland sage grown in pots with fresh compost in spring.

Common Problems & How to Treat Them

A collection of flowers and plants in a garden featuring Woodland Sage and a wooden bench in the background

S. nemorosa is drought, deer, and rabbit tolerant. When grown in their preferred conditions, these plants aren’t bothered by too many common garden pests.

In wet climates or when planted too close together, woodland sage may attract slugs, Aphids, scale, and whiteflies.

Woodland sage has some susceptibility to leaf spot. Prevent leaf spot by keeping foliage dry and removing any infected plant parts. Avoid watering at night and provide good air circulation to help prevent botrytis, a gray, mold-like fungus, and powdery mildew.

If woodland sage is wilting or falling over, it may get too little or too much water. If plants are turning brown or yellow, provide a foliar feed spray. If this doesn’t help, repot plants in fresh compost.

Growing Salvia nemorosa (Woodland sage) FAQs:

Is Salvia nemorosa an annual or perennial? 

Woodland sage (Salvia nemorosa) is a perennial.

Do Salvia nemorosa flowers come back every year? 

S. nemorosa flowers do come back every year. If you cut stems back after each flush of flowers, plants may bloom again and again from late spring through fall.

Do Salvia nemorosa flowers attract bees? 

Woodland sage attracts pollinators, including bees, butterflies, songbirds, and hummingbirds.

Do you deadhead Salvia nemorosa (Woodland sage)? 

You don’t need to deadhead woodland sage. Rather, cut stems back to the basal leaves after flowering ends. This will encourage the plants to bloom again.

Where is Salvia nemorosa native to? 

Woodland sage is native to temperate woodlands of Asia and Europe.

Are Salvia nemorosa considered invasive? 

Woodland sage is not considered an invasive plant.

Wrap Up 

With its 3-foot-tall spikes of blue-violet flowers, woodland sage is a beautiful addition to any border or bed. it’s a great choice when you want to attract pollinators, like bees, butterflies, and birds, to your garden. This low-maintenance perennial is also easy to grow; it’s relatively pest-free and tolerates drought and deer.

More Salvia Flower Growing Guides:

For more essential step-by-step guides to growing and caring for Salvia plants at home, please see our in-depth features on Salvia coccinea (Texas Sage), Salvia greggii (Autumn sage), and Salvia splendens (Scarlet Sage)

Contributing Editor | | Full Bio

Linsay is an American copywriter based in the Pacific Northwest with a background in academic writing and research. Linsay holds Master's degree in both Anthropology and Library and Information Sciences and has written for numerous national and international publications including USA Today, SFGATE, Hunker, and The Bump across an array of topics in the gardening, green living, and travel sectors. When she's not writing, you'll usually find Linsay reading, kayaking, sailing, snowboarding, or working in her garden.

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