The Salvia Story: A Flower’s Meaning from Ancient Lore to Modern Gardens

Salvias (Lamiaceae), also known as sages, bloom abundantly and look great in almost every landscape. These showy plants are easy to grow and are also incredibly versatile. In this guide, I’ll run through everything you need to know about Saliva flower meaning and symbolism in the language of flowers.

Salvia Flower Meaning, Symbolism, and Uses

Salvia Flower Symbolism – Key Takeaways

In the language of flowers, Salvia holds the symbolic meaning of longevity, wisdom, esteem, and good health. Spiritual leaders have used salvia flowers in their religious rites and divination for centuries as a symbol of knowledge and connection to the divine source. 

Etymological Meaning

Derived from the Latin word salus, salvia means “healthy.” In Old French, spoken in Northern France from the 8th to 14th century, sage means “wise, knowledgeable, learned; shrewd, skillful.”

Salvia Flower Meaning & Symbolism

Salvias come in a variety of colors, and many of these colors carry special meaning and symbolism. Some meanings are specific to salvias, while others are general to the language of flowers. These colors and their meanings include:

Red Salvia Flowers

Red Salvia Flowers in bloom

The red-blooming Salvia flower is traditionally associated with love and romance and symbolizes “Forever mine” gestures.

Purple Salvia Flower Meaning 

Purple flowering salvia plants

Purple is a regal color, synonymous with royalty, success, and good standing. 

Pink Salvia Flowers

Pink salvia plants growing in a field

The pink petals of a flower Salvia plant, in the language of flowers, are symbolic of love, femininity, and gentleness.

Blue Salvia Flowers

Blue salvia plants in bloom

The blue flowers of a Salvia are often aligned with friendship and family and symbolic of thoughtful gestures such as sentiments of “missing you” or “thinking of you”. 

The Cultural Significance of Salvia Flowers

A cluster of pink flowering salvia plants

Salvia and Shamanism practices

The Shamans of the Mazatec Indians of Oaxaca have used Salvia divinorum in their religious rites and divination for centuries. The species’ name, divinorum, means “of the seer,” and refers to its use for seeking knowledge of the future or from a divine source.

Salvia Flowers in Greek Mythology

Ancient Greeks considered Salvia melissodora a sacred herb, and dedicated it to Zeus. The epithet “melissodora” comes from “Melissa” (honeybee) and “odora” (fragrance). Melissa is also the name of a mythological Cretan nymph that collected honey.

Salvia Flowers in Ancient Greece

The Greek variety Salvia Fruticosa produces purplish flowers from early May to June. The flowers are ready for collection and harvest during June and July. Ancient Greeks admired the beauty, medicinal value, and culinary use of salvia, along with its sweet nectar and pollen. In fact, a Minoan fresco created about 1400 BCE at Knossos on the island of Crete depicts salvia.

Salvia Flowers in Ancient Rome

The ancient Romans revered salvia so deeply that they performed a special ceremony before picking the plant; they even used a special knife, as the iron in their traditional knives would interact with the salvia.

Salvia in art and literature

Salvia divinorum inspires “visionary art” of all genres. Writers have created visual arts, for example, and poetry and prose after taking this mind-altering salvia. Graphic artists have even created art depicting the trichomes, or fine hairs, on the surface of a salvia leaf.

Suitable Gifting Occasions

A fresh cut bunch of salvia flowers in a vase

Salvias make thoughtful gifts for a variety of occasions. Mom will appreciate the colorful flowers in a pot or a vase as a Mother’s Day gift, for example, and a sweetheart will love a bouquet on Valentine’s Day. 

Be sure to give a color that says “forever mine,” royalty and success, “thinking of you,” and love, femininity, and gentleness. A potted salvia is perfect in the spring.

Salvia Flower Meaning – Wrapping Up

Salvias are among the most common, versatile, and beautiful plants in the world. Throughout the centuries, these unique flowers have held a special place in gardens, kitchens, medicine cabinets, and religious ceremonies thanks to their rich meaning and symbolism. Even today, scientists, artists, cooks and diners, gardeners, and healers prize salvias.

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), Salvia splendens (Scarlet Sage), and Salvia nemorosa (Woodland sage).

Further reading: everything you need to know about Savory flowers.

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