Salvia microphylla ‘Hot Lips’ (Little Leaf Sage)

Salvia microphylla ‘Hot Lips’ on 8-30-13, #181-49.

Little Leaf Sage, Baby Sage, Blackcurrant Sage, Delta Sage, Graham’s Sage

Salvia microphylla ‘Hot Lips’

SAL-vee-uhh my-kro-FIL-uh


Synonyms of Salvia microphylla (11)(Updated on 1-2-23 from Plants of the World Online): Lasemia coccinea Raf. (1837)(nom. superfl.), Lesemia coccinea Raf. (1837)(nom. superfl.), Salvia gasterantha Briq. (1896), Salvia grahamii Benth. (1831), Salvia lemmonii A.Gray (1885), Salvia microphylla var. canescens A.Gray (1886), Salvia microphylla var. neurepia (Fernald) Epling (1939), Salvia microphylla var. wislizeni A.Gray (1886), Salvia neurepia Fernald (1900), Salvia obtusa M.Martens & Galeotti (1844), Salvia odoratissima Sessé & Moc. (1892)

Salvia microphylla Kunth is the accepted name for this species of Salvia. It was named and described by Carl Sigismund Kunth in Nova Genera et Species Plantarum 1818.

The genus, Salvia L., was named and described as such by Carl von Linnaeus in the first volume of the first edition of Species Plantarum in 1753.

As of 1-2-23 when this page was last updated, Plants of the World Online lists 1,012 species in the Salvia genus. It is a member of the plant family Lamiaceae with 232 genera. Those numbers could change as updates are made (and likely will).

Salvia microphylla is native to Arizona, Guatemala, and most of Mexico. The cultivar ‘Hot Lips’ was introduced by Richard Turner of California. His maid had brought it with her from her home in Mexico. I had read previously that someone had given it to her.


Salvia microphylla ‘Hot Lips’ on 6-1-13, #151-64.

I purchased a Salvia microphylla ‘Hot Lips’ from Ebay seller Roon Hort while living at the mansion in Mississippi in 2012, then again when I moved to back to the family farm in mid-Missouri in 2013. I took a lot of photos which show the different colors of its flowers during different times of the summer. Flowers are different colors depending on temperature and day length and maybe moisture.

Salvia microphylla ‘Hot Lips’ starting to flower on 6-11-13, #155-27.

This species is sometimes mistaken for Salvia greggii which it has often hybridized with. There are also several synonyms of this species. It was once named Salvia grahamii (Graham’s Sage) by George Bentham and Salvia neurepia by Merritt Lyndon Fernald.

Salvia microphylla ‘Hot Lips’ on 6-21-13, #156-15. You can see the Salvia greggii ‘Furman’s Red’ to the right. It is a much smaller plant.

Family: Lamiaceae.
Origin: Arizona, Guatemala, Mexico.
Zones: USDA Zones 6a-10b (0 to 35° F).
Size: 36-48” Hmmm….
Light: Sun to part shade.
Soil: Average, well-drained.
Water: Average.
Different websites say different zones based on experience.

Salvia microphylla ‘Hot Lips’ flowers on 6-21-13, #156-16.

The flowers in the above photo are where the name ‘Hot Lips’ comes from. Gardeners buy this plant for flowers like this not realizing they are not always the same.

Salvia microphylla ‘Hot Lips’ at 30″ tall x 26″ wide on 6-29-13, #159-14.

The small leaves have a strong scent which some describe as “mint-like” and similar to blackcurrants.

Salvia microphylla ‘Hot Lips’ on 7-3-13, #160-28.

Salvia microphylla ‘Hot Lips’ grow well in full sun to part shade but flower better in more light. The flowers attract hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees. Flowers should be deadheading to keep the plant tidy.

Salvia microphylla ‘Hot Lips’ flowers on 8-23-13, #178-79.

Sometimes it is hard to get good close-up photos of brightly colored flowers. I have a different camera now which is much better. I also have found out I get better photos after the sun goes down over the trees in the front yard in tha afternoon.

Salvia microphylla ‘Hot Lips’ flowers on 8-23-13, #178-80.

They like average, well-drained soil. They are drought tolerant once established but appreciate regular watering. They flower better if their soil is consistently moist.

Salvia microphylla ‘Hot Lips’ on 8-23-13, #178-81.

