Salvia Pachyphylla & Dorrii

sandnsageNovember 11, 2013

Hi All,
I am brand new here. After seeing the incredible amount of helpful information here, I felt like I had come to the place where I could get some really good advice!
I LOVE salvias!!! What is even more wonderful is that it seems like few things will eat them in my area. After reading a lot of information, i decided to try both pachyphylla and dorrii var. pilosa. The seeds were collected at a much higher elevation than where I am at. the seeds have germinated successfully as well!!!!!! Now I have little plants that I have planted in a mass planting. My location is the dry side of the mountains (maybe 5" rain per year) in San Diego county at elevation 2500ft. Some of the plants I put on drip, and others I put on the new low-volume overhead sprayers available now days. During the establishment period I have watered frequently (3x per week) with no detriment so far. I am weaning them off of this and am at 1x per week now. I will probably need even less as we go into winter. Oh, I should mention the soil is sand and VERY well drained. So, you say, what's the problem? Well, what do I do now?
These plants get more rain in the natural environment than I get here. I will need to keep these plant on an irrigation timer, as I am gone for significant blocks of time. I know I need to do infrequent deep waterings, so...

1) Should I supplement rain fall through the spring (say 1x every 14 days) and then turn the irrigation off in June? Or
2) Should I continue the 1x every ? number of days all year?

I am not sure if these plants go summer deciduous in their native environment, but I am going to guess yes. If so, If I water all year, does this shorten the life span, and if so, how long will they live? I have no problem Supplementing the rain fall in the spring, and then letting the plants go dormant during the summer, if that will work without killing them in this very arid climate.
I realize I might be asking million dollar questions here! I have done a fair amount of research, including this site. Thank you in advance for any advice that anyone can give, and MANY THANKS for such a wonderful site!!!!!!

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Hey sandnsage, your mass planting of these two species sounds nice. I have S. pachyphylla growing at coastal 400' elev. and at 4000' elevation in pinyon habitat (2 different locations). Just a few things that have worked for overhead watering out of rainy season, put some rocks in the ground to stabilize soil temps, perhaps provide some shade for the pachys at that lower elevation like a nurse plant would do and try to mock natural conditions as much as possible. As recommended by other growers, like, I would shy away from summer watering.. Something I've done with a measure of success to establish plants is to provide some water on the periphery of the plants when I sense they are summer stressed but I don't want to loose them entirely to some summer soil pathogen.
I haven't had great success with S. dorrii straight species so much...they've succumbed to the hunger of cotton tails in both locations.
Good luck!

    Bookmark   November 15, 2013 at 1:01PM
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Thank you SO MUCH salvia keeper!!!! Is S. Pachyphylla and dorrii summer (drought) deciduous?
I have also seen a photo posted by mojavemaria of a dorrii in Las Vegas. Does anyone know how to send a message to a specific member? I am not sure how simular my conditions are to LV, but I think they are somewhat.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2013 at 8:40PM
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ccroulet(z9 CA Sunset 18)

Sandnsage: I have three S. pachyphylla here in Anza, CA, and I'll probably add some more (from nursery stock), We're at about 3930 ft. elev. I envy that you got them to germinate. I haven't tried S.pachyphylla seeds, but several years ago, when I was living in Temecula, I had good luck with S. apiana, S. mellifera, S. clevelandii, and moderate success with S. eremostachya. I tried to grow cuttings of S. pachyphylla, and I had no success whatsoever. Some other Calif. salvias were easy from cuttings, but not S. pachyphylla. I like to have things that I have personally seen in nature. When I finally see S. dorrii, I'll probably try it. I had a "native plant hill" in my suburban yard in Tem., and I did occasional waterings during the summer. Calif. native plants can be fussy about this. We lost a large toyon to summer watering that the salvias tolerated. I was trying to prevent extreme drying -- they ARE flammable. Greg Rubin of California's Own Native Landscape Design recommends occasional summer watering. The great thing I discovered about S. pachyphylla is that they have a long flowering season. Even now one of them has a couple of flowers. I'm sure the first frosts or snow will kill the flowers.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2013 at 3:41PM
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Thank you VERY MUCH for the valuable insight! How often would you say you water your pachyphyllas in the summer? I am looking for a starting place, and realize I will need to refine it to my specific location (Shelter Valley). Many thanks again!

    Bookmark   November 21, 2013 at 4:27PM
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In well drained (really - well drained) soil we have found this plant actually grows fast and blooms profusely with moderate watering. But if water stands about the roots, disease sets in very rapidly (Phytophthora I expect) and he decline is very rapid.

