Mpumalanga Sagebush, Mpumalanga Salie, Pink Salvia
ize: 60 cm – 1m
Pale to lilac- pink, or white touched softly with pink; September - December; spring; summer
Sun; semi-shade; rockery; screen; shrubbery; paving; narrow spaces; fast-growing easy-care
ainfall season: Summer
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A misty purple and pink haze covers this beautiful small shrub throughout spring and early summer (September to December), and has one of the most profuse flowering displays of all of the Salvia family. Along with its ease of cultivation the Sagebush is an excellent garden plant through much of the country. The multi-stemmed herbaceous shrublet is easy to grow; with a woody rootstock, a common characteristic of grassland plants, it re-sprouts strongly after pruning which is necessary to prevent excessive woodiness in mature plants. Woody stems are sparsely covered in fine hairs and new stem growth is often tinged purple. Up to 40 mm long x 20 mm wide, leaves range in shape from oval-elliptical to oval, rounded at the base tapering to a sharp tip, with toothed margins. Both leaf surfaces are covered in sparse hairs and leave a sticky residue on the fingers when touched. All members of the mint family impart a lovely fragrance, a chemical defence against plant-eating insects. Flowers are typical of the Salvia family, up to 200 mm long, and branched once or twice at the base. The flowers are produced in whorls with a tubular, two-lipped corolla. Flower colour ranges from pale to lilac- pink, or white touched softly with pink. Tips of each inflorescence produce deep-pink floral bracts. Distribution and habitat: Syncolostemon transvaalensis occurs in the Mpumalanga and North West provinces, commonly seen around Pilgrims Rest in the north through to Barberton in the south. It grows in grasslands on the Mpumalanga Drakensberg, from about 100 m above sea level to an altitude of 1700 m. Here summer rains are plentiful and winters are dry and grass fires are frequent. In the garden: The Sagebush is an invaluable shrub in the 60 cm – 1m size category that helps to link the smaller perennials and the larger shrubs. Planted in a sunny or semi-shaded position, in nutrient-rich, well-drained soils, Syncolostemon transvaalensis will thrive. It is versatile enough to do as well in shallow and rocky soils. The Sage Bush is showy enough to use as a single feature shrublet at the entrance to a path or around the patio, but its beauty is seen best when displayed in more extensive stands. Place plants 60 cm apart to give each bush enough space to show off and allow flowers to be easily found by pollinators. While the Sagebush will cope with a light frost, young plants should be protected for the first couple of years. According to Western Cape gardeners, it also does well in the winter-rainfall gardens if watered twice weekly during the dry summers. Syncolostemon transvaalensis should flower happily for many seasons if pruned heavily in mid-winter to encourage healthy new growth in spring. Enrich the soils with compost in late winter before it enters the growth phase, and mulch well; organic mulches will add further nutrients to the soils through the year. However, Jenny Dean has found this shrub flowers almost daily in the Kloof region, exhausts itself after a couple of years and needs to be replaced every couple of years. Propagation is via cuttings or seed. Softwood or herbaceous cuttings should be taken in spring or early summer, about 50-100 mm long and kept moist. Keep them in light shade until ready to plant out. Seed can be sown in spring or summer; plant in a seedling mix in seed trays and keep moist. Seed should germinate in 3-4 weeks. The seedlings can be planted out in individual bags as soon as they are large enough to handle.