Tender perennial salvias

Salem, OR(Zone 8b)

Hi---Last year I put in the following tender salvias: 'Black and Blue', 'Hot Lips', and Salvia elegans (pineapple sage). They should be hardy for me, based on this winter so far. However, I'm doing yard clean up right now, and I realized I don't know if I should cut them down to the ground or not. Their branches are woody. When I cut a branch at the ground, it is still green on the inside. Tips are brittle, however, so I have trimmed those off. My 'Hot Lips' still has foliage from the summer on it.......so the question is---will the new growth come from the ground up? Or from the old woody branches? I loved all of these plants last summer----they all got quite large, and I would love for them to come back for me. Pic is of the hot lips paired with achillea 'Moonshine'. This is an area of the yard I'm still working on.

This message was edited Jan 22, 2012 10:10 PM

Thumbnail by kosk0025
Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

It's generally recommended not to cut salvias back in the winter--the stems are hollow and rain can get down in them and cause rot. For 'Hot Lips', I would definitely give it a good trim in the spring--otherwise it can get woody and overgrown. Not sure on the other two since I haven't grown those recently.

Salem, OR(Zone 8b)

Thanks! So in the spring, do you cut it down to the ground---or just trim it back 1/3 or so (like when you prune a rose)......?

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

I never cut mine down all the way, just give it a good haircut. Probably trim it back by ~1/2 or so depending on how overgrown I've let it get.

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Halfway sounds good to me. I learned not to cut back any sage/salvia until mid May here. Then I do the Russian Sages, the herb sage I use for cooking, and lavenders.

Salem, OR(Zone 8b)

Wonderful advice. How far do you cut back your lavendars? I have spanish lavendars (I think), and they looked PERFECT last year. But they are starting to look a little ratty/woody.

I cut the 'black and blue' salvia to the ground yesterday, b/c the branches were all dead. One of the two had growth coming from the ground. Maybe one will come back. Hopefully both.

Pineapple sage---I cut one branch to the ground today---saw the green hollow center. Then I typed this question. Glad I stopped there. And I didn't harm the Hot Lips yet. So I'm glad I asked!!!!

Thumbnail by kosk0025
(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

I just cut the flowering head off clear back to the leaves. I'll have to cut back more this spring since they've grown so large.

Yours are the Spanish (some say French) lavender. They are so beautiful but not hardy here in our zone 7.

There is one Salvia, blue, that Jack grew from seed years ago and that one I did cut back in December because it was clear each plant had new sprouts, which I left alone. This picture was taken to reassure myself that the clematis was really growing so the focus wasn't on the salvia.

Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

Kosk- I have had Spanish Lavender (Otto Quast) both when I gardened on beach sand, and now in clay/builders rubble on a hill. The liked the sand best but do OK here (strangely, English Lavender are more tricky for me). They tolerate my neglect. Mine were getting straggly and woody, but I was afraid to do more than minor shaping. Then I read "Ask Ciscoe" by our Seattle radio/TV garden guru. He said lavender can be whacked off by 2/3 in the spring (but not into bare wood). I tried it and it works.

Hobart, IN

Beautiful photo of the lavender!

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

Spanish lavender is more tolerant of humidity and poor drainage vs English lavender. Neither of them are especially huge fans of humidity & wet feet, but Spanish lavender won't die the second you give it slightly imperfect conditions like English lavender can. It's also more tolerant of pruning--with English lavender you can't cut back into the woody area or else it most likely won't regrow, but I've found Spanish lavender a bit more forgiving in that regard too. Still best not to prune it back into the woody part though!

New York, NY(Zone 7a)


Is that a rock rose in pink among the (gorgeous, lush) Spanish lavendar?

Salem, OR(Zone 8b)

Dawnsharon---Yes, that is a rock rose, cistus purpurea. I have 5 or so large ones. I had 8, but lost a few to the weather the last couple of years, so I actually complained about it as a "bad luck plant" on our Pacific NW forum. But this year, they all look great, and have remained evergreen through the winter, so I'm in love with them now.

