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Salvia Divinorum Cultivation Explained

New growers often worry about their salvia divinorum plants. The reality is that they probably worry too much. While salvia divinorum may seem like a finicky plant, the reality is that it is amazingly resilient. With just a little understanding about the plant, all growers can carry on without losing sleep or their plants.

Salvia Divinorum, a member of the mint family from Oaxaca, Mexico, is one of the most widely known and entheogenic plants. Salvia has a long history of shamanic use in the Sierra Madre mountains, particularly among the Mazatec tribe. These Mazatec healers were known as curanderos. In 1961, Gordon Wasson, who had developed an intimate relationship with these remote people throughout multiple journeys, was invited to experience the ritual brought on by the juice of salvia divinorum leaves. Wasson returned with his colleagues, namely Albert Hoffman, to collect specimens of this undocumented species. Wasson, along with Albert Hoffman, was the first to bring a live salvia divinorum specimen to the U.S. It is the clones of these original salvia plants that are the most widely distributed. They are known as the Hoffman and Wasson clone.

One other popular clone, known as the Blosser strain, is named after Greg Blosser. There are also several rarer clones such as the Cerro Quemado, Luna, Resilience, Julietta, Paradox and Owens. (There is one supplier in mind that carries all of these strains, but we cannot recommend them since we have ordered from them without getting everything we paid for despite numerous promises. ) The reason that so few strains of salvia divinorum exist lies in its virtual inability to produce viable seed. It may be that salvia adapted to being cloned so frequently that it no longer needed to rely on producing seed to reproduce. Following this theory, we can say that it has been domesticated.

Most often, salvia divinorum will not flower. The plant requires pure darkness at night, which is often polluted by artificial light. Flowering is also triggered by an even twelve hour light cycle. But getting saliva to flower does not mean it will produce salvia divinorum seeds. And if seeds are produced, they are hardly ever viable. Saliva divinorum is, therefore, reliant on cuttings to reproduce. This means that each clone is precious, and so it is essential to treat them with proper care.

The transition of a salvia plant from one environment to another is know as acclimation. The key to acclimation is to change all factors gradually. We read about conditions needed for salvia, but what is often unspecified is that we do not need to place it in those conditions right away. It has to be ready. That means don’t put your plant into heavy light immediately, especially if it has been in a dark box. Keep salvia at ambient room lighting and move is closer to the light source over the course of a week. This is much like the way the intensity of the sun increases as the season begins.

The biggest headache and what sets salvia divinorum apart from traditional houseplants is its relationship to humidity. Salvia plants that come in the mail will frequently arrive in a humidity tent, which is usually just a clear plastic bag placed over the plant to seal in the moisture. The same goal may be achieved with various apparatus. While a salvia plant generally has sufficient humidity while inside the tent, most growers do not want to have their salvia inside a humidity tent forever. Since it is difficult to match the conditions it has come from, you will want to change the humidity gradually.

Start out leaving the humidity tent completely on and sealed for the first five days or so. You can air it out once a day just to keep fresh air inside. For the next five days, leave the tent on top of the plant with the bottom open so fresh air can mix with the moist air under the tent. After that, take the tent off for a few hours a day, increasing the amount of time each day until you no longer need the tent. At first, be sure to replace the tent whenever you’re not around to monitor or when you see drooping. Even after that, don’t be in a rush to get it into full sun. If you’re moving outdoors, start the plant out in complete shade. As mentioned earlier, salvia is a remarkably resilient plant. Salvia can recover from a severe droop if you replace the moisture in time. If a severe droop happens, you can reduce the stress of recovery by removing larger leaves or cutting them in half.

Aside from the humidity change between environments, humidity can change between seasons and weather patterns without you realizing it. Many new growers tend to panic and overcompensate, which often does more harm. Salvia plants will often sustain themselves outdoors during the summer months. As salvia plants are brought in, they may suffer. This is somewhat natural. While your conditions may not be ideal for good leaf growth, it does not mean your salva divinorum is in danger of dying. During this time, do not worry so much about curling leaves or a few leaves falling off. It is much akin to native plants losing leaves in the winter months outdoors. Just like the suggestion to cut leaves off, plants will drop leaves on their own to reduce stress. It may be an indication that the environment is stressful, but it does not mean your plant is dying.

