En EspaŅol

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?


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
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
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


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?


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

Mexican Plum with wilted leaves in Austin, TX.
June 06, 2012 - I am new to Texas & have a yard with mature mexican plum trees. They are quite beautiful however as summer sets in I notice that the leaves appear "wilted". Is this normal or should I be providing...
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

Copper Canyon daisy leaves turning yellow in Spring Branch TX
September 01, 2010 - My Copper Canyon daisies have grown well this year but the leaves are turning yellow. Any ideas?
view the full question and answer

Esperanza failing to bloom in Odessa TX
September 01, 2009 - I have 3 Esperanza plants that have not bloomed this spring/summer. I live in Odessa, TX. We had about 5 inches of rain in July in one week (very unusual), but they have not bloomed-before or after. ...
view the full question and answer

Problems with Texas Mountain Laurel in Dallas
May 04, 2010 - I have a Texas Mountain Laurel that is about 3 years old. When I bought it 2 summers ago, it was about a foot high. Now it is over 6 feet. It seems to have grown so fast that the branches can't ke...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center