The Skyscraper Salvias

SAL Skyscraper Orange 01
Salvia ‘Skyscraper Orange’ with its unusual hood

Salvia is a complex family, so Salvia hybrids tend to have complicated backstories. However, if we had to guess, we’d say the Skyscraper series blends the vibrant colors and season-long bloom cycle of the Vistas, the growing habit of ‘May Night’, and the showy blooms of ‘Black & Blue’ into a single package. As a series, it doesn’t fit onto one of the standard pegs we assign to the Salvias.

If you haven’t seen anything quite like the Skyscrapers, that’s because the series is brand new to the market, just released by Selecta One in 2019. It comes in three colors: Dark Purple, Orange, and Pink, but the breeding team hopes to add more colors to the list.

Skyscrapers have traits fround in each of the three types of Salvia: annual, perennial, and decor. To understand the series, it’s best to sit in the middle of the triangle rather than at one of the corners to grasp how each of those traits contributes to the sum total of the plant. Let’s take a look.

SAL Skyscraper Pink 02
Salvia ‘Skyscraper Pink’ in a mass planting


Vistas are the usual suspects we think of when it comes to annual Salvia: short plants with stubby, thick flower stalks that pack the blooms tightly. This doesn’t describe the Skyscrapers. However, we know that Skyscrapers were bred from a splendens base, and we can see it in the vibrant Dark Purple, Orange, and Pink Skyscraper colors. This series also has the same deep-seated splendens need to bloom constantly from late April through the summer and into the fall.

SAL Skyscraper Dark Purple 01
You can see echoes of ‘Black & Blue’ in ‘Skyscraper Dark Purple’


Technically, the Skyscrapers are perennials, but they are tender above Zone 7 (southern Tennessee) so we sell them as annuals here in Cincinnati. You can see where their broad brush strokes might come from—classic perennials like ‘May Night’ have a similar vase shape.

Skyscrapers have the same clusters of spires that grow out from a central location, and they reach about the same height, 18 inches or so. However, their habit is wider and looser than ‘May Night’. It is more of an open style that shows off each bloom, rather than coordinating into a vertical mass of stripes. These spires are not as parallel, so they have more of a cottage garden and less of an architectural look.

We do think Skyscrapers could serve in the same role as ‘May Night’ in front of hospitality locations. They have the same size and habit, and, as we mentioned before, they offer a full-season bloom.

Since they are perennials of a sort, Skyscrapers have extra durability. They are both cold tolerant, so you can put them out earlier, and heat tolerant, so they bloom all summer without trouble. In fact, toward the end it will take a few light frosts or a solid hard frost to shut the plant down in the fall.

SAL Skyscraper Pink 04
Individual plants are more open and blooms like to lean over


A clear favorite among the decor Salvia is ‘Black & Blue’, which lost the Best Plant honor at last year’s Field Day by only a few votes. We see the same stunning floret with a dark hood and bright flower in the two-tone florets of the Skyscrapers. Take a close look at ‘Skyscraper Dark Purple’ to note the familiar dark hood/bright trumpet presentation. Even more interesting are the ‘Skyscraper Orange’ hoods, which are bicolor with pinstripes; the stylistic flourishes are the same.

However, ‘Black & Blue’ is a torch singer while Skyscraper presents the full chorus line. Dark Purple, Orange, and Pink blooms are like the Rockettes, kicking and dancing along the individual spires (right down to the lean of the bloom). What’s more, behind each spire are many more spires. When you push the plants together, the mass of color becomes “one singular sensation.”

SAL Skyscraper Pink 01
‘Skyscraper Pink’ has the least constrast between hood and floret


Skyscrapers turn out to be great container plants with benefits. They’re just the right medium size, and have just the right area mass to anchor their roots in place. Plus they do just enough color waving to make an interesting spectacle all on their own.

In addition you should know that Skyscraper nectar is sweet and generous. It has a near-honeysuckle quality, so it is extremely good at attracting long-tongued pollinators like hummingbirds and butterflies. Bees have short tongues, so they look elsewhere.

SAL Skyscraper Orange 04
An example of a Skyscraper hummingbird pot


Early planting is not a problem, but you won’t get earlier blooms. Day length triggers buds in Salvia so all varieties start to bloom around the same time of year. A more pertinent question is whether they quit after a few weeks, or keep chugging for the entire year as Skyscrapers do.

They also retain the general Salvia toughness when it comes to water schedules and soil conditions. Skyscrapers tolerate dry spells pretty well. They can take a wilt and bounce back after water is provided. If you have been successful with Salvia before you should do well with the Skyscrapers.

SAL Skyscraper Dark Purple 03
Their strong stems let them do some avant-garde vase work


It took us a while to puzzle out the Skyscraper series because we couldn’t fit it into one of the usual Salvia slots. It has the colors and blooms of annual Salvia, the handsome habits of perennial Salvia, and the showmanship of decor Salvia. In the end, we put Skyscraper smack dab in the middle of all three.

‘Skyscraper Dark Purple’, ‘Skyscraper Orange’, and ‘Skyscraper Pink’ are available in the 4.5 and 6-inch pot. ‘Skyscraper Orange’ comes in the 8-inch pot as well.