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salvia divinorum flower
DoubleBlind Mag
salvia divinorum flower

Salvia Flowers: Cultivation and Consumption

Salvia flowers are a naturally occurring, legal psychedelic. Here's what to know about these blooms.

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Updated June 7, 2021

DoubleBlind Mag is devoted to fair, rigorous reporting by leading experts and journalists in the field of psychedelics. Read more about our editorial process and fact-checking here. Editorially reviewed by Madison Margolin.

Even if you’re not an avid gardener, you’ve probably seen salvia flowers of one kind or another dozens of times. There are over 700 species of this common flowering shrub, many of which are used as herbs or decorative plants. Indeed, both sage and rosemary are types of salvia flowers. However, there is one kind of salvia flower that is not like the others: Salvia divinorum.

Salvia divinorum is perhaps one of the most unique naturally occurring psychedelic in existence. Traditionally, the leaves of the salvia flower have been chewed, or brewed into tea by the Mazatec people of Mexico, who use the plant’s potent psychoactive effects in religious ceremonies. In the US though, salvia flower is more often used for recreational purposes, and is actually legal in about a dozen states. The substance remains uncommon outside its traditional home, so if you’re interested in trying salvia flowers, you might have to get your hands dirty—by which we mean planting your own salvia flowers, of course.

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Read: Is Salvia Legal?

Growing salvia flowers isn’t that hard. If you have any experience in cultivating flowering plants, you are probably overqualified for the job. And even if you’re new to gardening, growing your own salvia flowers is well within reach for first-time horticulturists.

To start, you’ll need to choose between growing your salvia flowers from seeds, or cuttings.

Salvia Plant Cultivation: Starting From Seeds versus Cuttings

Salvia divinorum flowers
Via Wikimedia Commons

We should start by saying that growing your salvia flowers from seeds really isn’t recommended. The plant rarely produces viable seeds, and it’s more likely than not that trying to propagate salvia flowers from seeds—if you can even get your hands on them—isn’t going to get you anywhere. So unless you’re a truly dedicated and knowledgeable gardener, you’ll want to use cuttings to grow your salvia flowers instead.

Nearly everyone who grows their own salvia flowers does so by using clones. While plant cloning may summon images of a lab coat adorned scientist mixing chemicals in a hermetically sealed facility for the gardening novice, plant cloning really isn’t that complex. If you’re familiar with the practice of using cuttings to propagate new plants, then you already know how cloning plants works. The idea is to snip a piece off a healthy plant and place the cutting in a new location where it will root and become an independent plant. This is called cloning because the new plant will have the same genetic makeup as the donor the cutting came from. This practice is commonly used in the agriculture sector where farmers will clone the most desirable crops to help ensure a consistent product for the end customer.

The reason clones are used for propagating salvia flowers has less to do with consistency and more to do with the plant’s natural tendencies. Salvia flower seeds are so unreliable that in the parts of Southern Mexico where the plants grow in the wild, nearly all new plants are products of natural cloning. As salvia flowers grow, the branches will break under the increased weight. These broken branches will eventually root and grow into new salvia flowers.

If you’re lucky enough to know someone who grows their own salvia flowers, go ask them if they wouldn’t mind giving you a few cuttings to use. Otherwise, salvia flower cuttings are commercially available, sometimes through local specialty shops and certainly online if you look around.

Once you have your cutting, it’s time to start the rooting process.

Rooting Salvias

To root your salvia flower cutting, simply place it in a glass of water. Tap water will work perfectly fine for this, and you don’t need to worry about using any fertilizers or nutrients with your salvia flowers at this stage. If you have multiple cuttings you are trying to grow, each one should get it’s own container.

Since salvia flowers hail from the semi-tropical Mexican state of Oaxaca, the plant prefers a fairly humid climate. Because of this, your salvia flower cuttings will root more quickly if you mist them regularly, or if they are kept in a humid environment such as a greenhouse, or a climate-controlled grow tent. Keeping the humidity high isn’t a necessity, however. Salvia flowers are pretty adaptable plants and will grow just fine in a typical household environment, if a little more slowly.

Potting Your Salvia Flowers

Salvia divinorum flowers
Via Jardin Botanique

You should see roots start to emerge from your salvia flower cutting within a couple of weeks. Once the roots are somewhere between one and three quarters of an inch long, it’s time to get your salvia flowers into some soil. Again, you don’t need anything special here. Potting soil from your local nursery or garden center will do just fine. You want a soil with good drainage that’s rich in hummus for your salvia flowers, so avoid heavier soil that contains lots of clay.

