I have a few salvia questions and am hoping some folks here can answer them for me! Thanks in advance!
Salvia Amistad question:
I thought mine was dying. Instead I am seeing new sprouts along the main stem and it is blooming again on the longer, lanky branches. Should I prune back all the longer, almost leafless branches to make this plant become more bushy? Or is it on it's way out and I should just forget it? (The taller and larger salvia in the background is Margie Griffith.)
A closer look at Amistad's new leaf growth. The smaller leafed plant is Hot Lips. Sorry the arrow is not pointing at the right plant.:
I also thought S. madrensis was hanging in there until the entire tall leafless stem snapped and broke off at ground level. Well, now I am seeing new growth from the roots. Is this typical of s. madrensis? It dies back to the ground in Winter? We have mild winters here in central Florida and this winter was no exception. What's going on? Is this one also struggling to survive? The photo shows the newly sprouted leaves. They are a bit messy because I was mulching everything with Oak leaves yesterday.
For anyone growing Margie Griffith:
I thought this was a Winter blooming salvia. One of mine (growing in a pot at the moment) is produces buds and blooms! I was pretty shocked to see this! Does this salvia also bloom in Spring or perhaps year round?
Question about Wendy's Wish:
I thought the in-ground Wendy's Wish salvia plants were also goners. Seems I was wrong. I have one growing in a large pot and it looks more "green" than the ones growing in the ground. I am also wondering if the in-ground plants have been dwarfed by the lousy soil? Looking at this photo, what do you think? Do the plants look healthy or are they also possibly on their last leg? The one I have growing in a pot looks so much fuller and is full of blooms. These look different.
I've always heard the third year for an in-ground plant is the charm. This is the second year in-ground for all of these plants. They were first introduced into the garden last Spring.
Any ideas would be greatly appreciated. I am trying to determine if I should just dig them up and discard them or wait and see what they do. I am not sure about these at all.
Sebastian, Florida USA
This message has been edited by beckygardener on Mar 23, 2014 11:55 AM
I have Hot Lips growing as a hedge along the inside of the picket fence. I have only seen this plant get about 2 1/2' tall. Well, now I am seeing it growing some branches higher than the picket fence that is about 3 1/2' tall. Should I wait and see how tall all the Hot Lips are going to get or should I prune them back to a smaller hedge size like in this photo taken a couple weeks ago before I started seeing the really tall branches?
This is a photo of one of the TALL branches with red blooms:
What should I do? Let it continue to grow in height or prune them all back to a short hedge?
Lots of questions! I think I can answer most of them.
Salvia 'Margie Griffith' can flower 8 or more months out of the year. It gets huge and you will be tempted to let it go, but when it gets too large, large sections will break in the wind. Trim it modestly in late spring when you have few hummers.
Salvia microphylla 'Hot Lips' likes to sprawl, so you should trim it just a little to keep it more bushy.
Salvia 'Amistad' and all of the Salvia guaranitica cultivars and hybrids died back to the ground, but they are coming back very strongly. Your plant will probably be more attractive if you trim off the longer, leggy stems, but I doubt that is really necessary.
Salvia madrensis appears to be doing just fine. The lower growth will soon be growing rampantly. This species usually flowers through the winter unless it is burned back by frost as mine was.
Salvia 'Wendy's Wish' growing in the ground is coming back very slowly for me. One in a large container bit the dust. I will probably replace it.
I can't answer all your questions, since quite frankly we are in vastly different climates and I can't grow most of the ones you are asking after in the ground here. But, I can give a stab at a few hints I think...
On the difference between the 'Wendy's Wish' in ground and in a pot, looking at the photo my guess is that these could use some fertilizer, they look slightly anemic, which is usually a lack of nitrogen. Go light with fertilizer of salvias though, most are pioneers that don't really need a very rich soil. It may also be that the leaves yoy are using for mulch are too heavy? Hard to say... I'm a big fa of heavy use of leaf mulch myself, but some plants just don't like that much organic matter against their crown. Try pulling the mulch back away from the base of one of the plants a bit, and see if that helps at all?
On the tall branches of 'Hotlips'- do you want these to get taller? I think with this plant, you have a choice. You can either leave it and let it gradually get taller, or you can keep it pruned lower. It looks to me like from the photo most of the flowers are on the taller branches? So you may initially loose some flowers, but other than that, no big deal.
