Cobalt blue and Indigo blue are terms I regularly see as descriptors or adjectives if you will for one of the relatively new Black & Bloom salvia, one of the hottest plants in the marketplace. Hummingbird magnet and tough-as-nails, are other adjectives letting you know this is a special plant.
It's not every day that a plant scores high in trials as a southern perennial and northern annual even reaching into Canada but such is the case for Black & Bloom. I'll tell you when I first heard the name of the plant I thought someone was doing a cheap knockoff or copycat of Black and Blue which I love.
This was certainly not the case and had I been told it was Ball FloraPlant behind the engineering of this salvia I would have immediately known it was something special, as they are gurus in all things salvias. Black & Bloom has winner written all over it in so many ways.
It is robust reaching 48-inches in height and width, the leaves are thicker and able to withstand more sun than its predecessor. The stems are sturdy and black making the cobalt blue blooms with black calyces even more spectacular. Like the trials have shown because of its earlier bloom even far northern areas of the U.S. and Canada can revel in the rare beauty of this plant
As a further testimony to its incredible performance in the garden, it has been included in the Southern Living Plants Collection and the Sunset Western Garden Collection. This is an outstanding plant that you should be able to find at your local garden center.
Recently I have seen combinations with Black & Bloom that simply mesmerized me. The first was a partnership with Vermillionaire cuphea another champion in the world of hummingbird plants. The tubular red/orange and yellow flowers created a dazzling marriage with salvias cobalt blue blooms.
The other captivating combinations saw it paired with the color apricot. In these plantings, one was used with Flying Colors Apricot diascia, a snapdragon relative, and the other with Saucy Apricot salvia. There is something so special about combining these two rare garden colors together.
To grow yours choose a site in full to part sun for best flowering. This plant is winter-hardy from zones 8-10 but only with good drainage. Cold winters coupled with soggy soil and the plant will be history. As mentioned above in colder areas this will be one of the finest annuals you can grow blooming from summer through frost.
Prepare your bed by adding 3 to 4 inches of organic matter like fine pine bark or compost, and till to a depth of 8 to 10 inches. While preparing the bed, incorporate 2 pounds of a 12-6-6 slow-release fertilizer with minor nutrients. Plant them at the same depth they are growing in the container spacing 2 to 3-feet apart.
If you live in zones 8 and warmer the clump will probably need to be divided in three years. Divide in early spring with the emergence of new growth. Make sure it goes into winter with an added layer of mulch.
Black & Bloom will probably reach 48-inches in height so plant toward the back of the border. In addition to the combinations mentioned above don't be afraid to try rudbeckias like Prairie Sun, or lantanas like Cosmic Firestorm which will give you an incredible backyard habitat for bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. It is sure to get your children and grandchildren interested in gardening.
(Norman Winter, horticulturist, garden speaker and author of, "Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South" and "Captivating Combinations: Color and Style in the Garden." Follow him on Facebook @NormanWinterTheGardenGuy.)