So what if your plant is losing a lot of leaves? Before you panic, make sure your roots are healthy. As long as the roots remain healthy and the stem does not dry out or rot to the point that there are no viable nodes left, the plant has a chance of recovery. Even stems without leaves have been known to recover. This is why good root care is vital. A good well-draining soil, usually made up of about 50% perlite is ideal for proper drainage and airflow. This will keep the roots healthy. To keep the soil free from bacterias and molds, a small amount of hydrogen peroxide in the water will help. A layer of diatomaceous earth, which is made up of the the skeletons of algae-like organisms, will help prevent insects. Trimming any dead material from the leaves or stems will also remove places for molds to take hold.

As a general rule, salvia divinorum likes temperatures between 70-90 degrees F and likes partial shade to full sun. There is a lot of variation within these parameters. Growers tend not to understand why their salvia plant is not doing well even though they are falling within these guidelines. You will also find people reporting success with varying temperatures and lighting conditions. The important thing to understand about salvia divinorum is that light, water and temperature are all relative to each other. For example, a plant in full sun in 90 degrees will need more water than a plant in the house under artificial lighting. Adding that same amount of water indoors may cause a plant to develop root rot from standing water, whereas a plant outdoors may easily dry out if watered the same amount. It is true that evaporation in the soil plays a part here, but the plant will use more water too. Along the same lines, you may notice a plant that is burning (turning red) under lights that are less intense than the sun. This might seem odd considering salvia divinorum is from Mexico where the sun is stronger. That’s because there is no set amount of light that is always appropriate for salvia divinorum because its needs are relative to temperature and the condition of the plant. By acclimating conditions gradually, you can help assure the plant’s condition will change with its environment so that they can be more in tune with each other.

Another idea that new salvia divinorum growers struggle with is the idea of misting. Misting is an effort to increase the humidity. However, many experienced salvia growers have decided not to mist plants at all. In a situation where humidity needs to be raised, it is better to use a humidity tent draped over the top of the plant for a few days. A humidifier is more appropriate if you are willing to invest in one. Misting is really an artificial humidity, or possibly not really humidity at all. The droplets of water are much larger from a mister and have a tendency to collect on the leaves rather than absorb while suspended in the air. The collection of water can lead to rotting of the stem or leaves. It seems that regular misting causes salvia to become dependent on this moisture rather than it acclimating.

The common response to most new salvia divinorum growers is to see all signs of wilting as a lack of humidity. It is important to realize that wilting can actually be caused by too much humidity. Leaves that have become saturated will be heavy and droopy. This tends to happen to plants that are left in 100% humidity too long. This is exacerbated by lack of airflow and water collecting on the salvia leaves. Most often, this will happen to plants that are left in humidity tents too long. These leaves tend to be thinner and softer than “healthy” salvia leaves. They also tend to have a silky sheen. It is important to realize that it will be unlikely to save these leaves. Salvia produces new leaves that adapt to the new environmental conditions. You can often notice a physical difference. Old leaves, suited to tolerate past environments will tend to die off in the new environment. Therefore, if you receive a plant that has thin leaves that begin to fall off when you try to acclimate it, you should not panic. This is pretty common for plants that have been rooting in a humid environment for several weeks or months. This is normal to a large extent. Again, it is important to be sure to make sure you have healthy roots. Pay more attention to new growth than the original leaves. If you are getting a good flow of fresh growth, your salvia divinorum is doing fine.

Whether or not you think salvia divinorum is finicky, you should be better equipped to handle it now that you understand certain principles. Salvia divinorum needs to acclimate very slowly; be patient and do not panic while it goes through these changes. Keep your roots healthy; they are the lifeline of your salvia plant. The humidity tent is your friend; keep your mister for your seedling trays. Not all wilting is from lack of humidity; they can be saturated as well. New salvia leaves are suited to their current environment; old leaves are expendable as long as the roots and new growth is healthy. Lastly, give up on trying to find salvia divinorum seeds. Understand your salvia, and you’ll have all you need to grow.