We are 1/4 mile from the Pacific in NorCal, showing just how adaptable this one is.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2013 at 11:45PM
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ccroulet(z9 CA Sunset 18)

I don't know what's "best." We get summer thunderstorms (3 inches this past summer), and I gave my S. pachyphylla a deep watering monthly. My real motive was to try to save my last S. eremostachya, which I fear I've permanently lost anyway. The pachyphyllas would start to drop their leaves if I let them get too dry. I've seen S. pachyphylla in nature in the Santa Rosa Mtns. and along Hwy 38 in the San Bernardinos. There are some growing right by the highway between the So. Fork Santa Ana River bridge and Heart Bar Campground. I'm guessing you'll be in good shape in Shelter Valley for climate, although I might worry a bit about summer heat. I'd give them some shade while they're still small. BTW, you may not know that San Felipe Creek was once a permanent stream in the area of the Scissors Crossing bridge and Sentenac Canyon. There were large cottonwoods all along the creek, and there were even red-legged frogs, which are now extinct in so. Calif. south of Ventura Co.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2013 at 12:08AM
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Thank you Kermit, that is VERY enlightening.
Wow, that is some amazing history, ccroulet! I did not know that! Yes, I have wondered about the heat affecting these. It certainly seems like I am pushing it alright. I had wondered if they would loose their leaves and go dormant in the summer. I believe you answered that question! I don't care if they go dormant, I just don't want them to go dead :(
So, I wondered if I could help them out with supplemental water. Do they loose their leaves in the Santa Rosa or San Bernidino Mtns. late summer? I am going to have to take a drive this spring and see if I can find some, so thanks for the tips!
This information is fascinating, and really appreciated!!!!!!

    Bookmark   November 22, 2013 at 12:59AM
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ccroulet(z9 CA Sunset 18)

I've only seen the S.B. Mtns. S. pachyphyllas in May & June. We visited the Santa Rosa Mtns. plants in July 23, 2008. You have to be prepared to take the dirt road that goes up to near the summit. When we were up there in 2008, there was an especially big patch of S. pachyphylla at about 7100 ft. elev. They were spectacular!

I think anyone interested in growing Calif. native plants should attempt to see them in nature. It gives you a better idea of what they need, and it gives you a better idea of what the plant really looks like. Most commercial growers don't bother to do this, and therefore they don't know that, for example, most "Cleveland Sage" in the trade are really hybrids with S. leucophylla. Cuttings get passed from grower to grower without anyone realizing that they aren't quite what they think they are. Readers of my old posts here know that this is a regular hobby horse of mine :)

WRT San Felipe Cr.: I've always been pretty well convinced that the Shelter Valley development sucked up all of the water in the aquifer. After the wells went in in the 1960s or 70s, most of the trees died. There were also large ponds with frogs and turtles at the top of Sentenac Canyon. A long-time naturalist with ABDSP told me the ponds were scoured out by a big flood, maybe in 1998, but the frogs and turtles were long gone by then. In the 1960s I remember a good-sized permanent pond with frogs underneath the Scissors Crossing bridge. The cottonwoods and willows immediately upstream were a dense thicket.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2013 at 4:39AM
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I couldn't agree more with the advice than any serious grower - especially commercial growers - should study the California natives they grow in situ. I have hiked for days looking for the northmost outlier, or a color variant, or studying stands of closely related species and the hybrid swarms that often result. There is no substitute for field experience.

    Bookmark   November 24, 2013 at 1:17PM
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" I have hiked for days looking for the northmost outlier, or a color variant, or studying stands of closely related species and the hybrid swarms that often result. There is no substitute for field experience."

I have wondered if the Pachyphylla that HCG offers is a variant or a hybrid? The flower color would remind a person of a dorrii, but the size is pachyphylla. In any case, I think I will try to buy several this spring, and see how it goes. Anyway, you seem to have the experience to be able to give some insight on this.
I really appreciate the irrigation help from everyone! I may set the timer for every 28days and see how that goes. I don't know what the heat + irrigation will do, but the area does receive summer rain on the more monsoonal years.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2013 at 11:31PM
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In my experience, S. pachyphylla is quite variable depending on growing conditions. Environment plays a large part in the bract and flower color. Warm and dry gives the deepest tones. Here where it is cool and moist we never get those darker colors.

As far as HCG's offerings: They used to claim a PPAF for 'Blue Flame', but there is no record of a filing and there is no current claim. Their offering for 2014, 'Mulberry Flambe', may be different. We'll see. From the pictures it looks just like any other of the species growing in someplace like Denver. Both seem to me to be pachyphylla, not a hybrid.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2013 at 1:44PM
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Thank you for the coordinates for the Salvia Pachyphylla in the San Bernadinos! I visited that little patch this last week and would have otherwise never found them. The poor things look so pathetic! I think this dry winter was VERY hard on them. I doubt they will even bloom this year. Thanks again!

    Bookmark   April 6, 2014 at 7:54PM
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