The Q&A Archives: Salvia chiapensis

Question: Hello,
Once before you helped me with a gardening question. I hope you can help this time too. I live in Los Angeles about 10 miles from the ocean. My front yard has clay soil and we have almost entirely low-water or drought tolerant plants. There's a berm that I'm trying to plan all in purples and pinks. It has a Salvia Weatherly (right name?), a Mexican sage, lavender, and rosemary. I love the salvias. So today I was at a nursery and there was a salvia chiapensis with pink flowers. I loved it and bought it, only to get home and find out it's not drought tolerant! So my question is, can I plant it alongside all the other plants on the berm?

I should add that there is already what appears to be a chiapensis growing there, but it took two years before it bloomed and it is tall rather than bushy. I don't know where it came from!

Should I take this plant back to the nursery and trade it for another salvia, or should I take a chance and plant it?

Many thanks,
Lida Baker

Answer: Glad we've been helpful to you in the past! Salvia chiapensis appreciates receiving water on a regular basis and, as long as you water deeply, it will grow in your drought-tolerant garden. These plants reseed freely so if you have a volunteer, the seed was undoubtedly transported by the wind or by a critter or bird. As long as you love the color of the flower, I'd take a chance and plant it. Other salvias you might consider adding to your garden include Mountain Desert sage (Salvia pachyphylla), because it is the queen of California sages. The flowers are elegant, showy on a very clean, smooth plant. Some years the flowers are almost as big as the plant! Fragrance is not as good as Musk Sage, but the flowers are pink and lavender with hints of blue. The foliage on Mountain desert sage is as white as white sage but more neat and the plant more compact with stunning flowers. Mountain desert sage can be grown in most gardens as long as you keep it dry after the first year. Sneak out and water in the summer and this drought loving plant will probably die.

Salvia spathacea, Hummingbird Sage, is a groundcover usually found under oaks, but may also grows in sunny areas in chaparral. Under Coast Live Oaks, Quercus agrifolia, Hummingbird Sage can cover areas 100 feet across forming a solid mat of large deep green leaves followed by magenta flowers staked out by resident hummingbirds. Hummingbird Sage has been very effective on coastal bluffs. It can tolerate full sun along the coast, long drought and tolerates full salt spray. Plant it beside a rock and watch it grow! Hummingbird Sage also likes extra spring water and summer wash-offs.

Hope this information is helpful!

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