After removing the spent flowers the plant looked a little bare. But after a few days, it would be loaded again.

Salvia microphylla ‘Hot Lips’ on 8-30-13, #181-49.

The above photo shows quite a variety of flower colors.

Salvia microphylla ‘Hot Lips’ on 9-30-13, #192-12.

You can see how much bigger the Salvia microphylla ‘Hot Lips’ is compared to the Salvia greggii ‘Furman’s Red’ is to the right. Of course, the Crape Myrtle next to it didn’t help it much.

Salvia microphylla ‘Hot Lips’ on 10-7-13, #193-70.

The Talinum paniculatum (Jewels of Opar) I brought from Mississippi on the left grew very big in 2013. It produces LOADS of flowers that reseed every year so I cut their stems off several times during the season.

Salvia microphylla ‘Hot Lips’ on 10-17-13, #196-12.

The Salvia microphylla can be propagated by basil or softwood cuttings in the spring and summer. Semi-hardwood cuttings can be taken in late summer and fall.

Salvia microphylla ‘Hot Lips’ on 10-17-13, #196-13.

Even as the temps start getting cooler, the Salvia microphylla continues to flower up a storm.

Salvia microphylla ‘Hot Lips’ on 10-25-13, #198-28.

I think we had our first frost on October 25 in 2013. The Salvia species I have grown have all been somewhat frost tolerant.


Salvia microphylla ‘Hot Lips’ on 6-1-14, #228-69.

The Salvia microphylla ‘Hot Lips’ returned in the spring of 2014 but not in 2015. Maybe someday I will buy another one and see what happens. The bad thing is, even though this plant produced A LOT of flowers and no doubt seeds, the seeds don’t seem to come up the following spring. It is one of those plants you have to buy yearly if you live outside of “their preferred” zones where they are evergreen.


The new Salvia microphylla ‘Hot Lips’ after I brought it home on 5-5-18, #435-16.

My sister and niece came down from the city to go plant shopping at the four local Amish greenhouses on May 5 (2018). Our third stop was Mast’s Greenhouse. When I was finished looking, my sister was still not satisfied so I started following her around. Wouldn’t you know it, she spotted a few Salvia microphylla ‘Hot Lips’ I had missed. I told her she should get one and told her sometimes the flowers would be bi-color, sometimes solid white or reddish. She said she wanted one that was all bi-color and didn’t buy one. GEEZ, SIS! I don’t think she got what I said… There were only two or three left so you can bet I brought one home. I have been wishing I bought them all.  

Salvia macrophylla ‘Hot Lips’ on 5-17-18, #443-81.

I planted this one on the east side of the porch on the north side of the house. We’ll see how well it does here.

Salvia macrophylla ‘Hot Lips’ on 6-3-18, #452-20.

It took off pretty well, but it was kind of slow to flower…

Salvia macrophylla ‘Hot Lips’ on 6-11-18, #458-7.

A few more by June 11…

Salvia macrophylla ‘Hot Lips’ on 6-14-18, #459-54.

This species may be more sensitive to the light in the backyard.

Salvia macrophylla ‘Hot Lips’ on 7-29-18, #487-82.

Here it is on July 29 in 2018 and as you can see it has grown A LOT but there aren’t many flowers…

Salvia macrophylla ‘Hot Lips’ on 7-29-18, #487-83.

And… They are red. Well, that’s normal with ‘Hot Lips’ to sometimes just have red flowers.

Salvia macrophylla ‘Hot Lips’ on 8-11-18, #494-9.

By August 11 when the above photo was taken, it was starting to get with the program…

Salvia macrophylla ‘Hot Lips’ on 8-26-18, #499-33.

LOADED on August 26 with mostly reddish flowers… I guess I learned a lesson not to plant ‘Hot Lips’ in this spot again. Apparently, the light in the backyard affected its flowering as that can happen with some species of Salvia

I hope you enjoyed this page and maybe found it useful. If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, I would like to hear from you. Please click on “like” if you visited this page. It helps us bloggers stay motivated. 🙂 You can check out the links below for further reading. The links take you directly to the genus and species of this plant.


2 comments on “Salvia microphylla ‘Hot Lips’ (Little Leaf Sage)

  1. Anonymous says:

    Helpful for ID plant/ good photos. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

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