propagating salvia

Monroe, NC(Zone 7b)

I bought two real cool salvias from the botanical garden in Columbia and want to propagate some for the fall plant swap. What is the best way to propagate salvia. I have "Hot Lips" and "Red Neck Girl". I'll try to get the Latin name and image to attach later. I have never tried to propagate anything (except my own species) it needs to be easy.

Frederick, MD(Zone 6b)

I haven't tried Salvias, but I checked Tom DeBaggio's herb book, and he says they're easily grown from cuttings (at least, he says that of Salvia officianalis, but I bet others would also work). Pineapple sage, he says, will root in water, so you might want to try that with a few cuttings, but you might have better luck sticking them in growing medium. Vigorous new spring growth is best for rooting, so this is a good time to take cuttings. You could also propagate by layering, but cuttings are probably the best way to get a lot of new plants.

People use lots of different mediums to root cuttings, but I've had good luck with Tom's suggestion of using half perlite and half Pro Mix (or similar soil-less medium, although I'd avoid ones with fertilizers already mixed in). Add enough water to dampen the mix but not make it soggy. You can start a whole flat of cuttings, or just stick several cuttings into any sterile container (new or washed well with a little bleach) that is no more than 2 or 3 inches deep.

OK, more summarizing from Tom's book.... Look for stems with vigorous, new, compact growth. Stems that make the best cuttings are supple and strong but not woody, and new growth is generally the best. The best time to take cuttings is when plants are growing rapidly, daytime temps are still between 55 and 70', and nighttime temps are above freezing.

Cut stem tips 3 to 4 inches long. Strip the leaves off the lower half of the cutting. Cuttings root best when there are some leaves attached to them, but leaving too many leaves can cause the cuttings to quickly wilt & die. If you wish, dip the bare lower stem into rooting hormone powder before sticking the cutting (this makes a difference with some, may make no difference with others, but using it gives me a certain peace of mind).

Make a hole in the medium with a pencil, then stick the cutting into the hole. Space cuttings far enough apart that their leaves don't quite touch, so some air can circulate through them. After the cuttings are all stuck, water with a gentle flow to settle the rooting medium around the base of the cuttings. Now it's time to put them in a high humidity environment.

Enclose the pot of cuttings in a plastic bag, using a couple of sticks or coat hanger wire arches to hold the bag up & away from the leaves on the cuttings. A little condensation on the inside of the bag says it's nice and humid for your cuttings. Check the cuttings regularly so you can remove any that have died. If the medium has begun to dry out, water the cuttings, adding a little fertilizer such as Miracle Gro to the water.

Ideal temperatures for rooting are an ambient air temperature in the sixties and root-zone temperatures at 70 to 80' (provided by a bottom heat source such as a seedling heat mat). Cuttings will still root just fine in other conditions, if more slowly, but you want to avoid lots of heat that can wilt the tops. I didn't have heat mats until this year, and I've rooted lots of stuff. Cuttings do need light (remember, they still have leaves), so put them under a florescent light (sunny window or greenhouse is fine, but use a little row cover material to filter the light on hot sunny days).

After a week or so, you can start checking to see if the cuttings have rooted by tugging lightly on cuttings at random to see if there's any resistance caused by new roots. When the cuttings have struck vigorous roots 1/4 to 1/2 inch long, it's time to transplant them into 2 1/2 inch pots. Leave them in the small pots until the rootball has filled the pot before moving to the garden or to a larger container.

OK, I hope that was enough detail to be helpful without being intimidating!

Deep South Coastal, TX(Zone 10a)

Stems with NO flower buds are important to rooting the flowering salvias and some like S. leucantha and S. miniata are harder to root, spring is easiest time to root those varieties. Haven't tried S. gregii.

Frederick, MD(Zone 6b)

yup! sorry, forgot to note that in the section about choosing stems for cutting. If there are just a couple of flower buds, they can be stripped off, but a stem with nice new growth & no buds is best.

Okeechobee, FL(Zone 10a)

Welcome thirpmaster, really glad to see you in the garden.

