Explore Plants

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 

Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Thursday - January 21, 2010

From: Port Townsend, WA
Region: Northwest
Topic: Herbs/Forbs
Title: Freeze damage to salvias in Port Townsend WA
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Mr. Smarty Plants, We live in western Washington and had a multi-day hard freeze in December. Now, in mid-January, our salvia hot lips has no live leaves on it. The leaves that remain are green and dessicated. Do we prune it, and if so, how much, or do we wait to see if there is new growth on the existing branches? I've seen answers to questions regarding pruning this plant in Texas, but not in cooler areas.

ANSWER:

Don't feel that conditions are any different in terms of freeze-back of perennials. In Central Texas, we had the same conditions in January. You may already know what happened; actively growing plants still have water in their upper structure, particularly the leaves. A sudden hard freeze causes that water to expand, bursting cell walls in the leaves, and they quickly turn dark and look pathetic. What made this freeze worse was that it was earlier than we ordinarily expect these conditions, very sudden, temperatures went down very far, and remained below freezing for several hours. A gradual decrease in temperature over a period of time increases the ability of plants or plant parts to withstand cold temperatures. A sudden decrease in temperature in late fall or early winter usually results in more damage than the same low temperature in January or February.

 

There are 37 salvias in our Native Plant Database, and 3 native to Washington. None of those three, Salvia dorrii (purple sage), Salvia dorrii ssp. dorrii (purple sage) or Salvia dorrii ssp. dorrii var. incana (purple sage), has a red bloom, which we assume a plant called "Hot Lips" is. "Hot Lips" is probably a trade name assigned to some salvia not native to Washington or, more likely, a cultivar. Because of that, it does not appear in our Native Plant Database as native to Washington, but it probably has similar enough characteristics that we can generalize. 

Since we have always recommended cutting salvias back to about 6 in. after the first freeze, this would seem to be the time to do it. The reason we like to leave 6 inches of stalk above the ground is so you know where it is, and don't accidentally pull out the new sprouts in the Spring, believing they are weeds. It seems unlikely that this plant will suffer permanent damage. 

 

 

 

More Herbs/Forbs Questions

Nightflowering plants native to Northern Illinois
October 12, 2010 - Looking for any/all info on night flowering plants that are native to Northern Illinois.
view the full question and answer

Chile pequin from Spring Plant Sale in Austin
June 08, 2011 - Re: chile pequin purchased at your Spring 2011 sale: it grows, seems to thrive, but sets no flowers and so bears no fruit. It's in terracotta in Ladybug potting soil, on a shady apartment patio. How ...
view the full question and answer

Sun loving plants for flower bed by the pool in Weatherford Texas
October 03, 2011 - We have a 40' long x 2 1/2' wide flowerbed along our pool. It is in full sun with the pool deck across the front and a 6' privacy fence across back. Also, the level of the bed is 18" below the l...
view the full question and answer

Is Asclepias purpurascens a Texas native?
April 23, 2013 - Is the Asclepias purpurascens a Texas native plant? If so where does it grow?
view the full question and answer

Plant Identification from Decatur GA
June 14, 2012 - Hi: In early May 2012 we visited the Center--fantastic. There was a large shrub/tree with yellow blooms near a silo. Is it Retama? Also there was a lot of a purple blooming plant in with the conef...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.