FWIW, I just cut my Hotlips back, almost to the ground. This plant gets leggy in winter, and I wanted to keep mine, which is in a relatively contained area, a little more compact than it would be otherwise. I did however, use the trimmings to make cuttings straight into the ground in a couple of spots. If they grow, great! If not, I'm not out anything at this point. The trimmings would just go into compost otherwise.
Honestly if you like the 'Amistad', and want to keep it going, I would be tempted to do that with it too- either into a pot or into the ground directly where you could use a new plant. If the taller stems, even though they are blooming, are bothering you, go ahead and trim them down if there are basal stems coming up anyway, and use the taller older stems for cuttings.
In general, it's spring. Lots of plants can be cut back to the base this time of year and often will be better for it. Most of the perennial salvias seem to react quickly and strongly to being cut back this time of year. Especially if there are new stems coming up from the base, I wouldn't be worried about cutting most of these back now. For some, you may actually be better off with a yearly or semi-annual trim like this. I know local scuttlebutt says 'Hotlips' does better with an occasional trim.
USDA zone 8b
Thank you Nancy and Brett for your informative and helpful responses!
You very well may have saved these plants from being removed. This has been the first Winter for them to be in the ground, so I really didn't know what to expect. In fact, this is the first Winter for several of them here in FL. I had no idea that some would actually go dormant and die back to the ground despite the fact that I had a very mild Winter this year and the temps have already heated up to what we normally get in June. I have to remind myself that it is only March and summer is still months away even though it does not feel like Spring but instead the beginning of Summer. It's going to be one hot summer if this is any indication. I'll take cold weather longer here than hot weather. My A/C has been running for most of the Winter, too!
Brett - I do root cuttings of many of my plants just in case they do perish. Most root pretty effortlessly for me here in FL. I may even have a root cutting of Amistad, but not sure. I know I have a cutting or two of Hot Lips and already have a place to plant those in the ground. I wasn't sure if Hot Lips would be able to handle the root-knot nematodes and the sandy, nutrientless soil here. It's hostile in my yard. But that plant seems to shine here!
Of all the salvia I grow.... and some are so pretty and showy ... but Hot Lips wins hands down for me here. It is drought tolerant and very easy to grow. And the hummers love it! I have several of them growing around my yard and it is really a great plant to have! The butterflies enjoy it too! So it does double-duty! It's my kind of plant!
I love all these salvia plants though and am very glad that so far they are hanging in there. Maybe next year I will see a real growth spurt and they will settle in and start thriving.
Brett - I have been fertilizing all my plants. I now think that Wendy's Wish may not like a lot of watering. That may be the problem. Being in the ground, perhaps the root system has reached down deep and so the plants don't need as much watering as I think they do. I will be watching my watering a little more closely. Thanks for the suggestions!
The experts have answered all of your questions, but I am just envious that you can plant these salvias and they come back strong for you in the spring. Unless they receive heavy protection, they are goners in Wisconsin. Right now, our ground is still frozen solid, so it was delightful to see sprouting and blooming plants in your photos.
With salvias I have overwintered indoors, I have always trimmed off any brown or dead branches and let them resprout from the roots. They are very fast growing and would be even more so in the heat and sun of Florida. You will get a fuller and fresher looking plant that way.
It is important to not overwater many salvias. Since you live in Florida where it rains a lot, this is a difficult charge. The only salvia that can deal with a lot of water is Salvia guarantica. Salvia 'Wendy's Wish' hails from Australia, where it's really hot and dry and we have had mixed success with that plant when it's been moist and rainy here in Wisconsin for a long stretch.
If you think your Wendy's Wish is having trouble with too much water, is it in one of your raised beds? If not, consider moving it to a raised bed where it will get more drainage, or even making one for it. One of my tricks with stuff that needs extra drainage is to use things like flu tiles and drain pipes stood up on end, kind of like a pot with no bottom. Fill with a loose drained mix like a cactus mix or just add extra sand/pearlite/vermiculite to a regular potting mix, and fill the new "pot" with that. I haven't done that so much with salvias, but we have native prairies here and the plants from those prairies often need more drainage than in the ground generally allows in my garden, and this is one way I can keep them looking good. Incorporated into a rockery or raised bed of some kind, it makes for a nice looking break from the usual garden fare.