Thumbnail by kosk0025
New York, NY(Zone 7a)

kost, that seems perfectly reasonable to me. No two years are alike, and if we can't tell the difference, plants can. I love the little spots on the cistus.

I keep losing helianthemums to sunscorch just when they've grown big and spectacular. Why can't they just shed the affected leaves, I wonder, instead of dying back to the root? This year I've got evergreen boughs on top of them; we'll see if that helps.

Saint Louis, MO(Zone 6a)

Kosk, I suspect your black & blue will be fine. It's vigorous to a fault.
It even overwinters here (without protection), so I'm sure it should do fine for you.

The other tender salvia which I use as an annual,
but puts on a spectacular show for me is salvia leucantha.
It's awfully common, so you may already know of it, but if not, check it out.

Thumbnail by Weerobin
Salem, OR(Zone 8b)

Weerobin, that is GORGEOUS! I don't have any of that salvia, but I must add it. It is perfect. Thank you.

Glad to hear it on the black and blue. I really love those, so I'm looking forward to their return this spring/summer.

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

I agree, it is glorious and I added it to my spring shopping list.

Pittsford, NY(Zone 6a)

I cut my Lavander Munstead back to new growth in winter,then a bit more in spring. I dont have the room to let it just go crazy.

Thumbnail by ge1836 Thumbnail by ge1836
(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Love that photo, Jo Ann! Absolutely gorgeous!

Salem, OR(Zone 8b)

PERFECT photos. The colors are like a Monet painting.

Saint Louis, MO(Zone 6a)

Wow, GE, looks great!

Unfortunately, my wife has banished me from touching the lavender.
I cut them back one winter (just a little bit) and they were toast.
She informed you can't touch a lavender in winter. It's some sort of rule.
I am eager to show her that you cut yours back in winter and they have thrived!!
Ah, vindication!

Pittsford, NY(Zone 6a)

I actually mis spoke. I cut back the new growth in the fall and then in late winter -early spring just be fore the new growth starts I clip more. I did loose a lavander years ago bu trimming it in winter.I think the wisdome is, the cut ends allow wet and disease in.
I never cut back to the woody stem.
Here is what Bluestone says.
"Best in full sun and well drained loose alkaline soil. In clay soils, may benefit from planting in raised beds. Cut back by 1/3 to 1/2 in spring when new foliage appears. Do not cut back in fall. These woody plants do not like to be divided. Sometimes stems root where they touch the soil, and these plantlets can be transplanted in spring. May benefit from gravel mulch. "

Saint Louis, MO(Zone 6a)

Bummer... don't tell my wife!

Pittsford, NY(Zone 6a)

It looks as tho I can cut back Lavanders a bit more in April here.Thats just before the new growth showes.

Pittsford, NY(Zone 6a)

Weerobin !
I continue to seek info on trimming lavanders. There is a you-tube demo. She states you need to keep lavander trimmed from the first year and she doesnt trim until spring when plants are finished blooming.Her demo was more about harvesting than taking an old bush ack to a managable size.
Since she states she doesnt trim into the hardwood, but 2 inches above new growth I believe it isnt possible to cut an old plant back at all. My plants are in their 4th year so I will leave them alone and just be satisfied with the size they are.
She also states these plants live 20 years.

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

The pruning "rules" are the same regardless of whether it's an older plant or a younger one--you can cut it back, but not into the woody part. Even older plants have non-woody growth on the ends which you can trim if you want to try and keep it from getting larger than it already is. As far as living 20 years, if you're growing lavender in a less than ideal (wetter/more humid) climate and/or in soil with less than perfect drainage they will tend to be shorter lived so don't feel like you did something wrong if yours don't make it quite that long.

