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California Native Plants

Growing Salvias (Sages) 

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click here for A Guide to Salvia Species

Salvias (Sages) are very easy to grow, are very durable, and are relatively carefree.  All have high tolerances for dry conditions because they can be drought deciduous, as necessity dictates.  In extreme conditions, they will retain just a little tip growth--enough to carry on marginal photosynthesis--just enough to survive and when they receive water, they will get a flush of new leaves.  (If you are able to water them in your landscape, you can keep them looking garden-worthy.)  (When you do water, water the soil, keeping moisture off the leaves)  Sages bloom in late spring to early summer, with intermittent flowering through the whole summer, if irrigation is available. All but Salvia sonomensis and Salvia spathacea prefer full sun exposures.  These two make fantastic drought tolerant groundcovers especially for under native oaks, that should be kept on the dry side through the summer.  All the other sage species take blasting heat and sun, though they certainly can tolerate a little shade during the day.  Part of their ability to tolerate such adverse conditions is a result of their deep and extensive root system.  They are able to tap into soil moisture on the steepest, most inhospitable slopes.  Salvias are excellent slope stabilizers.  And while they, as a rule tend to inhabit well draining soils, clay or heavy soils don't pose a problem if they don't remain constantly wet. 

In addition, all the sages listed above can be used as culinary food flavorings or enhancers.  And the more  fragrant Salvias are useful as bee/honey plants.

TO SUMMARIZE:

--  Match the plants needs to a microclimate or landscape conditions roughly similar to its original habitat.
--  Don't indulge S with too much fertilizer or water, because they are adapted to poor soils and sunny, dry locations.  They will not do better with more of each!
--  Plant and establish them during the wet, cool season.
--  Water them when the sub-surface soil is on the dry side.
--  Establish them in this way through their second or third dry season.  But, if they need water over future dry seasons, by all means give it to them, in the cool of the day, not when the temperatures are scorching.

If, your Salvia is to be planted in among existing garden plants:

--  Be certain all plants have compatible water requirements.
--  Keep water off the foliage of Salvias; water at the soil level.  If sages are in the shade and water is continually allowed to remain on their leaves, some species may develop powdery mildew.
--   If existing plants receive regular irrigation, plant Salvias on top of a mound or swale to increase water drainage.
--  Plant on the outskirts or high side of a sprinkler system.
--  Look for the symptoms of cultural problems: over-watering: hanging yellow or wilting leaves (check for wet soil too), white, powdery spots or mats on the foliage (keep water off the leaves or move to a sunnier location).

 

Return to Guide to Salvia 

 
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This page was last updated on 07/28/2004 03:24 PM