For the most part though, it looks like your plants are doing well. Looks like normal spring growth to me, lol. Even the slight yellowing on WW may just be the plant outgrowing its ability to get the nutrients out of the soil, lol. Kind of like a teenager with clumsy feet after a growth spurt.
USDA zone 8b
Brett - Funny you should mention that! My daughter has a piece of drain piping at her rental house that needs to be thrown out. I might ask her to bring it here for me to use. I've been thinking about that for a couple of months now as the size would make a nice small raised bed.
The WW is in a bed that is actually built up with dirt, so I do believe the drainage is good there. I have been running the irrigation sprinklers and I probably shouldn't because the plants were NOT showing any signs of thirst/wilt. It is just habit to water them weekly, but they probably do not need it weekly as of yet. Last summer was quite hot and dry, so I am still thinking in that mode and I shouldn't because we are probably heading into the rainy season here. Working and dealing with family issues takes me out of the reality of gardening except one day a week. (If that!) So I get out there and just start watering and fertilizing. I don't think my plants need either right now, as I've done both earlier this month. LOL!
Some friends of mine in Orlando, Florida have done well with Salvia regla. This is deciduous, and will drop leaves and look like it is dead, then make a spectacular comeback. Here are images of two forms, one at the JC Raulston Arboretum and the other at Plant Delights last year. The Huntington Botanic Garden form is smaller and started blooming 2-3 weeks sooner than the Jame, Coahuila form.
Salvia regla Huntington BG form at Plant Delights:
Salvia regla Jame at the JCR Arboretum:
Note the litter of spent flowers below the Jame form. That's the one I collected on a trip with the Yucca-Do owners, John Fairey and Carl Schoenfeld back in 1991. It came from a 30 foot tall tree at a bend on the road. It's stooped over onto the sidewalk because it was in near half shade.
I got the Huntington form from Sweet Nectar Nursery, and this turns out to be a garden hybrid, probably from a Big Bend form and the Queretaro form.
I gave my sister a cutting of Wendy's Wish last year. It does not overwinter here. Her plant got huge at the end of the season, very pretty. She did tell me she put bat guano on
all her flowers. This plant was in the ground. We have humid summers her.
I basically live in Orlando, Richard, just twenty miles due west. Did you say a 30 foot tree? Not the salvia, right? It looks extremely impressive. Can you give us any more information on salvia regla? I assume you sell it and have grown it for a number of years.
I do sell three forms; Jame, Queretaro, and the Huntington BG form. They have finally just started breaking dormancy.
The Jame form got 30 feet tall in the mountains of Mexico. It remains to see just how tall any of these will get in Florida. I am guessing the Jame form will reach 10 feet tall. The caliper on the cut back Jame trunks at the JC Raulston Arboretum averages 1.5 inches. The ones on the Jame roadside were like the barrels of a Louisville Slugger, about 3 to 4 inches.
I want to experiment with regla's cousins: sessei, betulifolia, pubescens, and libanensis. S. betulifolia from Copper Canyon of western Mexico should be a lot like the Jame form, including hardiness. The others may not be hardy enough. Sessei grows at the Huntington BG.
I found a small rooted cutting of Amistad. I thought I had taken a cutting last Fall and apparently I did. It is currently dwarfed because it was in a very small 3" pot, but it is getting ready to bloom. Amazing!!!! It's now been planted in-ground in a new garden bed, along with some Hot Lips starts that have also been sitting in small pots since Fall, daylilies grown from seeds(yes! I have planted them everywhere .... they could probably rival S. coccinea in my yard for the largest number of any species plant). I have also added a container (plastic bin) of a Brugmansia tree to each new hummingbird bed. I know ... it's not a hummer plant. But I have a real fondness for Brugs and Daylilies. I have decided to continue to grow the original Hidalgo and Lavender Lace in their large bins. I just added them to the center of the two new garden beds. They are surrounded by other salvia and daylilies and are situated next to the Brug bins.
Things are almost looking up except for one issue .... The tree trimming service (through the electric company) came through yesterday and chopped off all the tall, beautiful shady growth in the vacant lots along the back of my yard. My yard is going to be a hot bed this summer now..... (sigh)