Problems with Blue Sage
Answered by: Richters Staff
Question from: Susan Hahnelt
Posted: Before April 1998

Over the past few years, I have purchased six of the "Blue Sage" (Salvia clevelandii) tender perennials. Five of these plants, purchased at various times (not all at once), have died. I decided to try one last time; the sixth plant purchased last summer lost all its leaves and appears also to be dying. I have tried everything: covering in the winter; pampering; ignoring; etc. Is there any hope? I have the plant (no leaves) currently under an opaque plastic container, close to (but not under) a grow-light.

Blue sage is one of the slowest growing sages we carry. It has aromatic hairy grey leaves and grows a metre (3 feet) high. It is a native of southern California and the Baja in Mexico. In those areas it has been used as a substitute for garden sage (Salvia officinalis) but the flavour is different, perhaps a tad sweeter.

As is common for slow-growing, hairy plants, it does not like wet feet. When grown in pots, the risk of overwatering, especially during the cooler, darker winter months, is the biggest concern. You must take care to water only when the soil is dry. Don’t let the soil dry out completely – that would cause the leaves to wilt and drop off. Wait until the soil feels dry to the touch when you scratch the surface, then water thoroughly so that water comes out of the bottom of the pot.

It its native habitat it gets hot, dry, sunny conditions, so it must adjust to survive indoors over winter in temperate regions. But it certainly is possible, if you adjust watering during the slow dormant period and provide as much light as possible.

Your plant may be alive still even though the leaves have dropped. Check by snapping a branch to see if fresh green or white tissue still exists in the centre. If not, check in the root ball for live roots. If the branches are all dry and brown in the centre and the roots are dry or rotted, then the plant is dead. If there are still signs of life, remove the plant from under the "opaque plastic container" and expose it to as much light as possible. Water as necessary to prevent the soil from drying out completely. Keep it at 20-25 degrees Celsius (70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit). Do not fertilize until the plant begins to show signs of new growth.

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