Pruning Salvia ‘Hotlips’ – Why, When and How To Do It

The practice of pruning is closely related to perennials, especially if the particular perennial tends to become tall and thin over time.

Salvia ‘Hot Lips’ is one of those popular plants that need your pruning shears to keep them healthy and looking presentable.

So how would you go about pruning salvia, and when should you do it? That’s what we’re here to learn, so let’s get started.

Pruning Salvia Hot Lips – Why It’s Important

It’s no secret that when left on its own, salvia doesn’t do well. It will continue to grow, but that growth will soon become messy.

You might end up with long, bare stalks with just a few leaves near the tip, or the stalks get intertwined and become clumpy. In either case, the beautiful and ornamental salvia loses its appeal and becomes an eyesore in the garden.

It doesn’t matter what type of salvia you have. Pruning is crucial for the health, appeal, and blooming of the plant. Here are the three types of salvia and why pruning is important for each one.

Deciduous Herbaceous Salvia

This type of salvia sheds its leaves in the fall and goes dormant throughout the winter, but just before the plant goes dormant, new stems emerge near the base of the stalk.

They’re usually slim and tender, which makes them vulnerable to cold temperatures in the winter months.

With this type of salvia, you should delay pruning until the spring. The old stems will protect the new ones against freezing over. Cutting old stems increases the blooms in the spring.

Shrub Salvia

Herbaceous salvias tend to get woody pretty quickly. Old stems lose the ability to bear leaves or flowers, so you need to cut them regularly, typically after the flowering season.

Unlike deciduous salvia, you don’t need to cut the stems all the way to the ground. Pruning the tips right where the spent flowers bloomed should be enough. Don’t over-prune this type of salvia since it’s slow to fully recover. 

Rosette Forming Herbaceous Salvia

This type of salvia is evergreen. The small rosettes of leaves grow on stems that branch out of older stems and so on. The flowers usually develop on new stems.

When pruning this type, cut the stems down to the rosettes. Also, remove any dead or damaged stems. This should encourage new growth and produce more flowers in the next season.

When To Do It

While pruning is crucial for the health and well-being of your salvia, timing is also quite important. When you should prune your salvia depends on the type of salvia you have.

For deciduous salvia, you need to delay pruning in cold climates until the end of the winter. The old stems protect the new stems against freezing.

For shrub salvias, you should prune them in the spring. That way you can both remove spent flowers and trim the stems in one go.

While you don’t need heavy pruning with this type, you should aim to make pathways inside the foliage to improve ventilation and exposure to sunlight.

For rosette-forming salvias, you need to prune them in the fall. You should wait until the last flowers have fallen.

Since this is an evergreen salvia, it will be easy to decide which stems to remove. Any old stems that carry no rosettes should be cut back.

Pruning Salvia Hot Lips – How To Do It

As we have seen so far, pruning salvias is a different process for each type. Some salvias need to be cut back to the ground while others only need light trimming.

When it comes to Salvia ‘Hot Lips’, pruning is important to prevent the leggy stems from becoming woody. Here’s how to do it in easy steps:

  1. Wear gloves and eyewear to protect yourself from flying debris.
  2. Use clean and sterilized pruning shears. 
  3. Examine the salvia closely to decide which stems are getting woody and need cutting.
  4. Cut about one-third of the stem, making sure to cut right above a pair of leaves.
  5. When you’re done pruning woody stems, check for dead or broken ones. Cut dead stems down to the ground.
  6. Maintain the shape and structure of the plant while pruning since it is slow to recover. 

Deadheading Salvia Hot Lips – How To Do It

Besides the regular pruning in the spring, you will also need to deadhead Salvia ‘Hot Lips’ and give them a second lighter trimming in the summer.

The purpose of this task is to keep the plant looking tidy and neat. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Use clean and sterilized tools to prevent infecting the plant.
  2. Remove dead flowers by hand.
  3. Trim any overgrown stems lightly. Don’t cut more than one-third of the stem at a time.
  4. Make pathways in the center of the plant to improve airflow and sunlight exposure.
Closeup of Salvia Hot Lips Flower

Hot Lips Plant Care

Caring for ornamental plants is crucial for their success and continuous blooming. Hot Lips is not different when it comes to providing the right growing conditions to keep the plant healthy and thriving. 

Soil Requirements

Salvia ‘Hot Lips’ thrives in loamy but well-draining soil. You could also plant it in sandy soil, but it’s hard to keep that type of soil moist.

Mix organic matter with the sandy soil to improve its texture and water retention. For loamy soil, you don’t need to add organic material since that could make the soil boggy.

Test the soil pH (this little gadget makes it easy), and make sure it’s between neutral and slightly acidic.

Light Requirements

Salvia needs full sun to thrive and produce a lot of blooms. However, the afternoon sun in hot locations can have an adverse effect on the plant.

In these areas, providing partial shade in the peak of summer can improve the flowering of the salvia.

Where the harsh afternoon sun is not an issue, you should allow your salvia to enjoy as many hours of direct sunlight as possible during the spring and summer.

Watering Requirements

While Salvia ‘Hot Lips’ needs moist soil, it doesn’t do well in waterlogged soil, and overwatering is not recommended. Too much water in the soil can lead to root rot.

A good rule of thumb is to allow the top inch of the soil to dry out before watering it. Water deeply once or twice a week depending on the season. On average, 1 inch of water a week is good enough. 

Fertilization Guide

Regular fertilizing with a balanced fertilizer is ideal for Salvia ‘Hot Lips’. I highly recommend this blend designed specifically for flowers.

If the blooms are not of the same expected quality one season, you might switch to a phosphorus-high fertilizer in late spring and early summer.

Apply the fertilizer once every 3 to 4 weeks and water immediately after each application. Side dress with compost and aged manure.

Pruning & Deadheading

To maintain the shape and structure of Salvia ‘Hot Lips’, you’ll need to prune it twice a year. The first time is in the early spring. Remove dead and woody stems as well as crisscrossing stems and those that are damaged.

In the summer, trim the overgrown stems lightly, and deadhead the spent flowers. Overall, don’t prune more than one-third of the plant at a time. It doesn’t recover easily.

Wrapping It Up

As a perennial ornamental plant, Salvia ‘Hot Lips’ need pruning regularly to improve growth and trigger recurring blooming.

Prune the plant in the spring to remove woody stems and prevent it from getting leggy. In the summer, deadhead the salvia, and give it a light trimming to keep its shape.