The Aztec sage, magic sage or Salvia divinorum – as the plant is also called – has made a questionable name for itself. Because the plant has a highly potent, hallucinogenic effect and is therefore often not only cultivated because of its beautiful appearance. This special sage species is also an enrichment for hobby gardeners, which offers small challenges and requires some knowledge and tact. But once you understand the basic needs of Mexican sage, you can enjoy the herbaceous plant for a long time and grow it to impressive sizes. And if you do it right, you don’t even need a lot of patience.
Table of Contents
The Aztec sage comes from Mexico, so it needs slightly higher temperatures. However, it should not be in direct sunlight, because then the leaves of the herbaceous plant burn very quickly. Nevertheless, a bright location is necessary, where only the blazing midday sun does not hit the Salvia divinorum. A window facing east or west, under foil or taller, shading plants is ideal. Of course, it can also be on the south side, if shade can be provided here at least in summer during the midday hours.
That being said, heavy rain and wind should be kept away as much as possible, as should frost. Salvia divinorum can spend the summer outdoors, but in autumn the plant has to be indoors. As a houseplant, the magic sage can also be cultivated all year round. The only thing to note is that the plant does not tolerate abrupt changes. Be it high humidity or rather dry air, the Aztec sage can easily adapt if given enough time. If it is to be converted, the change must therefore be gradual. At the new location, it should initially only stand for a short time, then a few hours. In this way, the magic sage only has to endure little stress and does not suffer too much from the change.
The substrate for the Aztec sage should be loose, permeable and rich in nutrients. The plant does not tolerate compacted soil and waterlogging. Due to its relatively fast growth, however, it has a comparatively high nutrient requirement, which is why the soil must not be too sparse.
One part humus rich soil and one part coconut fiber is an ideal mix. If heavier soil is used as a base, sand should also be buried. This ensures the necessary loosening and permeability. Furthermore, a drainage layer must be installed at the bottom of the planter, which prevents waterlogging even if it has been watered too much.
Apart from this, the Aztec sage is quite undemanding when it comes to the substrate.
When caring for magic sage, less is more. Many of the plants suffer or even die because they are over-cared for. If in doubt, it is better to leave the watering can and fertilizer where they are.
However, the Aztec sage is only really easy to care for if the location and substrate are right. One should therefore pay particular attention to these factors.
watering and fertilizing
The Aztec sage is also easy to care for when watering. Rainwater is better, but tap water can also be used without any problems. In addition, you should water it fairly regularly, but keeping it constantly moist is neither necessary nor advisable. The Salvia divinorum likes it better when it is poured abundantly from time to time and the soil can then dry well. However, it should never stand in the water.
Depending on the humidity and watering behavior, the appearance of the magic sage also changes. The drier it is, the hairier and thicker the leaves are. If there is a lot of moisture and water, these are rather thin and only have a little down. Because adapting to the circumstances takes some time, you should not change the watering behavior and humidity abruptly.
Aztec sage should be fertilized regularly from around April to September. The then very rapid growth consumes a lot of nutrients, so an additional dose every four weeks is advisable.
Organic herbal fertilizer is recommended as a remedy. Some compost can also be used. So that the nutrients are distributed evenly, the fertilizer should be dissolved directly in the irrigation water or watered afterwards. This measure also prevents chemical burns from occurring at the roots.
If the Salvia divinorum is kept bright and warm all year round and cultivated under artificial lighting, for example, fertilization can be continued for longer. If you want to be economical, you can also hold back the nutrients until the first signs of an undersupply appear. A deficiency becomes noticeable through discoloration of the leaves, which then usually become reddish.
The care of the Aztec sage also includes repotting, which should be carried out every two years at the latest. To prevent diseases and parasites, a complete change of substrate is advisable. The roots are completely freed from the substrate and, if possible, rinsed off with little pressure.
The new substrate can also be treated with heat before use, in the oven or in the microwave. Slightly moistened at 150 °C and left in the oven for half an hour, the soil becomes germ-free. Foreign seeds, germs and larvae don’t stand a chance with this measure. The Salvia divinorum can therefore thrive undisturbed and the risk of diseases and damage from parasites is significantly reduced.
Changing the soil or choosing a larger planter should be done in spring, around March or April, when the plant gets a little more light indoors and starts to sprout again. The measure is necessary when the soil appears used up or roots appear at the bottom of the pot. Even if this is no longer stable due to the size of the Aztec sage, it should be repotted. With young plants, this can be necessary every year.
During the growth phase, the Salvia divinorum can reach a height of up to three meters. Although this is rare, most of these plants manage 1.5 meters. If you do not intervene to correct this growth, you will have a very high Aztec sage – but this is rather thin, has slender long shoots and can appear rather holey. The magic sage only shows a lush splendor of leaves and dense branches if it is repeatedly cut.
