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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.

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

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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!

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Saturday - December 31, 2011

From: Portland, OR
Region: Northwest
Topic: Non-Natives, Pruning, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Cutting back of non-native Salvia Elegans in Portland OR
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I did not trim back my pineapple sage in the fall. It is now winter and the plants are bare sticks. Should I cut them back or leave them alone?

ANSWER:

Our first task when we discuss a specific plant is to determine if it is native to North America and to the area where it is being grown, as the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and Mr. Smarty Plants are dedicated to the growth, propagation and protection of plants native to North America. From Floridata Salvia Elegans:

"Pineapple sage grows naturally in oak and pine scrub forests at elevations from 8,000-10,000 ft (2,438-3,048 m) in Mexico and Guatemala."

We suggest you read the whole article, as this plant will not appear in our Native Plant Database. Some more information in that article that we would highlight is:

"Light: Grow pineapple sage in full sun.
Moisture: Regular watering for best growth and flowering. Pineapple sage will wilt and eventually lose leaves during droughts, but when watering resumes it usually comes back.
Hardiness: Pineapple sage is a semiwoody subshrub in USDA zones 9-11, and an herbaceous perennial, dying to the ground in winter but resprouting in spring, in zones 8-9. Gardeners in colder areas grow pineapple sage as an annual, or bring it indoors in the winter."

On the above information that  Salvia elegans was that it would grow in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones of 9 to 11, it appears that while Multnomah County is in Zone 8b, it definitely is not in the environment in Mexico and Guatemala where the plant grows naturally.

Since that is about the limit of our information on this plant, we will give you some of the standard advice on the genus Salvia. It is semi-woody with a deciduous upper area and perennial. We usually suggest that gardeners trim salvias down to about 6" above the soil in the Winter, leaving that 6" to help you remember where it is. In the Spring it should re-emerge.

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