As far as pot size goes, there are a couple different routes you can take. Salvia flowers need lots of room for their roots and full grown plants will require large pots. This means you can either put them into a large pot while they are still in their infancy, or you can re-pot your salvia flowers every couple of months to help maximize the growth of your plants. Once you’re happy with the size of your salvia flowers you won’t need to continue re-potting them.

If you live somewhere where the temperature doesn’t get cold enough for frost to develop (more on salvia’s temperature later), and the laws allow for salvia cultivation, you can also plant your salvia flowers outside. Whether or not you choose to grow your salvia flowers outside, you’ll probably want to keep them in-doors for at least the first few weeks of their potted life. At this stage, your salvia flowers will be more susceptible to harm from temperature swings and strong gusts of wind. After a couple weeks your plants will have strong enough root systems to allow them to survive outdoors.

Salvia Flower Basics

Salvia divinorum flowers
Via Reddit

Humidity

Keeping your salvia flowers in a humid environment is recommended while they are still in the rooting stage. You can keep the humidity up by misting your salvia flowers regularly and covering them with a container or jar to help keep that moisture from escaping. Whatever you choose to cover your salvia flowers with should be transparent, as to still let light reach the plant; a large glass jar or works well. Once the cutting has rooted you can start to slowly lower the humidity if you choose. While optimal humidity levels for salvia plants are above 50 percent, they will happily tolerate less if given time to adapt.

Watering

Even in high humidity environments, you can’t go without watering your salvia flowers. Soil should be kept moist but try not to over water. Your soil shouldn’t dry out, but you don’t want it heavy with water either.

Temperature

The salvia flower’s origin in semi-tropical Mexico means the plant tends to prefer warm climates. 60–80°F (15–27°C) is the target temperature range. Salvia flowers are hardy enough to survive in temperatures outside this range, however growth of your plants will slow. Staying within the recommended temperature range is most important while your salvia flowers are still in the rooting stage. Make sure your plants aren’t left anywhere that the temperature is liable to dip below freezing. Frost will cause salvia flowers to turn black and die. However, as long as the root system hasn’t frozen, your plant can grow back. If you notice the leaves of your salvia flower starting to turn red, you know the climate is a little too cold for their liking.

Sunlight

Salvia flowers prefer to be in allocation with filtered light, or moderate shade. Your salvia flowers won’t do too well in strong sunlight, but they do need some direct sun. Try to put them somewhere they’ll get three to four hours of direct morning or afternoon sunlight.

One last thing to consider about salvia flowers is that their stalks aren’t very strong. Once you start to exceed about three feet, they are liable to fall over without support. As mentioned above, this is how salvia flowers most often propagate in nature. The stem will fall over or break off, and the part where it contacts the ground will root and send up new stalks. If you’re growing your salvia flowers in a pot, you won’t be able to sustain multiple root systems in such a small area. Because of this, it’s a good idea to give your salvia flowers some support, or regularly cut them down to a manageable height.

Consuming Salvia

Ok, you have successfully grown your own big, beautiful salvia flowers, now what? Time for a psychedelic experience.

Despite the fact that we’ve referred to them as “salvia flowers” throughout this guide, the flowers aren’t actually the psychoactive part of the salvia plant. Instead, it’s the leaves that give salvia it’s signature psychedelic effects. Traditionally, salvia leaves are chewed, releasing the juice which contains salvia psychedelic compounds. These compounds are not absorbed by the stomach, so holding the juices in your mouth will increase the psychedelic effects. However, it’s more common these days to dry and smoke salvia leaves instead. Smoking salvia creates weaker psychedelic effects than chewing the leaves, and if you’re just starting on your salvia journey this is probably where you want to start.

What Does Salvia Feel Like?

When it comes to effects, salvia is quite a bit different than other psychedelics. At low doses, salvia flowers may produce euphoria, alter perception, and heighten introspection. At higher doses you may experience out-of-body effects and even ego death. At times the cognitive effects and hallucinations can be frightening or uncomfortable.

Read: Everything You Need To Know About Ego Death

The physiological effects of salvia are also dramatic. Loss of motor function, slurred speech and chills are not uncommon.

As the effects of salvia flower tends to be less pleasant than the experiences given by other psychedelics, salvia is often used in ceremonial contexts. The purpose of taking salvia is usually more about treatment or personal growth than achieving a euphoric high.And with all that you should be well on your way to growing your very own salvia flowers. Of course, if you’re really serious about salvia flowers, there are other online resources that will help you take your cultivation skills to the next level. But, for those of you just starting in the world of growing your own psychedelics, our guide is the perfect place to begin.

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