Josephine, Arlington, TX(Zone 8a)

I have tried Salvia greggii, and they are very easy to root, you can even use some of the woody stems, it roots like crazy, but leave no flowers on the cuttings.

Deep South Coastal, TX(Zone 10a)

Frostweed, that is good to know. I have a "Hot Lips" that I would like more of.

Monroe, NC(Zone 7b)

Your guys are GREAT! I am heading out to the garden this afternoon to take my cuttings. Thanks for the warm welcome. I'll let you know how it goes. Oh yea, Red Neck Girl is Salvia madrensis and Hot Lips is Salvia microphylla. I could only figure out how to attach one image at a time so, this one is hot lips. I'll send red neck next.

Thumbnail by thripmaster
Monroe, NC(Zone 7b)

Here is Red Neck Girl. She has pretty big leaves and might be trickier to root. I'll try to get a very small piece from the top that is growing fast and still has small leaves.

Thumbnail by thripmaster
Frederick, MD(Zone 6b)

Wow! That 'Hot Lips' is just stunning! I tend to favor the purple / blue salvias, but I could make an exception for that one! I started a flat of salvias from seed this year, decided to put in a little "salvia corner" out back..... I'll definitely be trying some propagation from cuttings as well as saving seeds.

Monroe, NC(Zone 7b)

Well Critter, if I am successful at my efforts I will send you some hot lips, I think the redneck girl will be pretty too, but she is a little young. She has yellow flowers which is unusual for a Salvia and red stems (hence redneck girl). Thanks again for all your great advice.

Frederick, MD(Zone 6b)

We'll see what we have in our respective "salvia corners" at the end of the year and do a trade! Yea!! :-)

Monroe, NC(Zone 7b)

That's a deal!

Atlanta, GA(Zone 8a)

Hi Robin
Welcome to Dave's. We really enjoyed meeting ya at the GA Roundup. We enjoy meeting other Gardening Addicts. LOL!

Monroe, NC(Zone 7b)

Hi Cindy: I used to think I was the worst kind of garden I realize I am not alone. I feel better!

Tonasket, WA(Zone 5a)

thripmaster, Welcome to DG and I do hope you have no thrips in your garden. I live in zone 5 so many of the Salvias are not hardy here. Some that i really like I carry over winter in my small gh. Salvia greggi Wild Thing' is hardening off outside from wintering in gh, and I plan to take some cuttings soon. DonnaS

Monroe, NC(Zone 7b)

Brrr. Zone 5! What is Wild Thing? I love the name! Let me know how your cuttings go or if you have any secrets. I have lots of salvias but most don't make it through the winter here either. This week I bought some rootone. I am going to try some cuttings this weekend. I love my salvias so much that I can't stand the thought of loosing them. I want to root some and save a few and share a few. I put some cuttings in water earlier this week. We'll see how that method works.

(Zone 7a)

Critter, those are some of the best directions for rooting sage (or almost anything for that matter) I've ever seen - thank you.

On the subject of propagating sage, there's another method I've read about, but not tried. Some salvias have roots that are tuberous like dahlia tubers and those salvia tubers can be saved over the winter just like dahlias.

The ones I know about are:

Salvia patens (can be started by seed)

Salvia guarnitica hybrids and cultivars that include:

S. 'Argentine Skies'
S. 'Black and Blue (Brazilian Sage)

Another flower that can be saved by tuber is the 4 O'Clock (Mirabilis peruviana).

There are members of Ipomoea that can be saved this way, too - do not remember of the top of my head which ones.

We used to save our dahlia tubers in loosely open, plastic bags with peat. This year, they are just in the bags, because we couldn't find any peat when we were able to buy it. Perlite is said to work, and I imagine sand would (slightly moist). I also once read about someone who dipped his tubers in parafin wax and therefore I wonder how spraying them with an antidessicant would work that some people sometimes spray on their broadleaf evergreens like box at their most northern extremes to retard their dehydration in extremely cold, windy conditions.

PS - On cuttings with really large leaves in proportion to the cutting as a whole like S. 'Red Neck Girl', those large leaves can be cut back by half (or a little more or less) to fit them into the space you have available for rooting.

