Hot Lips Salvia (Salvia Microphylla) Care Guide

Hot Lips Salvia (Salvia Microphylla) is a unique, evergreen bushy sage with bright red and white flowers.

These one of a kind, two toned flowers adorn thin stalks with diamond shaped green leaves. Tubular in shape, the hot lips flower is a frequent destination for hummingbirds and pollinators.

Salvia Microphylla up close photo

Hot lips salvia is a siren for hummingbirds… you’ll find your fast feathered friends absolutely LOVE to visit this bold plant for a drink of sweet nectar. A flowering perennial, hot lips will bring the hummingbirds back year after year with proper planting and care (bonus: it’s not a hard plant to please).

These plants are also deer resistant and attract bees and butterflies as well.

This article discusses everything you need to know about planting this salvia variety in your yard or cottage garden and encouraging it to thrive!

up close photo of hot lips salvia, also called salvia microphylla

Why You’ll Love It:

  • Easy to grow with low water needs once established
  • Attracts pollinators: especially hummingbirds and bees
  • Deer resistant! Perfect for forest and field areas that attract deer
  • Lightly herbal, minty scent
  • Unique bright flowers add dimension and contrast to the garden
  • Easy to pair with other sun loving plants
  • Thrives in poor soil, not high maintenance

Tip for planting: Plant hot lips salvia in a sunny, warm spot where you can view the plant from your kitchen window. While washing dishes, you’ll enjoy seeing your hummingbird friends drinking nectar from hot lips sage throughout the day.

hot lips salvia in a pot

What Does Hot Lips Salvia Look Like?

In cooler weather, hot lips salvia has two toned, striking flower petals that are bright white and pink. In hot weather, the entire flower will turn red.

The petals are small, a medium green (not too vibrant yet not overly muted). The diamond shaped petals adorn a long stick like branch on the shrub.

The entire plant is a medium sized evergreen bushy shrub. In the right conditions they can outgrow their average size (which is approximately 3 feet high by 3 feet wide).

hot lips sage flower up close

What Is Salvia?

Salvia is the largest genus in the family of Sage plants. This family of plants is made up of shrub like annuals, perennials, and woody shrubs. There are over 900 species in the salvia family, with hot lips being one of the brightest and best!

The meaning of Salvia Microphylla is a small leaved, evergreen sage plant, naturally found in dry desert areas (such as the Southwest United States and Mexico).

Microphylla, in Latin, means “very small leaves”.

up close photo of hot lips salvia microphylla

Commercially Available To Plant and Grow

Hot lips salvia is a variety of sage that has been in commercial horticulture since the 1990’s. It is well loved for it’s unique flower, ability to attract pollinators and for its earthy aroma and spicy mint smelling leaves.

Medium in size, unique sun loving hot lips is a versatile and hardy plant to add to your beds. Expect this bold plant to stir up conversation with friends and family, and keep the birds and bees buzzing!

hot lips salvia microphylla

Planting Zones

Due to craving heat and an aversion to frosts, hot lips salvia can be grown as a perennial in zones 7-10.

In all other zones you can enjoy hot lips as an annual, and/or take measures to protect your plant from harsh winters. Using a container, you can move your hot lips indoors overwinter.

How Large Does Hot Lips Grow?

This sage can grow 2-3 feet tall and 2-3 feet wide, though it can easily be pruned to maintain a smaller shrub size.

up close photo of hot lips microphylla salvia

Hot Lips Salvia Plant Care

With tiny, delicate flowers, hot lips salvia may look like it needs a gentle touch in order to thrive. Rest assured though, that this salvia is hardier than it appears (it may even survive the battering of a little one with a stick… ask us how we know!).

There are a just a few key elements to keeping your Mrs. Hot Lips happy: light, soil and a little light pruning. Keep in mind the history of this plant: it’s ancestors come from dry, desert like areas that get full sun.

Don’t let that stop you from planting this gorgeous flowering sage in a more moderate climate…we have tips on how to adjust accordingly below.

