Taking cuttings of salvia

The overwintered salvia, with new growth emerging from the crown.

Many years ago, I discovered salvias. It’s one of those times when you think you’re the only gardener who really knows about this new class of plants. The next thing you know, you’re obsessed with a genus. And you find that you’re the last gardener on the block to learn about these cool plants.

I’d discovered the true blue of Salvia patens and marveled at the inky black stems of S. guaranitica ‘Black and Blue’. My friend Kathy taught me that it’s OK to plant S. splendens —using the purple variety, not the classic, gas-station red.

I’ve come to love many varieties that are not quite hardy up here in the north. However, they’re fairly easy to overwinter as houseplants. The best part is, they don’t seem to be as susceptible to pest problems. Well, so far, so good.

The APS seedstarter

Cuttings in the APS seedstarter.

To freshen up the overwintered plants, I take cuttings in midwinter. These cuttings grow into fine, vigorous plants—without the woody stems of my winter survivors. By the time it’s warm enough to put heat in the greenhouse again, the little plants are just coming on, ready for more sunshine than I can provide indoors.

The whole procedure is pretty easy. I start by snipping 2-3″ shoots from my overwintered plants in February. I strip off most of the leaves, leaving just a couple sets. Then, I fill an APS-40 with moistened perlite or vermiculite. The cuttings go right in the medium. I usually plant every other row. When the first plants are ready to graduate to potting soil, I take another set of cuttings and plant the empty rows in the APS. So easy!

Who knew the APS was good for more than seedstarting? It’s like those salvias: I thought I was the first to know, but other gardeners have been doing it for a long time.

-David Grist, Online Content Coordinator

One of last summer’s salvias.