SALVIA X JAMENSIS / Microphylla ( ‘Hot Lips’ )


This shrubby salvia is a perennial, tolerant of frost, heat & drought. In winter its thin wiry stems, reaching a metre in height, are covered with a dense cloud of small oval leaves.

From May to October tiny RED & WHITE flowers appear in pairs at the stemtips. These may be white only, red only, or white & red, depending on the weather.

“The leaves have a pleasant blackcurrant smell when bruised: Salvia x Jamensis is sometimes known as Blackcurrant Sage. The flowers taste pleasantly sweet and small numbers can be used to decorate salads and the leaves can be used fresh or dried as a flavouring. A herbal tea can be made from the leaves, called ‘mirto de montes’ (after the name commonly used for the plant in Mexico, meaning ‘myrtle of the mountains’). Medicinally, the leaves can be used to reduce fever.”

jeremy bartlett’s LET IT GROW blog



Bees’ Favourite

For months this was a mystery shrub in a nearby front garden, its quirky flowers drawing in many bees & other pollinators. Then I found it on a gardening website, PAGHAT’S GARDEN.  Paghat lives in Seattle, USA, where the climate seems to match ours in Highbury. She says the leaves of this salvia turn wine red in winter in Seattle, & recommends cutting it back in February or Marchtime.

“Only time would tell if it was going to be a permanent resident for us. It made it through its first winter without any trouble at all, despite that we had a record-breaking coldsnap, so I knew it was here to stay. It didn’t mind temperatures into the high ‘teens, & it didn’t mind our rainy autumns. The perfect shrub-sage for our area!”             


Neighbour’s Salvia x Jamensis (Microphylla) Hot Lips

Other websites looking at this plant were Dave’s Garden
(with 33 positive responses from reader/gardeners and only 2 negatives)
The Gardener’s World Forum
(with 37 responses).

Red & White Colour Scheme

Many front gardens in our neighbourhood feature flowers & shrubs that are red or white. Red or white flowers, red leaves or stems. One never knows if the gardeners are football fans who back the local club, Arsenal FC, in its home colours, or have always preferred this colour combination.

2017 – Salvia x jamensis ‘Hot Lips’ Comes to our Wildlife Garden

Our own Salvia Hot Lips came from Morden Hall Park Garden Centre in South London, a gift from Anne. It seemed aromatic, yes, but not ‘pleasantly sweet’. Its aroma is more like something one would use to scrub a floor. It would surely be unpalatable to the slugs, snails, & mice in our garden.

August 9th – Many flowers & buds, photographed a few days ago, are gone. Mice seem to be responsible; there are no snail slime trails. The plant’s pong was no mouse deterrent.

August 20th – After finding ALL the flowers gone, I dug the plant out of the ground. It now sits on the kitchen sink awaiting developments. Yesterday got a wall basket from Homebase – a cast iron half circle with a flat back. Hopefully a new position will free Hot Lips of the attentions of mice & snails.

October 30th – Hot Lips’ new basket hangs on the side wall of the house by the boiler outlet. The house’s heat is behind it; currents of warm air play over its upper stems. Morning sun falls on it & new flowers have now appeared. Although mice can climb brick walls, removing the plant from their favoured route over the Path of Doom seems to have worked. No raiding parties have been launched up the brickwork to reach Hot Lips. She is safe for now.

November – Neighbours with the most flourishing Hot Lips have cut theirs back to two feet. Their next door neighbour has kept their plant unpruned.

November 23rd – Our Hot Lips on the wall still has long-lasting blooms at its stemtips & is unbothered by wind. Neighbours with the most rampant Hot Lips have given theirs another chop, down to about a foot now.

6th March 2018 – After a week of bitter cold wind and snow (The Beast from the East), Hot Lips is still alive in the basket by the boiler outlet.


21st July 2018 – Hot Lips endured the long drought & desert heatwave that swept over all of Europe. But, even with daily watering, the weather finally took its toll. The plant lost many leaves & flowers, and looked unhealthy & desperate. It was moved to an old Ryman’s office wastepaper bin. Given a mix of fresh soil, mycorrhizal fungi & fertilizer nodules, it seems to be recovering. New flowers now twinkle round the plant. It has become quite woody at its base.

7th Sept 2018. Hot Lips now doing well, w/ September sunshine bringing out its flowers. The Ryman paper bin is perhaps too exposed by the path. We are advised to plant aromatic plants such as lavender near walkways, so brushing against them will trigger a rush of scent. This plant’s stems are more brittle than lavender & break easily, so edging a path may not be its best position.

2019   Salvia Hot Lips, now in a square green Laura Ashley pot from Alexandra Palace Garden Centre, did well this season. Its longer, woody stems put off any rodent attacks on the flowers.

2020  Hotlips spent the winter on the bay windowsill, snuggled into the house’s warmth. It has been moved to the eastern end of the garden, where its flowers are now red & white; they had been solid red until the end of June.