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Salvia Grow Guide

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#1 Hippie3



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Posted 17 March 2006 - 08:56 AM

by peruvian spark
Salvia Growers Guide - A to Z


I've noticed around here that people have a lot of questions regarding propagating and growing Salvia divinorum. Here's a guide that may help fellow growers have a little more success with this tricky little green ally.

This guide is a blend of personal experience, online wisdom, and tricks that I've learned from other growers, propagators, friends, ect.

If you aren't experienced with growing then please practice with some other plant before going out and buying a Salvia divinorum. A good practice plant would be basil or patchouli. If you can grow these and keep them healthy with your grow setup then you'll know that you can handle the Diviners Sage. Practice taking cuttings too so that you'll know beforehand what works for you.

Growing Salvia divinorum -
As you all know, these plants like it warm and humid. They can be grown just about anywhere once they become used their environment. A few of the places I've grown them include greenhouses, cool basements, sunny windows, and an apartment with rather dry air. I think the biggest cause of failure is that people buy stressed, sick and injured cuttings and they just never get a chance to recover before they die. A good start makes the best finish. The best kind of plant to buy is one that already has roots and hopefully more than 2 or 3 sets of leaves. The best thing to do with a new plant is to stick it under a couple fluorescent lights and mist it often. Hopefully within a week or two you will start to see some vigorous new growth.
I don’t recommend taking any cuttings until the plants are at least a foot tall and have several branches. If your plant has only one main stem wait until new branches start forming before topping it. Taking cuttings from an immature plant will usually result in rotten cuttings and a dead mother. This is a plant that is ripe and ready for making some babies.


I’ve had some excellent results growing Salvia under 160 watts of fluorescent lighting. The kind of fluorescent bulbs you use really doesn’t make that much difference, but if you’ve got the cash to spare go for some higher output plant bulbs made for growing. I went out and got 2 ballasts and 4 bulbs for around 40 bucks at the local Home Depot and they work just fine. Here's a picture of this setup.


This is what a Salvia plant grown under a 1000 watt hps looks like. Notice that the length between nodes is only about half an inch. No stretching here! When Salvia plants get tall and leggy it means that they aren't getting quite enough light. Growing them under bright lights is good if you're looking to harvest a ton of leaves without bothering the plant.



You can grow them outside too. They like a location that gets a couple hours of good sunlight but shade during the hottest parts of the day. If its really hot they'll need water almost everyday. The biggest problem with growing them outside is bugs. Here are some plants I had in a small greenhouse last summer.


Some people say to mist the plants and some people say not to. I’ve never really bothered misting mine, but it does help, especially if you live in a really dry climate. I often use my ultrasonic humidifier to help keep the RH of my growroom around 50% or above when I’m not using it for mushrooms. For the most part they don’t need much humidity once you have a good root system established and the plants are actively growing.

One very important factor is water quality. Most well water around here has a pH of above 7. This is no good for Salvia plants. Neither is water that has gone through a water softener or water with chlorine in it. I’ve found that these plants enjoy slightly acidic water with a pH between 5.75 and 6.5. This is the optimum pH range for good growth and nutrient uptake. Bad water can cause stunted and deformed growth and also chlorosis and browning of the leaves. Now, how much do you water? I’ve read a lot of different opinions on this topic. Basically, just keep the soil moist but not saturated. It’s ok to let the soil dry a little between waterings as long as the plants don’t wilt too much. The only time overwatering is really a problem is when the plants are young and don’t have a good root system yet. That’s when they just sit there in the mud and eventually turn brown and rotten. Too much water in the winter will also hurt them. Just watch the plants and they’ll let you know when they’re thirsty.

You can fertilize Salvia divinorum with whatever you want. There’s no magic fertilizer that they like best. Miracle Grow has always worked well for me. I give them a light dose about once a month. Basically, just water and fertilize them the same as any other houseplant and they’ll do fine.


A good soil mix for Salvia is one with some organic material, peat moss, vermiculite, perlite and a little sand. Once again, there’s no magic formula. Most commercial mixes work well, just avoid the cheap black potting soil. The key is to make a mix with good drainage and lots of air. I've seen beautiful Salvia plants grown hydroponically as well, but I have no experience with it. I've always preferred soil.

Bugs -
Bugs will probably be a problem at some point in time for you. Spider mites and whiteflies seem to love these plants. It only takes a few of them to start causing leaves to curl and turn yellow. My best advice is to keep a VERY close eye on your plants and take care of any bugs quickly to prevent an infestation. Once you have bugs either remove them with your fingers or use a spray bottle with water and a drop or two of Ivory soap in it to keep them away. Neem oil also works well as a preventative, just use it about twice a month and most bugs stay away. Bug B Gone and other common insecticides (pyrethrins) work very well, but some people have issues with spraying with chemicals and then smoking the leaves. Its up to you, but it really sucks to have a plant die because of a few little bugs. Just don't harvest any leaves for a few weeks so the spray wears off and you'll be fine. Any spray similar to this will do the trick. Most of this stuff is fairly safe and won't hurt you.