Long head shoots with few leaves, damaged plant parts and weak branches are shortened. This encourages the plant to keep branching out. A clear cut or radical pruning of the Aztec sage in the spring is possible, but it is better to correct it continuously.
Particular attention must be paid to hygiene. The plant can be particularly susceptible to viruses, so you should only work with freshly disinfected scissors or knives. In addition, Salvia divinorum should not be placed next to possibly diseased plants during the cut. Thorough checks in advance save treatment attempts and can prevent infections.
Propagation via cuttings
If a few shoot tips of around 10 to 15 centimeters in length appear after cutting the Aztec sage, you can easily use them for propagation. The procedure for this is as follows:
- The shoots are cut at an angle so that the cutting area is as large as possible. A clean, preferably disinfected knife or scalpel is used for this purpose so that the sensitive stems are not pressed.
- The lower leaves are removed from the shoots.
- The shoots are first placed in a dark container filled with water and brought to a bright, warm location. A windowsill and 20 to 25 °C are ideal. However, rooting is also successful under foil.
- After two to three weeks, the roots should appear in the water, so you should change them every three days until then.
- If the roots are about three centimeters long, you can put the young sage plant in the ground and moisten it well. The substrate described above is used again for this purpose.
Propagation by seeds
Aztec sage can also be propagated by seeds. These can be purchased online or in stores, but can also be obtained after the Salvia divinorum has blossomed. Before sowing, the seeds are soaked in lukewarm water for a few hours to encourage germination. The procedure should then be as follows.
- As a substrate for propagation from seeds, sandy potting soil or coconut fiber are ideal, which is filled into a planter with good drainage.
- The soil is well moistened.
- The seeds are pressed lightly into the substrate one at a time, one to two fingers apart, and only covered with a little soil.
- The planter is then moved to a bright location where there should be 20 to 25 °C.
- In order to keep the effort as low as possible and to accelerate germination, the pot should be covered with foil or glass. A greenhouse is also a good choice. To prevent mold and rot from forming here, the cover should be aired daily.
- If the seeds germinate after a few weeks, the cover can be left open longer. The substrate must still be kept slightly but consistently moist.
- When the seedlings have reached a height of about five centimetres, they can be planted individually in pots.
- Removal of the cover should be done gradually.
culture in the open air
Aztec sage can be cultivated outdoors in summer, but since it is not frost hardy but very sensitive to moisture, it should not be planted directly in the garden. The culture in a pot or bucket is much better for him. The water drainage can also be better ensured here.
Before the magic sage is placed out of the house in the garden or on the balcony, it should be allowed to get used to the new location. To do this, it is initially placed outside for hours at a time when it is particularly warm there. But not directly in the blazing sun. Light shade during midday and early afternoon is ideal at first. A protected corner in which the heat accumulates is also good at the beginning.
If the outside temperatures climb to around 18 to 20 °C, the plant can be left outside all day. Until then, however, it should have two to four weeks to get used to it and to be slowly hardened. In late frost, however, the Salvia divinorum has to go back inside.
As already mentioned, the Aztec sage does not survive frost. It must therefore be brought indoors in good time if it has been outdoors throughout the summer and early autumn.
At the latest at 15 °C he belongs in the winter quarters. However, some planning is required here. If the Salvia divinorum is to be in the living room during the winter, it must of course be put in earlier. The smaller the temperature difference, the better.
However, the Aztec sage should not be colder than 15°C. The necessary care during the winter depends on the conditions at the site. The warmer and lighter it is here, the more frequently it should be watered. With artificial lighting and summer-like temperatures, continuous fertilization may also be necessary. If, on the other hand, it is a bit cooler and darker, fertilizing should be avoided completely. Watering continues, but more sparingly.
Typical care mistakes, diseases and parasites
The Aztec sage is not particularly susceptible to pests, but it is susceptible to diseases and poor care. Particularly common are:
- Too cool location
- Wrong substrate
- Too much watering
- Missing nutrients
- virus infections
Most problems can therefore be avoided if the location, substrate and care are right and clean cutting tools are used. If brown leaves suddenly appear, this is often not a sign of water shortage, but of an infection. First of all, it should be checked whether the watering behavior is really inconsistent before the plant is overwatered.
The Aztec sage is known for its hallucinogenic effects, but not exactly in gardening circles. The substances it contains ensure a high that occurs quickly but also only lasts for a short time. Ingestion of larger amounts can lead to poisoning. Of course, it is important to keep children and pets away from the plant. If this cannot be implemented reliably and safely, Salvia divinorum should be avoided.
With the right knowledge and at least a little green thumb, the Aztec sage can be cultivated without any problems and reach impressive heights. Suitable as a houseplant but also in good hands in the summer garden, the Mexican plant is durable and decorative. Due to the active ingredients contained, however, careful handling is required.