Pittsford, NY(Zone 6a)

I checked the planting dates and mine went in -in 2009. I wish I had kept a closser eye on them and started pruneing the first year to keep them small. I do go into the plant to the hardwood in late March.
Photos of Hidecoat hedges just give me a chill

Thumbnail by ge1836
(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

The height is controlled by the cultivar you buy. This is from Fine Gardening regarding pruning:

Prune them back in stages

Prune recently planted lavenders in flower to direct energy into foliar and root growth rather than into seed production. It takes lavender two to three years to reach maximum flower and foliage production. You can then harvest flowers and take cuttings to start new plants until a plant is about five years old, when flower output starts to decline. In the seventh year, woody growth develops, flower production decreases, and all the foliage is concentrated at the top of the plant. When I come across an old plant that I'd like to save, I first take cuttings and then try to rehabilitate the plant by pruning it.

Pruning a lavender to the point where it has no foliage will most likely kill it, so I prune mine back only in small increments. In spring, I cut the foliage back by one third to stimulate new growth. Then, after the new foliage has grown in, I cut that back by one third to stimulate new growth at the base of the plant. If new growth does break at the base of the plant, I prune the plant back to just above the new growth. I never prune out old wood unless it is completely dead.

With so many lavenders to choose from, it might be hard to settle on just one. Of course, that's the beauty of loving lavender. There's no need to limit yourself. The fun is choosing the lavender that's right for your conditions, and taking the time to stop and smell the flowers.

Here's the whole article: http://www.finegardening.com/plants/articles/allure-of-lavender.aspx

Vashon, WA(Zone 8b)

I am in awe of those lavender hedges. Just wow!
Getting back to the salvia question...I have a hot lips salvia that pumped out the flowers well into the fall, and got to be about 2 feet tall. It never even quite lost all its leaves since the Winter has been pretty mild mostly, but when we got a foot of heavy wet snow, all its branches were broken to the base. They are now beginning to put out new growth but they are practically lying on the ground. I'm going to have to cut it down to a stump to take off the damaged parts. I wonder if it has a chance of regrowth or if I should just start over. Also, being fairly ignorant about taking cuttings, what sort of medium would I need to put a little branch tip in if I were to try to get one to root?

Central, AL(Zone 7b)

Hi all, great topic! Can't help but love those Salvias. Lavenders are much loved here, but I've had problem growing them. The site is mesmerizing!!! Here comes my 'Black & Blue' They indeed die back to the ground, but I don't disturb them in the Fall. Just trim them back in the spring when new growths are set forth. My Pinapple Sage the woodsy canes are quite large last year. I'm waiting to see what to do as spring is setting earnest here.

Thumbnail by Lily_love
Pittsford, NY(Zone 6a)

Does this mean its too soon to give the KO count to my Mystic Blue Spires and Carradonna?
I have gone down below the crowns and they look pretty dead to me.

Silver Spring, MD(Zone 6b)

I'd say somebody loves the color purple in that photo..one of my favorite colors and I've been toying with buying some lavender but I don't have much full sun area that isn't already
planted full.

Salem, OR(Zone 8b)

Does anybody have any experience with 'Black and Blue' self sowing.....? I have some seedlings surrounding my black and blues (lots of them) which I don't recognize as "weeds" from around here, and I'm starting to wonder if it could be the black and blues......I would be THRILLED.

My black and blues are coming back nicely, by the way, all from the ground up. 'Hot Lips' x3 still look ratty, so we'll see how they come out. They are definitely alive. Just meek on foliage so far.

Central, AL(Zone 7b)

kosk0025, a hybrid salvia is unlikely to produce seedlings that are identical to its parentage. I've both, the species and the hybrid named 'Black and Blue'. The difference? the hybrid's calyx are black, whereas the specie calyx are green. Here is the wonderful article Marie has written for us; http://davesgarden.com/guides/articles/view/3736/

Salem, OR(Zone 8b)

Great info, Lily! Thanks. I'm 95% certain now my seedlings are salvia babies. There are about 50 of them. Waiting for rain, and then I think I'll transplant into containers and nurse them along in the greenhouse. I love free plants.

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