Frederick, MD(Zone 6b)

Yeah, Tom really knows hs stuff! I'm so glad he wrote a lot of his expertise down in his books before the Altzheimers hit him. He's still puttering around the greenhouse and seems quite content among all those wonderful plants, but his son (quite an expert in his own right) has taken over the business.

I just left my seed-grown salvias in the ground, and I'm hoping most of them will come back. Bluespiral, I'm sad to report that my cutting of 'Black & Blue' failed (didn't transition well into indoor conditions, perhaps), but other lovelies you so generously shared with me are just thriving!

Thanks for the info on saving tubers.... I need to remember to tell my SIL about the necessity of digging dahlias, as hers were still in the ground at Thanksgiving, and I'm not sure she knows they need to come up. Oops. Then again, it could be purely a matter of distraction -- they just bought an old pharmacy, and both the business and the building need a great deal of attention!

(Zone 7a)

Critter, email me in the spring about S. Black and Blue - I have the parent plant growing under grow lights right now, so hopefully there'll be some cuttings then.

Thripmaster, there is one type of sage that has always self-sowed the following year for me: Salvia coccinea - both the coral-pink and white colors have come back that way (haven't grown the red one).

Well, it seems that just talking about sages makes it seem like the hummingbird hasn't REALLY gone south yet...

Cincinnati, OH

The Salvia flower determined the so-called genus. DNA testing shows that the salvia genera on opposite extremes of the mint family tree. The peculiar flower is coincidental.
Huge selection of both Salvias:

(Zone 7a)

UUallace - great website. For those fascinated with the place of place of plants in the overall context of humanity as explicated in this website, but not able to buy books, many of the authors referred to on this website have written books that can be found free and online at:

Project Gutenberg -

and -

Some of these authors' works can also be found in form of excerpts or articles in

Another huge source of sages and other genera is:

There are two documents to download from this Sandy Mush:

A condensed 8-page list of their plant inventory with prices (very inexpensive) and

an 88-page handbook with very comprehensive but concise cultural directions. Wonderful reference for growing herbs and other unusual plants.

Sandy Mush has always sent me very healthy, large plants raring to grow for relatively low prices.

This message was edited Dec 5, 2005 7:22 AM

New York & Terrell, TX(Zone 8b)

Yes those Salvia guaranitica B&B's do make a tuber just like Ipomoea 'Blackie' who are both tucked in for a winters' nap.

~* Robin

This message was edited Dec 7, 2005 1:08 AM

New York & Terrell, TX(Zone 8b)


~* Robin

Eureka, CA

Pineapple sage.... I just stick cuttings in the ground or a nearby container and "voila!!" (As opposed to viola..... hehehe) They do well. Don't know about any other varieties, but the pineapple does very well....


Wimberley, TX(Zone 8a)

Salvia greggii also propagates very easily. It will start new plants from seed and you can also take a cutting, stick it in the ground, keep watered until new growth starts and "voila"! A lot of salvias are easily started from seed and once you've got the plant, you can start a ton of new plants from cuttings. Definately low maintence plants!

Wilmington, DE(Zone 7a)

Great thread...I will give it the old college try for vegetatively propagating the salvias I am growing.


Citra, FL(Zone 9a)

This is just the information I was looking for! Thanks! I have a salvia "Maraschino" (?spelling, like the cherry) that just starting blooming this year and want to propagate lots - some for trade (those that thripmaster has sound fabulous!)

Here's a photo of Maraschino this morning. It's really a deeper red than the camera picked up. The form of the plant is rather wild and irregular, which suits me just fine.


Thumbnail by 4paws
Frederick, MD(Zone 6b)

Cool plant! Good luck propagating it. I'm glad Tom's techniques have been helpful.

I tried to overwinter a few salvia cuttings without much luck. But a couple of my salvias did prove winter hardy, and I think my clary sage reseeded (or I have some sort of large leafed weed that I've been carefully mulching & weeding around, LOL). I bought a 'Black and Blue' salvia, and I think I may try digging and potting the whole plant to overwinter in my sunroom.

