massive Hot Lips

middleburggardenerJuly 26, 2007

A friend passed-along a cutting 2 years ago, and I tucked it into a sunny perennial bed. Last year, it filled the entire corner. This year, it has overtaken everything in its vicinity - it's about 8' in diameter.

I LOVE this salvia, but if it's going to remain in this spot I'll have to keep it pruned-back - will it tolerate such treatment? If not, do these plants transplant well? If they do, when's the best time to do it?

If Hot Lips will resent the pruning, and it doesn't transplant well, I'd move the other perennials that it has overtaken. But, I'd sure appreciate the learned advice here.

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rich_dufresne(z7 NC)

In your case, the tilth of the soil your Hot Lips is in and that of the area it will go is important. I'm guessing it is in a really fertile soil. This will mean a good root run, and transplanting it will result in a severe root pruning (70%+). You will have to trim the tops equivalently. Transplanting it in the summer is a bad idea, but you can successively cut back in stages. At the same time, you can use a spade to root prune and force the development of fine roots closer to the base. Do this in stages also.

If there are a multitude of stems coming out of the ground, you may be able to divide the clump. In any case, you have to have a fairly good amount of fine roots

    Bookmark   July 26, 2007 at 2:33PM
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Does Hot Lips produce true, viable seed or is it a hybrid? And is it a protected patented species? Just wondered before I harvest seeds from a neighbor's plant.


    Bookmark   July 26, 2007 at 3:11PM
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rich_dufresne(z7 NC)

It is a selection of Salvia microphylla introduced by the Strybing Arboretum of San Francisco. Quote from a web page on Hot Lips:

"The manner by which this plant reached cultivation is a story in itself. Richard Turner, editor of Pacific Horticulture Magazine, threw a house warming party, for which his Mexican maid Altagracia provided flowers, including a certain salvia from Oaxaca, Mexico, which none of Altagracia's boss's horticultural buddies had ever seen before."

It has no S. greggii in it, and is under no restrictions on propagation. Some seed comes true, and much does not, at least as far as the bicoloring of the flower. It is one tough and reliable salvia.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2007 at 3:39PM
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May I add my comments re Hot Lips?

For 2 years I had read about this Salvia, and had seen many pictures. 3 or 4 years ago I had the pleasure of visiting Cabrillo College, and I saw a clump of 'Hot Lips'. I was offered seeds, which were being freely produced, so I brought them back to the UK. Germination was good, and one seedling seemed absolutely identical to the original 'Hot Lips'.

This was propagated easily, and vigorously from cuttings, and it has become an enormously popular Salvia in the UK. It is being sold as Salvia microphylla 'Hot Lips', but I suppose it should really be named x 'Hot Lips', being a seedling from a cultivar.

Whatever, it has proved to be a vigorous plant, and yes, it tends to revert to pure-white in mid-summer.....but has anyone ever seen a better white form of microphylla or gregii? Like all rampant microphyllas, it is best replaced every 2 years, from cuttings, as I have never found seeds on this plant here.

It is still relatively new here, and attracts much interest whenever it is seen for sale. I understand that 'Plant Breeder's Rights' has been applied for, which I find rather pathetic and irritating, if anyone were to benefit financially from this plant, then it should be Altagracia...see earlier mails.

I introduced this plant to the UK, and am happy that it gives a lot of pleasure. Just rather sad that some outlets wish to make this a profit-making concern, especially if they claim to have introduced it when they have not.

This sad situation is also rife in Holland.

Having got that off my chest,

Sincere best wishes to all,


    Bookmark   July 26, 2007 at 6:34PM
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Rich -
Thanks so much for your great instructions. At this point, I'm undecided about transplanting - I tend to let things stay where they're obviously happy. The perennials that are in Hot Lips' way will be happy anywhere, and much easier to relocate.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2007 at 9:38AM
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The cuttings I rooted last fall have not grown overly large, nothing like neurepia or Orange Door which are growing in the exact same enriched soil in one garden and the same xeric soil in another. Robin is correct about its summer white, it is the purest. The leaves also are among the smallest of the half dozen or so microphyllas I grow. It has been a steady bloomer even in the harshest conditions but I'm wondering if it is about to take a break. The rest of the microphyllas in the enriched soil garden are putting on lots of new growth while Hot Lips isn't.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2007 at 1:06PM
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Thanks Rich and Robin. I think what I'll do is collect some seeds for myself and not try and trade then in the seed exchange forum here, and take a small root clump from the side and grow that in a container for a Nov. planting here (its so dry in SoCal, I keep pushing back my Fall perennial planting date). I really think this salvia is one of the most striking I see in all of SoCal and its fragrance is strangely attractive as well.

