Congratulations on your decision to help ensure the survival of one of the rarest plants in the world! Starting your very own Salvia divinorum garden is inexpensive, easy and rewarding. This guide will help you make good decisions before you buy and after receiving your cutting that will help you to achieve the healthiest, most vibrant and beautiful Salvia plants possible.
Although some Salvia divinorum plants still exist in the wild, these are thought to be purposely planted and tended. Therefore it is considered to be a true cultivar and thus does not occur naturally in the wild anywhere.
This means for the most part, the fate of this entire species lies with a very small number of clone plants. Of these few clones, there are only two that are in any kind of public circulation; the Wasson/Hoffman strain, and the Blosser or Palatable strain.
Unlike other sages, Salvia divinorum produces very few seeds, and the seeds it does produce seldom germinate. This is why it is most often propagated by cuttings. Be aware of this before buying Salvia divinorum seeds on eBay. Make sure the seller can demonstrate that their seeds have at least some record of actually sprouting or you might end up disappointed. It's worth noting that anyone who IS able to sprout new Salvia divinorum seedlings is providing a great service by adding new genetically different plants to the Salvia gene pool.
Before you Buy:
Purchasing a Salvia divinorum cutting or rooted plant is the most reliable way of getting a healthy plant through the mail. Here are some things to consider:
A non-rooted, or fresh Salvia cutting has not has much time to adjust to being a new independent plant. Ideally, you want a cutting that's been in water for a few days at least and has begun to produce small root buds. A plant at this stage survives much better in transit as it has already become used to absorbing water along the stalk. A fresh cutting might survive four days in the mail, one that has been adjusted to water definitely will. Five to seven days is probably just about the limit for any cutting, although Salvia cuttings can be surprisingly tough.
Usually you will want to order your cutting in the spring, summer or fall, depending on your climate and the climate the cutting will be originating from, as well as everywhere it will travel in between. It's obviously better for your plant not to be exposed to too much heat or too much cold while in a vulnerable state. Some places ship plants with heat packs in the winter, but these don't guarantee your plant will survive. A Salvia exposed to freezing temperatures will soon turn to unsalvageable black mush.
Generally it's a good idea to purchase Salvia plants from within your own country. Even though Salvia is still legal in many places, you can never predict what will get stopped at the border. Even a slight delay may mean death for your cutting. Shipping domestically also means that affordable delivery is often one or two days compared to three to seven. There's no question that quick shipping gives your plant a better chance right from the start.
Rooted cuttings are a little different. A cutting with a developed root system will survive indefinitely in the mail as long as it does not freeze or dry out. Salvias shipped in soil are even tougher because their root systems are better insulated, although the weight of moist soil and a pot can sometimes cause delicate plants to be crushed if they're not properly secured. Keep in mind that the easiest thing for a seller to package well, and most resilient to the effects of shipping, is a rooted cutting with roots packed in moist sphagnum moss, wet paper towels, peat moss, or any lightweight equivalent. In addition, make sure your cutting is being shipped in a strong container that does not allow the cutting to shake around inside, which can cause damage to delicate stems.
Salvia divinorum roots best when cut into four to six inch lengths. Keep this in mind when buying cuttings that are much larger, you'll have better success if you cut them into pieces this size. Make sure each cutting has at least one node and be sure to make clean sharp cuts with a sterilized blade. A little dab of powdered cinnamon applied to a cut end acts as an excellent fungicide.
Receiving your Salvia
Once your Salvia arrives, be sure to open it right away. A cutting left in a hot or freezing mailbox will die in a few hours. Carefully unpack and then rinse your plant off, leaves and all, under cool running tap water. Place it into a clean glass filled with about an inch or two of fresh water, making sure no leaves are submerged, which may cause rot to set in. Leave your cutting in the glass in a shady spot until it has completely rehydrated, about two days. If your cutting is wilted, allow it to sit in the glass at least until it recovers, making sure to change the water every couple of days, and continuing to rinse the leaves off occasionally. Try to avoid letting water pool in an open cut stem end, which may encourage rotting. You can cover your cutting with clear plastic to increase the humidity as long as the plant and the plastic don't touch.