Propagation from Cuttings –
Taking cuttings is pretty much the only way to make more plants. I still haven’t had one of my plants flower so I have no experience with growing from seed. The bad part is that Salvia cuttings can be hard to root and many cuttings won’t make it. You’re best bet is to take a lot of cuttings and hope just a few make it. ( Some’s better than none! ) Another tip is to only take cuttings from actively growing plants. Plants that aren't growing leaves probably aren't going to grow any roots either if you try rooting them.

The glass of water method –
Salvia will root in water fairly well. Just take your cuttings and stick them in a glass or jar of clean water. Sit them on a windowsill or under lights and they should have roots in about 10 days. Make sure to change the water often so the stems don’t get rotten. If the stem starts turning brown and the discoloration moves up the stem, the cutting is a lost cause. This rot is the most common cause of failure that I’ve seen when trying to root cuttings. I try to keep the cuttings in different cups so that if one gets rotten it doesn’t spread to the other ones. Once a cutting has a bunch of roots, take it out of the water and plant it into some moist soil. It’ll need some TLC for a few days so keep an eye on it to make sure it isn’t wilting. This is a time when misting is actually necessary. Another thing you can do if you live in a dry area is to cover the glass with a baggy to help keep the cutting from losing too much water. Here’s a picture of a cutting that’s rooting in a jar of water. This one will be ready to plant very soon.



Directly in the soil method –
This method also works well, sometimes... Take your cuttings and stick them directly into a moist soil. Mist the cuttings often and they will usually start to root within 2 weeks. The only problem I’ve had with this method is more stem rot. Maybe sterilizing the soil first would help, but I’ve never tried it.
First, you get some clean trimmers and take the cuttings.


Here's the mother just before the cuttings were taken.


Now you get yourself a flat and stick the cuttings into the soil. Next to the flat is the mother plant after being trimmed.


An optional step is to use rooting hormones (IBA). I dipped one just for the picture but I didn't use any on the rest of the cuttings. I'm still not convinced that hormones make this particular species of plant root any better.


Next, I put the flat under a fluorescent light and kept the humidity high (around 70%).


Heres what the temperature and humidity were in the area I had the cuttings in, its a little hard to read but it says - ( 69F and 74% )


After a couple weeks the cuttings were ready to be repotted. Now here's the deal - in this particular experiment I took 18 cuttings from the mother and I only got 5 of them to root......The 5 that rooted are doing great but the other 13 turned soft and rotten. This is the biggest downfall of this method. You'll get a few and you'll lose a few, that's how it goes. Maybe there's a way to make it more successfull but I'm not too concerned, 5 new plants is better than none. Here's a picture of the new babies a week or so after repotting.


Some things that could be experimented with to increase success are taking varied cuttings. I've noticed that smaller cuttings tend to do better than larger cuttings. Using rooting hormones may also increase success but I've never observed that they really made that much of a difference.
I guess the best advice is to keep trying until you find a method that works best for your plants.


I usually use the glass of water technique because its easier, cheaper and usually works. Putting the cuttings into soil requires more work to keep the temps and humidity within range, and often results in more lost cuttings. Some plants such as Cannabis love to root right in the soil, but Salvia plants can be a little touchy.

Harvesting -
The best time to harvest leaves is whenever you feel like it. Once a plant is large enought you will be able to take several leaves off at a time and not bother the plant. Another good time to harvest is when you take cuttings because you usually end up having to pick a few leaves off anyway. I like to dry my leaves out in the open air and then store them in a mason jar. I don't bother making extracts anymore because I've found that plain leaves work just fine.


Happy Growing! I hope this guide helps.

#2 rocketman



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Posted 17 March 2006 - 12:15 PM

Great guide Hip :). I have learned during the colder weather, less light, lower temps etc. it is wise to let the soil dry completely before watering. They are more succeptable to rot during this time ime. I learned the hard way like most who grow sally. Also, to concur that they like it acidic. I used miracid last summer and had amazing results. During the summer there are catapillars that can devour a large plant in a day. Like you said keep a close eye on your sallys, especially UNDER the leaves. Thats where the critters like to hide. Foliar feeding is a good thing too. Doob does this with his plants I believe and they speak for themselves. :)

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#3 Landogarner


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Posted 17 March 2006 - 03:41 PM

Good guide indeed! :bow:

I almost killed the plant I have but I managed to stumble my way through the learning process and saved her. Though I did learn some valuable lessons the hard way.

Anyone new to growing, like me, would be wise to heed Hip's advice about practicing on another plant before trying to grow sally.

