En EspaŅol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - Care for some non-native salvias from Austin

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
Not Yet Rated

Monday - November 12, 2012

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives, Pruning, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Care for some non-native salvias from Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Mexican bush sage and Salvia "indigo spires" are both blooming in my Austin beds right now. Once they stop blooming and/or frost gets them, could you tell me by how much they should be cut back? Right now they are about 4 feet high. Also, my Tropical Sage has stopped blooming -- by how much should it be cut back, and when? I've recently returned to gardening after a 40-year hiatus, so I'm kinda rusty! Thanks for your help.

ANSWER:

Welcome back to gardening. Let us introduce you to our Native Plant Database. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, home of Mr. Smarty Plants, is dedicated to the growth, protection and propagation of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which those plants grow naturally. Since you are in Austin, you should visit the Wildflower Center to see this in action. We pursue this use of native plants because they are most likely to be able to thrive in the soils, climate and rainfall you are experiencing where you garden.

The first thing we do when we receive a question asking for help  on specific plants is to determine if those plants are in our Native Plant Database. We can't say that every plant that is native to North America is in our database, but we can say that if it is there, it is native.

In this case, we can answer your question generically, because your plants are all members of the genus Salvia. Salvias are perennials and should be pruned back in late Fall when they have stopped blooming and the leaves are beginning to dry up. We always prune down to about 6 inches, mostly so we can see where the plant is. They come back from the roots in the early Spring, but if we don't have those cut stems marking the spot, we are liable to think that is an early weed and yank it out.

Just so you will know, only Salvia coccinea (Tropical sage) is native to North America as well as to Travis County. Mexican bush sage (follow the link to a previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer) is native to Mexico and Central America.

Indigo Spires -  (Also from a previous question) "Indigo Spires, sometimes called Mystic Spires, is thought to be a hybrid between Salvia farinaceae and S. longispicata. It was found growing at the Huntingdon Botanical Gardens in California in the 1970s. The botanist who discovered and named it noticed that it the new plant was growing near the other two, and theorized that it was an accidental hybrid. Salvia farinacea (mealycup sage) is a Central Texas native, but the S. longispicata is something of a mystery, thought to be native to Mexico. In fact, when we went googling to try to find information about it, it was always in combination with S. farinacea to make Indigo Spires."


 

From the Image Gallery


Scarlet sage
Salvia coccinea

Mealy blue sage
Salvia farinacea

More Pruning Questions

Care for indoor ivy from Carollton TX
January 26, 2012 - I have an indoor ivy that is on a pole. The pole is breaking, and I need to separate the ivy from the pole with the least amount of trauma to the plant. How should I do this? Thanks!
view the full question and answer

Sprouts at base of holly in Surprise AZ
November 15, 2010 - Friends have recently planted a holly tree in their front yard. They live in AZ and there is no grass (only rock) around their tree. It was planted as a fairly large tree (about 18 feet).My question i...
view the full question and answer

Care for large trumpet vine in Hugo MN
June 09, 2010 - I was recently given a large Trumpet vine that has been growing in the same place for the last 25 years.I have replanted it and given it a large trellis to grow on.I live in central Minnesota. My ques...
view the full question and answer

Correcting overgrown Savannah holly in Goldsboro NC
April 24, 2010 - I have an overgrown Savannah Holly. How do I go about correcting?
view the full question and answer

pruning Chinkapin oak, Loquat and Monterrey oak trees
December 07, 2012 - What is the best time to plant a 45-65 gal. Chinkapin oak tree in Pflugerville. Also, when can i prune fig trees, Loquat trees and a Monterrey oak. Thanks for the information.
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.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center