Citra, FL(Zone 9a)

That's funny critterologist - I've protected weeds before and pulled the plant I thought I was protecting.

If you want to try propagating this maraschino, I'd be happy to send some cuttings. I've also got very happy pineapple sage.


Frederick, MD(Zone 6b)

I appreciate the offer, but I've got my hands full at the moment with various trades & planting projects... maybe we can swap some cuttings later on this year.... thanks!

Citra, FL(Zone 9a)

You betcha - I'm actually in the same position, don't know why I think about adding more to the mix!
Maybe I'll try to start a flat per your instructions and have them to trade.

Fallbrook, CA(Zone 10b)

Have been experimenting with rooting in water plus hydrogen peroxide the last couple of weeks. I already knew that Salvia "waverly" roots readily in water, tried Limelight and it rots in water, "Indigo Spires" also rooted in water, will be trying others just to see. Perovskia (Russian sage) rooting in water now.


This message was edited Jan 2, 2007 8:00 AM

Frederick, MD(Zone 6b)

A few of my scented geraniums root in water, but I'm talking maybe 1 cutting in 4 striking good roots while the rest rot and have to be removed. But it's such an easy way to propagate! With the SGs, I often stick a few clippings into flower arrangements, and if one of them gets roots -- bonus! :-)

Wimberley, TX(Zone 8a)

Scented geraniums can be propagated so easily! Just a small (6") cutting dipped into rooting horomone and put it into a good peat /perlite mix. When taking the cutting, be sure you have at least 3-7 leaf nodes. I usually put the cutting (at least) 2 nodes down with about 3 or more above the soil line. Keep it evenly watered, out of direct sun, and you'll have more in no time!...I've got lots of rose geraniums that came from the one mama!
Salvias are basically the same. They'll root from cuttings easily and also reseed...look for the little babies!

Frederick, MD(Zone 6b)

Yes, I've used Tom's method (above) for sticking SG cuttings with a pretty good success rate.... but it's fun to have found a couple of varieties ('Attar of Roses', 'Cocoa Mint Rose', and 'Chocolate Mint') that will strike roots in water. A local grower that I've chatted up at the farmer's market says he sticks cuttings right in the pot with the mother plant, and the shade/shelter of the big plant protects the cuttings while they get roots.

Sorry to get off topic with the pelargoniums (SG's), but while on the subject... Tom DeBaggio says SG cuttings root best (in soil mix) if you allow the cuttings to "heal" overnight in a plastic bag (like a ziploc with a little air puffed into it).

No. San Diego Co., CA(Zone 10b)

Thank you all for bumping this thread. I've been trying to get info on propagating salvias for the past year! Don't know how I missed this thread before, but happy to see it. We have a large mostly bare lot and salvias go a long way here. We have Bee's Bliss, Pozo Blue, Gracias - all CA natives - near the house and they are all beautiful. We have one PB we need to remove because it's covering two manzanitas and gets bigger every time I cut it back. However, on our 'preserve' as we call it, there's plent of room. Now I know how to start and the different methods to try. Yippee! Something besides dove weed!

Donna in Douglas, GA(Zone 8b)

anyone tried cuttings in the greenhouse this winter?
I've got several thats in the GH and still growing strong.
What do you suggest would be the best method this time
of year??

Happy New Year,
Donna V.

Citra, FL(Zone 9a)

I've been pulling off fat stalks of pineapple sage and popping them right in the ground or into some dirt - no greenhouse and I'm in the same zone as you (well, maybe a bit warmer). Seems to be working. That's the only one that I've done....

Wimberley, TX(Zone 8a)

The salvia greggiis seem to be able to propagate pert-near any time of year around here, and I've got several going in the GH. I'm also rooting some Black Knight butterfly bush. I thought I had one, but the blooms were a light purple, and I wanted the dark purple. My new job at the "Animal House" has provided me with a very healthy Black Knight to take cuttings from. The majority of my cuttings are rooted in potting soil... some I use RH on...the ones I think may be a little difficult to root. The easier ones just go into some soil.

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