Getting the most out of your purple salvia plants

We bought about eight dark blue salvia plants from you. They are beautiful plants and have been blooming vigorously for a month and a half. My question is: In the past, the spikes that were fully clad in gorgeous purple flowers will start to wane a bit, and only the tips of the spikes remain deep purple.

I would love the magnificent color of these plants to last as long as possible. How should I prune to get a second bloom?

Last summer I cut some spikes at the base, and the plant was unattractive for several weeks. Some smaller spikes emerged from the larger ones, but not with the vibrant color of the first bloom.

Where exactly should I snip the flowers for a vigorous second bloom, or is that possible?

Also, we planted an apricot tree, along with some other fruit trees this spring. Three fruit trees seem to be thriving, while the apricot started out with a few leaves, but now has none. It looks dead except for some green suckers that are growing at the base of the tree where the trunk meets the soil. Do the suckers mean the tree is alive? Should we cut the suckers?

— Barb

I’m afraid I don’t have any secrets for keeping your salvia blooming longer. Deadheading helps to extend bloom on perennials but on salvia, the flowers aren’t borne individually. Instead, as you’ve seen, the spike of flowers opens from the bottom to the tip over two or three weeks, so removing the spent blooms involves removing the entire spike — not much of an option until the entire spike is done. And by then, the plant is pretty much done blooming.

I have one in my yard and like you, I cut off the spent flower spikes, watch it produce shorter, smaller flower spikes in late summer or early fall. Nothing that I’m aware of would cause the plant to behave any differently.

Unfortunately, chances are, your apricot tree is a goner. If the suckers are coming from above the graft union (look for a little “dogleg” in the trunk down near the soil), cut the dead top off and let the suckers grow. It will take a year or two, but you’ll have a nice tree.

If the suckers are coming from below the graft union, then it’s the tree’s rootstock, and pretty worthless as a fruit tree.

Could you please identify a plant for me? It seems to grow fantastically well in Cedaredge. It’s a tall upright plant with bright golden yellow daisies up and down the stems this time of year.

Also, can it be moved successfully? We planted it in a dumb place, thinking it would only be a couple of feet tall.

— James

What you have is commonly called Maximilian daisy, Maximilian sunflower or sometimes New Mexico sunflower. The botanic name is helianthus maximilianii.

The plant is a herbaceous perennial that dies down to the ground each winter and resprouts in the spring. This plant will get big and belongs in a spot with lots of room to grow. It does form underground stems called rhizomes that will increase the size of the clump.

The plant isn’t all that fussy about soil, but I think it does best when grown a bit on the dry side. This is really a great plant for xeriscapes.

Rich soil and abundant moisture will result in a taller, floppier plant that can bend over when it blooms in the fall.

Here in western Colorado, it usually gets 6 to 7 feet tall. It can get taller or shorter depending on the amount of water it receives.

It’s best to move the plant in the late fall after it has stopped blooming and has started dying down for the winter, usually in mid- to late November.

Dennis Hill is the nursery manager at Bookcliff Gardens, http://www.bookcliffgardens.com. Send questions to Bookcliff Gardens, 755 26 Road, Grand Junction 81506; or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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