To ensure a better survival rate, keep your unrooted cutting in water until you see small white roots begin to form. A little known method is to include some willow tree (salix babylonica ) cuttings into the Salvia glass, as willows produce a hormone that encourages rooting. If you have multiple cuttings, keep them in separate glasses so that any rotting that occurs won't spread. Remove your cutting from the glass and plant in soil as soon as roots are visible, or they'll begin to suffer from lack of nutrients.
Once you have a rooted cutting, you will want to plant it right away. Ideally, Salvias like a rich, slightly acidic, well-drained soil that also retains moisture. Their roots need air but they also need lots of water. Peat moss, vermiculite, worm casings, compost and commercially available potting soils are all excellent choices for Salvias, and you will have to experiment to find out what works best for you. More important is that you put your Salvia cutting into as large a pot as comfortably possible. Keep in mind that if your temperatures drop below freezing in the winter, you'll need a spot for this large pot inside. Salvias dislike being transplanted too often and grow best with lots of room to stretch out their roots. Plant your cutting about two inches deep and gently tamp down the soil around the stem to secure it. Water carefully to avoid dislodging the stem. Keep moist until root system develops, about two weeks. Using a bark or similar mulch as a topdress will help keep the surface of the soil from drying out too quickly. Salvias do best outdoors. If you have an appropriate spot that's not too sunny, it will benefit your plant to be outside as long as temperatures are above freezing. Salvias are not too picky about light exposure, they will accept almost everything except full sun.
Maintaining your Salvia
Salvia Divinorums enjoy high humidity but will do fine without it if given enough time to properly adjust. Make sure you ask if your Salvia is coming from a high-humidity environment so you know if it needs time to acclimatize to dry air. Salvias will benefit from regular sprayings with water which also helps keep them clean. Bugs aren't too much of a problem with Salvias, although slugs can do a lot of damage fast. Leafhoppers may chew some little holes and you may get a few whiteflies or aphids but normal bug sprays and hosings will control outbreaks. Salvias are tender and will not tolerate freezing temperatures so you need to bring your plants inside for the winter and give them as much light and air circulation as possible. Water more sparingly during this slow-growth period to avoid funguses in the soil or mold on the leaves which can also be a sign of poor air circulation. Leaves can be harvested anytime by pinching them off where they meet the stem, or allowing them to drop off naturally. It's obviously important to leave at least a few leaves on your plant to keep it healthy. Pinch off new growth to encourage bushiness.
Salvias don't have any special requirements for fertilization. A good rule to follow is to fertilize when the plant is growing well and not before. An occasional teaspoon of apple cider vinegar mixed into the water will help keep the soil slightly acidic.
Salvias are designed to grow long long stems and fall over eventually if you care for them right, and then you can cut them right back and turn all the stalk cuttings into new plants by putting them directly into soil and keeping them moist for about a week or until they root. The cut back plant will send out new shoots and be a bushy little plant again. the best time to do this aggressive cutback is in spring or summer when the plant is growing vigorously.
Make a Rooting Tonic from Willow
A rooting hormone or tonic promotes root growth in Salvia cuttings. You can buy rooting hormone at nurseries but if you have willow trees nearby, you can brew up an even better version on your own.
1. Gather some chopstick-size willow twigs. Fresh branches work best, avoid dead material. Any variety of willow (salix) will work since they all contain the natural chemical IBA (indolebutyric acid), which is a natural plant growth regulator
2. Chop the willow stems into 3-4 inch pieces. You should have about 2 cups of clippings to make a one gallon batch of rooting tonic
3. Place the chopped willow pieces in a large container and cover with 1 gallon of boiling water
4. Allow the prepared willow bark tea to stand overnight. The longer it steeps, the more IBA will be released into the water
5. Store the willow bark rooting hormone in the refrigerator in a sealed container
6. Soak tip cuttings into the willow bark rooting hormone overnight prior to planting in soil. The IBA will infuse into the bark and stems encouraging rooting and inhibiting fungus
- Willow bark rooting hormone will stay fresh up to two months in the refrigerator
- Water your plants with willow bark rooting tonic! The salicylic acid from the willow will help defend plants against bacteria, fungus and viral diseases