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Salvia nemorosa 'Caradonna'

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Salvia nemorosa 'Caradonna'

Salvia nemorosa 'Caradonna'

What a great garden plant! This salvia flowers with spikes of violet-blue from June to October and is a magnet for butterflies and bees. The grey-green, aromatic foliage also makes an attractive accent in the summer border. Find this superb cultivar in the NGS Family Garden (in the Model Gardens) and in the Glasshouse garden around the Glasshouse lake.


Vital statistics

Common name
Balkan clary, Steppe sage
Height & spread
(30in) x 30-45cm (12-18in) wide
Light, moderately fertile, humus-rich, moist but well-drained soil
Full sun
Fully hardy


This is a large genus of about 900 species of often aromatic, flowering plants containing mainly herbs and numerous sub-shrubs, of which many are tender to some degree. They include annuals, biennials, evergreen and herbaceous perennials, and shrubs. Some are rhizomatous or tuberous.

They originate from temperate and tropical parts of the world but not very hot and humid regions, and grow mainly in sunny places.

The usually square stems bear opposite pairs of simple to pinnate toothed leaves. The two-lipped flowers are normally borne in whorls along the stems during late summer or early autumn.

Annual salvias, and perennials grown as annuals, provide brilliant colour for bedding, infilling or containers. Common bedding salvias include cultivars of the scarlet sage Salvia splendens such as 'Scarlet King' which is compact, has dark green leaves and scarlet flowers. Some species like S. viridis (annual clary) are also popular if grown in light woodland or wildflower meadows, where they attract bees and other wildlife.

Several species have deliciously aromatic foliage, the most well-known being common sage, Salvia officinalis. Sage is a well-used culinary herb, often associated with pork dishes and famously used with onion in stuffing. S. sclarea (biennial clary) and S. viridis (annual clary) are also in widespread cultivation as culinary herbs and for medicinal uses.

The name salvia is derived from the Latin 'salvare', meaning to save or heal, referring to the supposed medicinal properties of certain species.

Salvia nemorosa 'Caradonna'

This species, which grows from Europe to central Asia, is an erect, perennial with many branches and simple, oval to oblong, notched, wrinkled, mid-green leaves up to 10cm (4in) long.

The flowers, which are produced from summer to autumn in terminal racemes can be violet to purple, or white to pink. They have purple bracts, and are up to 1cm (0.5in) long.

The name nemorosa means growing in groves or woods.

The cultivar Salvia nemorosa ‘Caradonna’ has glowing, purple-black stems and violet-purple flowers that bloom from June to October.
The foliage is grey-green and aromatic, and the plant is a magnet for butterflies and bees.


  • To prolong flowering remove the flower spikes as soon they start to fade.
  • Apply a generous 5-7cm (2-3in) mulch of well-rotted garden compost or manure around the base of the plant in spring.
  • Flowers June to August and again in October if cut back hard after first flowers fade.


  • Sow annual seeds at 16-18C (61-64F) in mid spring, and biennials in containers in a cold frame in summer. Alternatively, they can be sown in situ after the danger of frosts has passed.
  • Perennials should be sown in containers in a cold frame in spring, when they may also be divided. Basal or softwood cuttings can be taken in spring or early summer, or semi-ripe cuttings in late summer or autumn.
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