#4 Cthulhu's Tentacle

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Posted 17 March 2006 - 05:22 PM

yea them whiteflies are a biatch... :eusa_wall

#5 Hippie3



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Posted 18 March 2006 - 12:51 PM

Whiteflies are tiny, snow-white insect pests that (when viewed under a magnifying glass) resemble moths.* When viewed without magnification, these insects look more like flying dandruff!* Although they might resemble moths, they are actually more related to scale insects.* In fact, they are often confused with soft scale insects.* Both adult and nymph stages feed by sucking plant juices.* Heavy feeding by these pests can give plants a mottled look, cause yellowing and eventually death to the host plant.

Sticky honeydew excreted by these insects glazes both upper and lower leaf surfaces, permitting the development of black sooty mold fungus.* Besides being unattractive, sooty mold interferes with photosynthesis, which retards plant growth and often causes leaf drop.

The most common and perhaps most difficult to control insect pests in greenhouses and interior landscapes are whiteflies. Three common species of whiteflies, the greenhouse, sweet potato and banded wing, are potential pests on a wide variety of crops. They attack a wide range of plants including bedding plants, cotton, strawberries, vegetables, and poinsettias. In addition to attacking many different crops, whiteflies are difficult to control. The immature stages are small and difficult to detect. Growers often buy plants, unaware of the whitefly infestation present.

Once adults develop and emerge inside a greenhouse or hothouse, they quickly become distributed over an entire crop or infest other available plants.* Chemical control programs directed at the pest often have limited success. Two life stages (egg and pupa) are tolerant of most insecticides. Control measures are also complicated by the insects clinging on to the underside of leaves, making them difficult to reach with chemical* or oil sprays.


All species of this plant pest develop from the egg through four nymphal instars before becoming adults.* Elapsed time (from egg to adult) varies with species.* Eggs are deposited on the undersides of leaves and are often found in a circular or crescent-shaped pattern. The "crawler" hatches from the egg, moves a short distance and then settles and begins feeding -- sucking juices from its plant host. * The remainder of the nymphal development is spent in this sedentary condition. The adult whitefly emerges from the pupal case and flies to other host plants to lay eggs and begin the cycle again.* Fourth instar nymphs (called pupae) and adults are most frequently used to distinguish one species from another.

Applying Product

When choosing a product for eliminating whiteflies from your flowers and plants, remember that each product might kill only specific stages of the pest.* You might also consider that the preferred product can have other uses, such as indoor or outdoor pest control.
For example, Ultra Fine oil sprays and Safer Insecticide soap do little damage to adult whiteflies; they mainly eliminate nymph and pupa stages of the whitefly.* Talstar One Bifenthrin Concentrate, Permethrin Pro, Tempo SC and Pyrethrin-Rotenone sprays eliminate adult and nymphs only.* Ultra Fine Oil is best for year-round prevention.* While Ultra Fine Oil, Safer Soap and Pyrethrin-Rotenone are used extensively on plants,* they are not the products of choice when treating homes for general purpose pest control.*
Permethrin Pro and Tempo SC can be used in a wide variety of situations: indoor pest control (boxelder bugs, roaches, ants, silverfish, etc.), outdoor pest control (ornamentals) and (in the case of Tempo SC) can be used for treating restaurants and other commercial food plants.* For best, long-term control of plant pests Talstar One usually works far better than other sprays, producing excellent knock down of existing white flies as well as longer residual than other insecticides.
Choose the product best suited for your over all needs.

Apply your insecticide when first stage nymphs or adults have emerged. In heavy whitefly populations of mixed life stages, two to three applications per week may be necessary to bring the population under control with a contact insecticide.* Read and follow label instructions; each product can have different limits on how often applications can be made.

Proper application of the insecticide is also a key component to a successful pest control program.* It is necessary to deliver the insecticide to the undersides of leaves to achieve good control.* As many crops mature, a dense canopy of foliage forms that interferes with pesticide delivery. With these crops, it is necessary to control whiteflies prior to the formation of this canopy or to space plants so they can be treated adequately.

#6 doobydoobydoo


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Posted 20 March 2006 - 05:42 PM

Great info.

#7 I_am_me



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Posted 20 March 2006 - 09:56 PM

Heard a story in NPR about it today, it was hilarious. Very one sided and it seemed like it was aimed at showing how it shouldn't be legal or sold to anyone. They also forgot to mention that the old way it was used was in a quid and not some crazy super potent extract.

#8 Fungusaurus



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Posted 21 March 2006 - 11:59 AM

Are there any known conditions that de- or increase the potency of salvia leaves? Can it be manipulated?

#9 Hippie3



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Posted 21 March 2006 - 12:07 PM

see Salvia Divinorum Extraction and Refinement Tek

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