Salvia gesneraeflora. Photo by Joanne Taylor
One of the stunning bloomers in late winter through spring are the scarlet-orange, two-lipped flowers of Salvia gesneraeflora, a sprawling shrub from the Sierra Madre mountains of Mexico. There are two similar varieties: one with dramatic purple sepals enclosing the flower tube, and one with green. Both of these unique specimens grow on the slopes of a volcano in the province of Jalisco. The heart-shaped leaves are aromatic and sticky.
The name, Salvia, “sage”, has been in use for two thousand years, and indicates the medicinal qualities of some members of this enormous genus of plants in the Mint family. The name, Sage, probably originated in England centuries ago, and referred specifically to Salvia officinalis, a plant widely used as a household remedy for a variety of physical conditions. There are 900 different kinds of Salvia, half of which are found in the western hemisphere. They occur in both hot and temperate zones, from sea level to 11,000 feet.
There are four identifying features of all Salvias: square stems, opposite leaves, that are often aromatic, and two-lipped flowers of unequal length. Salvia gesneraeflora needs heavy pruning after blooming as it can become woody with multiple stems and is susceptible to wind.
Most of the S. gesneraeflora we have at SFBG are planted in the Meso-American Cloud Forest.
||Grows best in moderately fertile, humus soil; prefers a moist but well drained location in full sun to light shade, very low maintenance
||From early spring to mid-autumn; blooms of soft hairy, red flowers, 2+ inches long
||Great in a sunny border, container planting, and especially nice tucked in with other hardy shrubs ( Check out S. gesneraefolia in the Meso-American Cloud Forest for a great example of this growth habit)
||The name gesneraefolia comes from the leaves resemblance to a gesneriad. It is a magnet for hummingbirds.
Reaches up to 10 feet high by 5 foot wide in just a few months. Cut back yearly to encourage new growth and control it's sprawling nature.
Salvia, like all mint family plants, have square stems and opposite, fragrant leaves.
IN BLOOM CONTRIBUTORS:
Photos by Docent Joanne Taylor; text by Docent Kathy McNeil; profile by Associate Curator David Kruse-Pickler. Additional photos provided by visitor Eric Hunt.