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Friday, January 25, 2013

Salvias or Sages- what to do in winter

Salvias or Sages are the beloved garden perennials  of hummingbirds, butterflies and bees These hardy, multi-season blooming plants are colorful and aromatic. There are so many hybrids now that I have a hard time keeping up with the new varieties.  Not to be confused with the short lived annual types, the perennial low and medium shrub versions are long lasting and diverse. 
These plants have aptitudes to both half light and full sun. Some are water loving but most like a dry location. Many are subject to frost damage. Check the Sunset Western Garden Book for information on zones and water requirements for any new salvias you purchase.
In the winter Salvias will go dormant with many having the whole top die back. All the shrub forms of Salvia should be pruned back at the tail end of the frost season (late February) to allow for the new top growth to develop. For many of the shrub forms, if look down at the base of the plant you will see the fresh shoots developing around the crown.  Leaving the old top growth over winter helps to protect the new growth from freeze. The good thing about plants that rejuvinate from the base or grow from the old wood is that you have a whole new, fresh top and flowering stalks each year. If not pruned back the plants will become woody, leggy and not bloom well or at all.  The hummingbirds will be really mad too! 
During the growing season dead head (cut dead flower heads) back, plus about 2-4" of the foliage to keep the plants looking fresh and promoting new blooms.  Fertilize lightly with "Osmocote" or other all purpose fertilizer. They dont need a lot of food or really much care.
Nepeta, teucrium, and daylilies have a similar type of care with the top growth dying back in winter and the new plants emerging from the base.

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