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Plant Highlight: Salvia canescens var. daghestanica

June 2013

There are many species and cultivars of Salvia in horticulture, and these vary widely in drought tolerance, size and flower color. Among the shortest is Salvia canescens var. daghestanica, also known as Salvia daghestanica. The latter part of its name refers to Daghestan (also spelled Dagestan) in the North Caucasus region of southwestern Russia. In keeping with its northerly home territory, this plant is very cold tolerant, enduring temperatures as low as -20 F (-29 C). It is also very drought tolerant.

Without its flowers, Salvia canescens var. daghestanica is only a few inches tall, and in flower it attains a height of up to 12” or so (30 cm). Its leaves are up to about 2” long (5 cm), with blunt teeth along the edges and densely covered with wooly silvery-white hairs on both surfaces. In time, a clump may reach a diameter of up to 2 feet (60  cm). Flower color ranges from blue to violet or purple. Some sources list the flowering time for this species as late spring to early summer, but for us it persist longer, beginning in late April to May and lasting until late July or August.

With its high tolerance for both cold and drought, Salvia canescens var. daghestanica makes a fine garden subject, with its small size making it ideal for rock gardens. In winter it dies back, but new growth emerges as soon as warmer weather arrives in March.