Growing Hot Lips Sage – A Care Guide

With its vibrant bicolor blooms in red and white, Hot Lips sage (Salvia microphylla ‘Hot Lips’) is one of the most popular ornamental salvias. This pretty plant thrives with simple care, rewarding the gardener with endless flowers perfect for bouquets

In this article. we will cover everything you need to know about successfully growing Hot Lips sage including

  • Origin and features
  • Optimal growing conditions
  • Planting and transplanting
  • Watering, fertilizing, and pruning
  • Pest, disease, and environmental issues
  • Overwintering the plant
  • Propagation from cuttings

By following some basic guidelines, you can keep your Hot Lips sage looking beautiful and blooming abundantly season after season.

About Hot Lips Sage

Hot Lips sage is a hybrid cultivar of Salvia microphylla, the Graham sage. It was bred by the Walters Gardens nursery in Michigan and introduced commercially in the 1990s.

This semi-woody subshrub grows rapidly to form a bushy mound shape, reaching 2-3 feet tall and wide. The small green leaves have a pleasing aromatic scent when crushed.

From late spring until frost, the flowers appear in loose terminal spikes. The blossoms shift in color based on temperature, exhibiting more red pigment in hot weather.

As a member of the sage family, Hot Lips sage attracts pollinators while resisting deer and rabbits. Once established, it is quite drought tolerant.

Growing Conditions for Hot Lips Sage

This salvia thrives in the following conditions:

  • Full sun exposure
  • Hot climates, zones 8-11
  • Average soil with good drainage
  • Moderate watering, allow to dry between waterings
  • Average to poor fertility, avoid high nitrogen
  • Alkaline or neutral pH level

Hot Lips sage struggles with wet soil, humidity, intense cold, and excessive fertilizer. Site it carefully to provide optimal growing conditions.

Planting Hot Lips Sage

You can install plants in spring or fall. Allow 1-3 feet between plants for good air circulation. Here are tips for planting:

  • Loosen soil and remove weeds from bed
  • Dig a hole twice as wide as the root ball
  • Place plant in hole, keeping it at same depth it was growing
  • Backfill hole, firming soil around roots
  • Water thoroughly after planting

Transplanting Established Plants

To move an existing Hot Lips sage plant, follow these steps:

  • Wait until temps are cool, either early spring or fall
  • Water plant deeply the day before
  • Dig up entire root mass and surrounding soil
  • Place in new hole of same depth, backfill and water in
  • Prune plant by 1/3 to reduce stress
  • Provide shade for 1-2 weeks while it establishes

Watering Needs

  • Young plants need weekly deep watering

  • Established plants are drought tolerant but flower best with occasional irrigation

  • Soak soil thoroughly then allow to dry between waterings

  • Avoid wet leaves, which can lead to disease

  • Do not overwater, as plant is prone to root rot

  • Ensure good drainage or amend soil to prevent waterlogged conditions

Fertilizing Hot Lips Sage

  • Use a balanced organic fertilizer in early spring

  • Or apply a slow-release granular fertilizer at start of growing season

  • Monthly liquid feeding with fish emulsion or seaweed solution

  • Avoid high nitrogen fertilizers, which cause leggy growth

  • Prevent bitterness by limiting fertilizer after September

Pruning Hot Lips Sage

  • Prune annually in early spring, cutting back by 1/3

  • Remove dead or damaged growth anytime

  • Pinch off spent flower spikes to encourage new blooms

  • Cut back severely every 2-3 years to rejuvenate plants

  • Pruning stimulates lush new growth and abundant flowering

Pests, Diseases, and Environmental Problems

Hot Lips sage is resistant to serious issues but may encounter:

  • Powdery mildew in humidity – improve airflow

  • Root rot in wet soil – do not overwater

  • Aphids on new growth – spray off with water or use insecticidal soap

  • Leaf spot fungus – remove affected foliage promptly

  • Lack of flowers in extreme heat or cold – site in optimal climate

  • Leggy, open growth in too much shade or nitrogen – increase light and reduce fertilizer

Overwintering Hot Lips Sage

  • In zones 8-10, Hot Lips sage may die back but re-emerge in spring

  • Provide winter mulch in colder zones for root protection

  • Cut back by half in fall for exposed sites if concerned about winterkill

  • Potted plants should be moved indoors before frost

  • Keep dormant plants cool and very lightly moist over winter

  • Transplant new plants in spring after danger of freeze has passed

Propagating from Cuttings

Hot Lips sage is easy to propagate from semi-hardwood cuttings in summer:

  • Take 4-6 inch cuttings from vigorous tips of new growth
  • Remove lower leaves and buds
  • Dip end in rooting hormone (optional)
  • Stick into moist potting soil
  • Maintain warm temperature of 65-75 F
  • Keep soil evenly moist until new growth emerges
  • Transplant new plants after a good root system develops

From a small start, Hot Lips sage will quickly grow into a stellar garden performer. With attention to its basic needs, this rugged plant will beautify the landscape for years to come with carefree color. The vibrant blooms make a stunning addition to borders, containers, and pollinator gardens.

How to Look After Salvia ‘Hot Lips’ and Similar Varieties

Can HOT LIP Sage grow in hot weather?

Sometimes called “Baby sage”, they can grow in a temperate climate and can also handle a mild drought. Hot Lips salvia are bushy plants with long thin stems that boast bright flowers. In cooler weather, Hot Lips salvia has two toned, striking red and white flowers. In hot weather, the entire flower will turn red.

What is a HOT LIP Sage?

Hot Lips Salvia (Salvia Microphylla) is a unique, evergreen bushy sage with bright white and red flowers. Learn how to care for them in this guide! These one of a kind two toned flowers adorn thin stalks with diamond shaped green leaves. Tubular in shape, the Hot Lips flower is a frequent destination for hummingbirds and pollinators.

How do you propagate Hot Lips Sage?

Hot Lips Sage can be propagated through stem cuttings or by dividing mature plants. To propagate through stem cuttings, take a 4-6 inch cutting from a healthy plant and remove the lower leaves. Dip the cut end in rooting hormone and plant it in a well-draining potting mix. Keep the cutting moist and place it in a warm, bright location.

Is Hot Lips Sage a perennial?

This compact perennial plant is native to Mexico and belongs to the mint family. With its vibrant red and white flowers, it is a favorite among gardeners and pollinators alike. In this blog post, we will explore the various aspects of growing and caring for Hot Lips Sage.

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