Robin, I couldn't agree with you more about growers taking unfair advantage of exclusive plant rights. Its one of the reason I tend towards native and heirloom plants and away from trendy plants, although I certainly think that hybridizers who come up with something new and spectacular deserve compensation for their work.

While slightly different, I was turned off to the patenting of plants while working with an environmental NGO in the Amazon and I saw pharmaceutical companies, orchid horticulturaists and others claiming plants the indigenous people had used and spread for millenia. Conversely, ag firms like Monsanto and Cargill were selling patented seed to farmers there that could only be used for one year, but the farmers could not collect seeds from it and therefore had to repurchase annualy.

PS - I hope you UK gardeners still have gardens after all that torrential rainfall!

    Bookmark   July 28, 2007 at 4:44PM
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I appreciate very much your comments. I think that maybe I got somewhat carried away 2 evenings ago re 'Hot Lips'.

Got, as we say over here "A bee in my bonnet", when in reality, I don't care, as I have rarely grown plants for profit, I prefer to share them with other enthusiasts. Just get a wee bit cross when others clain exclusive rights, but what the heck!

Re the British floods, it has been dreadful in some areas, but I live on a slope, therefore no problems, apart from torrential rain and hail. Incessant strong wind has been more of a problem with the more brittle species.

Lack of warmth and sunshine this July has restricted growth on many Salvias....BUT cloud-forest species are flowering well and thriving. It is all hit-and-miss...who knows what August and September will throw at us?

Sincere regards.......Robin.

BTW another 12 pics just added to my site.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2007 at 5:59PM
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nckvilledudes(7a NC)

"It is one tough and reliable salvia"

Couldn't agree more Rich. I got mine from Lowes of all places last fall and it has been a nonstop flower producer/hummingbird magnet since it started blooming this spring. Hasn't required much in the way of watering even with the minimal rain we have gotten here in my neck of the woods in NC.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2007 at 8:08AM
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Beautiful! I can't wait until my new, little "Hottie" fills in like that!


    Bookmark   July 30, 2007 at 9:42AM
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Much to my surprise...I have Salvia 'Hot Lips' growing in thick, wet clay in a spot which is drenched with watering from our association's irrigation system daily. It is thriving! Guess this is a very adaptable salvia.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2007 at 9:11AM
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I've had this one for over 2 years... and it also grew pretty big for its spot. This spring I severely pruned it down, to the point where I thought, oh well, if it's dead at least I enjoyed it. But it is growing back nicely, except for the dead twigs from older wood that you can still see. Its a bit unsightly, but the new green and the bi-color helps me to not yank it. We'll see this fall when I get the planting itch.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2007 at 4:26PM
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ramazz(8a VA)

My "Hot Lips" has never produced any seed. Is there a secret to getting seed from this plant?


    Bookmark   August 17, 2007 at 9:09AM
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rich_dufresne(z7 NC)

Bumblebees (especially carpenter bees with shiny black bums)abort fertilization by puncturing the flower at its base rather than extend their tongues down the flower's throat.

Normally, pollen grains find their way to the forked stigma, generate a sperm tube down the style to the base of the unfertilized seed, and unite with them. Once the flower is abnormally perforated, this process seems to be blocked.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2007 at 9:31AM
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I'm very pleased to report that I executed hot lips' transplanting following Rich's advice, and it's doing beautifully. It's also got as much space as
it will ever need :)

    Bookmark   July 9, 2009 at 10:11PM
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Thank You middleburggardener for the update.Rich
has been growing salvias for a long time. He is a
real asset to this forum (and others).
Hot Lips has been taking our 103-106 temperatures
like all the greggii and microphylla's.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2009 at 7:15AM
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I have been growing Hot lips in zone 5 for the past 10 summers and it once kept blooming until January. Doesn't survive our Michigan, USA winters though.

This year I purchased 6 that were all red, but marked "Hot Lips."

Will it revert to red and white once in the ground, or did it just not come true to seed?


    Bookmark   June 17, 2011 at 11:08PM
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hawkeye_wx(z5 east-central IA)

I would think any hot lips you find at a garden center would have been propagated by cuttings. The hot lips I saw locally this spring also were mostly or all red so I'm pretty sure that is normal.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2011 at 10:06AM
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