SALVIA X JAMENSIS / Microphylla ( ‘Hot Lips’ )



Small, eye-catching, richly coloured RED & WHITE flowers are plentiful on this shrubby salvia from Mexico. The blooms cover the shrub, perching at the tips of thin wiry stems that can reach one metre in height.

The plant is a perennial, tolerant of frost, heat & drought & in bloom from May to October here in our part of North London. Individual flowers may be white, an intensely vivid crimson red, or half red & half white depending on the weather. Salvia Hot Lips has the fragrance of blackcurrent.



Neighbour’s Salvia x Jamensis (Microphylla) Hot Lips





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 our Highbury patch.

“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!”

She says the leaves of this salvia turn wine red in winter in Seattle, & recommends cutting it back in February or Marchtime.

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 and shrubs that are red or white. 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 was a gift from Anne, memento of a visit to the garden centre at the National Trust’s Merton Park. It seemed aromatic, yes, but I would not have described it as ‘pleasantly sweet’ & ‘yummy’. It smelled more like something one would use to scrub a floor. Surely this plant would be unpalatable to planteaters in our garden… slugs, snails, mice… foxes… (the deer mentioned by correspondents in gardening websites such as Dave’s Garden do not frequent Highbury, & are not responsible for damage to our garden.) Hot Lips was planted between a catmint, Walker’s Low, and Nasturtium ‘Alaska.’

August 9th – Many flowers and buds, photographed a few days ago. are gone. It appeared that mice had enjoyed eating the individual flowers; no snail slime trails showing that THEY might have been responsible.

August 20th – After finding ALL the flowers gone, & two tall stems bitten off close to the ground, I dug the plant out of its site on the earthwork. It now waits on the kitchen sink for its new home. Yesterday got a wall basket from Homebase – a cast iron half circle with a flat back. Hopefully in another position the plant will be free of the attentions of mice & snails.

October 30th – Hot Lips’ new basket, on the side wall of the house by the outlet from the boiler, seems to suit it. It has the heat of the house behind it; wafting currents of warm air from our boiler outlet (and our neighbours’) play over the upper stems. It gets morning sun, & new flowers have formed since its repotting. Although mice are capable of climbing brick walls, removing the plant from their favoured route across the Path of Doom seems to have worked for now & no climbing parties have been launched up the brickwork to reach Hot Lips.

November – I see that the neighbours with the most flourishing Hot Lips shrub have now cut theirs back to about 2 ft. Their next door neighbour has left their smaller plant alone.

November 23rd – Longlasting flowers are still at the stemtips of our Hot Lips on the wall. The plant is seemingly unbothered by wind. The neighbours with the most buxom 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 managed to endure the long drought & desert heatwave that swept over all of Europe… But the weather, even with daily watering, finally took its toll. The plant dropped many of its leaves & flowers, looking desperately shabby & unhealthy. It was transferred from the wall basket into an old black Ryman’s wastepaper bin, with a deep mix of fresh soil, mycorrhizal fungi & fertilizer nodules. It seems to be recovering. A heavy downpour one night last week knocked off most of its flowers, but in the next few days shiny new leaves appeared, with new flowers now twinkling round the plant. It has become quite  woody shrub at its base.

7th Sept 2018. Hot Lips is doing well, with the September sunshine bringing out its flowers. The neighbours’ Hot Lips, planted in the ground, look as floriferous as they did last year. Ours, in the Ryman paper bin, is perhaps now in too exposed a position, placed by the path. Gardeners are advised, with aromatic plants such as lavender, to plant them near paths; anyone brushing against them will enjoy a sudden rush of scent. Salvia x jamensis ‘Hotlips’ also releases fragrance when brushed against, but we find that its stems are finer & more brittle than lavender & break easily.