Continue reading for light, water, and soil needs.

hot lips salvia

Light Needs

Every plant has specific needs when it comes to light, and hot lips is no exception… she craves light! Hot lips salvia does best in full sun, and can tolerate dappled afternoon shade. This plant is very heat tolerant once established.

Plant hot lips salvia in full sun in borders, garden beds, and even large containers. Make sure you are placing this salvia in full sun.

hot lips salvia microphylla in the sunshine

Watering

When first establishing your hot lips salvia, you will need to water more regularly, especially during dry spells. In subsequent years, you will not need to water your salvia as regularly as it is heat and drought tolerant. Water during warm and dry weather with a long, deep soak.

You will want to avoid planting in wet or soggy soil, ensuring that the soil around the plant is able to dry out between rain and or watering.

hot lips salvia flower up close with stem and leaves.

Soil Conditions

Salvia hot lips is not a picky soil plant… in fact, she does quite well in poor soils with little nutrient makeup. Make sure the soil is well draining and can dry out easily. Avoid swampy, dense or mud like soils.

Sandy, well draining soil is the optimal soil condition for this plant.

Do Hummingbirds Like Hot Lips Sage?

We’ve hit on this a number of times in this article, but in case you missed it, YES hummingbirds absolutely adore hot lips. In fact, if you are hoping to attract hummingbirds to your yard we would recommend you find a sunny spot to plant hot lips… or a container to grow her in!

If you are a huge fan of hummingbirds, consider planting several varieties of salvia around your home.

Bloom Time

Under the right conditions, hot lips salvia will bloom all season. This multicolored sage plant will start blooming in early summer and continue until the first frosts of autumn.

hot lips sage up close photo

Do You Deadhead Hot Lips Salvia?

You do not need to deadhead hot lips salvia in order for it to re bloom. After the initial bloom, a second rush of flowers will bud in several weeks, calling the hummingbirds and bees by name!

Winter Care

If you live in a seasonally cold climate, be sure to mulch heavily around the base of hot lips salvia to give it the best chance for survival. Planting in a container and moving indoors to a well lit spot during cold season is also an option.

Planting Companions

There are many beautiful sun loving plants that accent hot lips salvia wonderfully.

Plant clumps of catmint, lavender, and other varieties of salvia for a happy pollinator and hummingbird garden with heat loving plants. To add dimension and height, intersperse foxglove, daisies and cosmos.

cat mint with a bumblebee on it.

Learn all about growing flowers for a cottage garden here.

Are Salvias Perennial?

Hot lips salvia can be grown as a perennial is certain zones, where the frosts is not too heavy. Otherwise, you can plant salvia as an annual, or plant in pots/containers and move your plant inside to a warm spot with window light to overwinter.

Growing Hot Lips Salvia In Containers

If you don’t have a spot for hot lips in your yard, you can easily grow this beautiful sage in a pot or container of your choosing. Choose a sunny spot and a large, well draining container to prevent soggy soil.

Make sure to use a quality soil made especially for containers, as this will aid in draining. Do not use regular gardening soil, as it is too heavy and dense. Look for a soil that is loamy and/or sandy.

Place your potted hot lips in a very sunny spot (at least 6 hours of full sun). It can thrive with dappled afternoon shade.

hot lips salvia are bright red and white

Check the moisture level of your potted shrub daily, making sure to water when dry.

Hot lips salvia in containers works well on a patio where you’d like to enjoy watching the hummingbirds. Over time the busy birds will get used to your presence, and you’ll feel a hum and rush of their wings as they frequent the patio for a drink.

As your plant grows, you may need to re plant it into a larger container.

hot lips sage with nectar for a hummingbird

Thank you so much for visiting the Green Garden Cottage today! We absolutely adore the outgoing and vibrant hot lips salvia and enjoyed sharing our knowledge with you. We’d love to hear your experience with this popular sage, let us know what you think in the comments below!

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