Little Leaf Sage, Baby Sage, Blackcurrant Sage, Delta Sage, Graham’s Sage
Salvia microphylla ‘Hot Lips’
ROYAL HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY AWARD OF GARDEN MERIT
Salvia microphylla Kunth is the correct and 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.
Plants of the World Online by Kew lists 1,015 species in the Salvia genus (as of 2-16-21 when I last updated this page). It is a member of the plant family Lamiaceae with 236 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 where someone had gave it to her.
THERE ARE A FEW LINKS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE FOR FURTHER READING.
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.
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.
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.
Different websites say different zones based on experience.
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.
The small leaves have a strong scent which some describe as “mint-like” and similar to blackcurrants.
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.
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.
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.
After removing the spent flowers the plant looked a little bare. But after a few days, it would be loaded again.
The above photo shows quite a variety of flower colors.
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.
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.
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.
Even as the temps start getting cooler, the Salvia microphylla continues to flower up a storm.
I think we had our first frost on October 25 in 2013. The Salvia species I have grown have all been somewhat frost tolerant.
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.
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.
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.
It took off pretty well, but it was kind of slow to flower…
A few more by June 11…
This species may be more sensitive to the light in the back yard.
Here it is on July 29 in 2018 and as you can see it has grown A LOT but there aren’t many flowers…
And… They are red. Well, that’s normal with ‘Hot Lips’ to sometimes just have red flowers.
By August 11 when the above photo was taken, it was starting to get with the program…
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 back yard 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.