Getting Started: How Much Water Salvias Need
Maybe you are one of those folks who chugs numerous glasses of water throughout the day, even when not working in the sun. Or perhaps your thirst is far more conservative.
Salvias are a lot like that. They don't all need the same amount of water in the same conditions. Also, local climate and other growing factors, including soil type, affect decisions about supplemental watering. Determining how much is enough to slake a plant's thirst depends, in part, on experimentation and paying attention to a plant's response to local weather.
Catalog Designations for Water Levels
The description details for each plant in our online Salvia mail-order catalog identify three basic levels of watering:
- Drought Resistant -- A combination of local rainfall plus supplemental watering equaling significantly less than an inch of water a week
- Average -- The amount necessary to supplement local rainfall and achieve an inch of water weekly and
- Water Loving -- A combination of local rainfall and supplemental watering significantly exceeding an inch of water weekly.
An inch of water is roughly equal to .62 gallons per square foot. Watering at a cool time of day, such as early in the morning, helps to avoid evaporative loss. Our blog article Salvia Small Talk: What Is an Inch of Water? provides information about how to decide whether you are watering too much or too little.
Extremes in Plant Needs
If it rains a lot during the summer where you live, it probably isn't necessary to water your Salvias, especially if the soil tends to retain moisture. However, you may need to select water-loving sages such as:
- Gravid Sage (S. gravida)
- Pink Makino (Salvia glabrescens 'Momobana') and
- Rosy Bract Sage (S. rubiginosa).
At the other end of the scale, it may rain infrequently or not at all during summer in your region. In this case, you need to select drought-resistant Salvias that can get by on much less than one inch of water weekly. These include:
- Black Sage or Honey Sage (S. mellifera)
- Coahuilla Sage (S. coahuilensis) and
- Dara's Choice Creeping Sage (S. 'Dara's Choice').
If summer moisture in your region falls between these two extremes, then you need sages requiring average watering (remember the one-inch mentioned above), such as:
- Arizona Blue Sage (S. arizonica)
- Autumn Sage (S. greggii spp.) and
- Peach Scarlet Sage (S. splendens van houttei 'Peach').
Different kinds of soils retain moisture for varying amounts of time. Establishing a happy balance in watering requires checking how slowly or quickly your soil releases moisture.
Clay soils are notorious for holding water overlong and causing root rot, especially for extremely drought-resistant sages. In contrast, gravelly soils drain rapidly and may need more frequent watering than expected.
Fortunately, tools for measuring moisture retention are simple. They include a screwdriver, trowel or long metal rod inserted in the soil to discover moisture depth.
More Questions About Watering
You may find that you have more questions about efficient watering and how to make the best plant choices for local conditions. Please feel free to contact us. At Flowers by the Sea, we grow gardeners as well as plants.