Help Hot Lips salvia Microphylla

murphy_zone7November 9, 2009

Help. My hot lips plant is out of control....huge 4 feet and falling over the pathway and still blooming. When and how far can I cut it back? I have done a google search and can only find descriptions, no care pruning instructions.

Thank you in advance for any help or direction you can give me.

Been a member for a while, just haven't posted much lately....

Again Thanks,


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dottie_in_charlotte(z7-8 NC)

OK..I'll jump in.
Get some stakes Murphy..right now.
And put your pruners away until late March.

When you open the ends of the salvia stalks, water gets in there and slowly trickles to the root crown. When this moisture freezes it begins to rot the crown.

Drive a couple stakes in the ground and tie up HotLips or set in a cage of stakes and make a rope corral around the plant.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2009 at 6:20PM
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karen__w(z7 Durham, NC)

I know the party line, not to cut them back, but Hot Lips can get out of control in late summer/early fall. I cut mine back by about half last weekend and it's still blooming. I expect it will be fine.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2009 at 7:02PM
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I agree with Dottie: don't cut back until early spring. Years ago I lost almost all my Joe Pye because I cut them back. I know many people who have cut these plants back, but the winter was fairly mild, and everything worked out well for them. However, since we cannot predict the weather, you need to be careful. Feezing rain or wet snow can kill the crown of any pithy stem plant.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2009 at 7:58PM
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dottie_in_charlotte(z7-8 NC)

Yeah, I think surrounding them with stakes and corralling them with ropes allows the tips to continue blooming.
I think we're past the time where trimming the ends off will encourage them to sprout below and bloom more bushy.
That seems to work better in early summer before setting flowers signals to the plant to continue tip growth.

It's been (at least here) such a Northern weather year in temps and rainfall I just wouldn't risk a Northern sharp frost after a rain like what we're getting from Ida now.

It's up to you if you want to risk damage to HotLips. For me, they have been a wonderful bloomer clear through til a hard February frost and even then the leaves stayed green.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2009 at 1:49PM
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Thank you so much for the advice. I will probably just let it do its own thing until a pretty day in March and then cut it back to a more manageable size. Don't want to lose it, it is a beautiful plant. :)
Does anyone know how to propagate it? Cuttings, division, what would be the best? Would love to have more of it in more locations.
Thanks again,

    Bookmark   November 11, 2009 at 6:33AM
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dottie_in_charlotte(z7-8 NC)

I've heard/read that salvia is as easy to root in a glass of water as coleus is although I've never tried it.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2009 at 4:32PM
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karen__w(z7 Durham, NC)

Hot Lips is easy to root by cuttings. I usually root in 'dirty perlite', which is perlite with enough potting soil mixed in to make it look dirty. Other mixes for cuttings work fine, too - Hot Lips isn't very picky. It should root pretty fast in warm weather when the cuttings are taken from a plant in active growth. I've occasionally stuck a branch in a glass of water and had it root, but I try to go ahead and stick them in the perlite/soil mix so I don't have to deal with it later.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2009 at 6:17PM
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chapelhillgardener(7a NC OrangeCo)

Re propagation: I had to move my Hot Lips last spring because it had become much larger than I'd anticipated. There were dozens of "babies" all around the main clump.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2009 at 9:10AM
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Claire Pickett

Thanks for the propagation tips, Karen. And Marsha, you ought to pot up those babies, b/c Hot Lips is not commonly available at the big boxes, to my knowledge.

Adele from BB gave me a Hot Lips she had rooted from her own garden a few years ago. It is now a tree-form salvia. I guess in part sun with so many other plants around it, the thing just refused to give up and got tall to seek out the sun.

BTW, what type of salvia is Hot Lips? It has the leaves of a greggii, but blooms at a different time of year.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2009 at 11:52AM
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karen__w(z7 Durham, NC)

Puppy, most places list 'Hot Lips' as a microphylla, originally from the Chiapas area of Mexico.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2009 at 9:39PM
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I'll agree with Karen here. Once Hot Lips is established, it would be hard to kill. I cut mine back anytime, but now is as good as any. Last year, I dug up a huge clump, threw it on top of another bed, and threw some soil on top of root ball. Came back this year fine. Yes, microphylla, and sterile I think.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2009 at 8:52AM
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Claire Pickett

Thanks, Karen. But Brenda, if it's sterile, why does ChapelHillGardener, Marsha, have babies.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2009 at 2:19PM
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MAybe I treat mine so poorly that it refuses to have children? Don't know. Mine expands in width, but I think it is running underground or aboveground? Karen would know. She's our local salvia-obsessed.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2009 at 8:06PM
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karen__w(z7 Durham, NC)

My Hot Lips has never made seed that I've seen, though I've read that in some climates it will. The seed may or may not produce plants with the same bicolored flowers. Some of the microphyllas are stoloniferous, too, which give the appearance of offspring. I don't know which Marsha is seeing in her garden. I think one reason I don't get seed is because the bumblebees and carpenter bees make holes in the flowers and disrupt seed production.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2009 at 8:16PM
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I made the mistake of planting two salvias side by side in a small area and its November and still blooming. plus its three times bigger then anticipated. when is the best time to transplant and whats the best way? I see I cant cut it back until spring does that hold true for moving one of them? I love love love this plant because we have lingering hummingbirds in it all the time!!

    Bookmark   November 16, 2013 at 11:36AM
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