En Español

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

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
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
6 ratings

Thursday - July 28, 2011

From: Bulverde, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Watering, Herbs/Forbs
Title: It's so hot, even the Salvia greggii are sad, in Bulverde Texas
Answered by: Leslie Uppinghouse

QUESTION:

I have several Salvia greggii in large terra cotta pots. The leaves have developed a yellowish tint and are thinning. What is the best process to get them back to full green foilage?

ANSWER:

Speaking not just for Texas but for the rest of the country, its hot! We are on the edge of August and everyone, even the Salvia greggii (Autumn sage) are tired of the heat. 

When you plant flowers in Texas you can't pretend that you don't live in the oven of the country. There are go-to plants we Texans rely on to get us through the summers that can sometimes challenge our comprehension of how extreme conditions can become. This year in Texas we have had, what some in the agricultural industry would consider, a catastrophic drought. This combined with the heat has resulted in all living organisms to use every trick in the trade to stay alive.

What we suspect might be happening to your Salvias, is happening to all sorts of plants in the South right now. They are shedding their leaves, trying to conserve water. Even if you are watering your Salvias more than usual, it is just too hot to keep them fluffy and green. Salvia greggii can take times of drought, they don't need or want a lot of water. They want soil that drains well and if that isn't the case, and you have increased watering, they might be reacting to the soil staying too wet. This can turn the leaves light yellow. If your pots are in full sun with western exposure your Salvias might be getting sunburned, which would give your leaves a darker yellow, to brown coloring. If the soil is depleted of nitrogen, then this too can cause the leaves to turn yellow. If just the tips of the leaves are effected, then, that might be a potassium deficiency. We wouldn't recommend adding fertilizer to the plants. Salvias typically are not fussy and it is too hot for water soluble fertilizer anyway. If you suspect that your soil isn't very good then try to amend that soil with a top coat of seasoned compost. People don't think about using compost in pots, but frequently it is the soil in planters that need the most help. 

Salvias do respond well to a mid summer cut back. So lets say your pots are in partial shade to rule out sunburn, you have well drained soil and the soil is having a chance to dry out between waterings, and you are not watering in the heat of the day ( this would result in steaming your greggii to death ). Lets say you and your Salvia greggii have a mutual understanding that you are a good caregiver and they have a will to live. If all of these conditions are in place, then you can give your plants a good haircut. You don't have to be too careful about where you cut back and if the plants are large, you can even use a sharp set of garden shears. Cut the plants back one-third of their size and you should see a visible improvement in leaf color and abundance. If you are worried about one or more of the conditions listed above try to correct the issue and see if that doesn't cheer your plants up. Do not cut it back if you are unsure about whether or not they are happy. If the plants are stressed from overwatering and you cut them back, they might just die all together.

This summer is tough and you may have to wait for conditions to improve before you mess with your plants. It wouldn't hurt to move them into a little more shade, if possible. Salvia greggii is a sun loving plant but right now this sun is mean and even the die hard sun lovers are scared of it.

 

From the Image Gallery


Autumn sage
Salvia greggii

Autumn sage
Salvia greggii

More Watering Questions

Drought stressed wooly butterflybush in Atlanta, TX
September 24, 2011 - My butterfly bush is dead looking from the drought. Do you think there is a chance it just went dormant and will return next year. I am still putting water on it. I believe it is a white wooly butterf...
view the full question and answer

Watering Oak Trees in the Summer
July 15, 2011 - Should you water oak trees in the summer? Some people say its not good for them. But many trees seem to be withering up and dying in this heat. Especially the black jack oaks. There are also post ...
view the full question and answer

What fertlilizer for live oaks under drought conditions?
July 01, 2011 - In your June 7 answer about helping live oaks survive the drought, you state that additional fertilization may help as well. What kind of fertilizer to you recommend and how should it be applied? Th...
view the full question and answer

Dying branches on Texas Mountain Laurel from Kempner TX
September 14, 2012 - The branches on my Texas Mountain Laurel are very dry and brittle. The leaves are also starting to die. The tree has been in my yard for six years and prior to that it sat wrapped in burlap for ov...
view the full question and answer

Leaves dropping on native Texas Mountain Laurel in San Antonio
September 20, 2008 - Please help. We have a beautiful TX Mountain Laurel in our front yard. This year the leaves are dropping like snow in the north. What do you think is wrong with our tree?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center