Salvia Dorisiana-A Scent Divine

Salvia dorisiana goes by several monikers, Fruit sage, Peach sage, Grapefruit sage, Fruit cocktail sage, Fruit Scented Sage, among others. This plant has large soft, fuzzy, light green leaves , good sized magenta-pink blooms and an almost intoxicating scent. This is one of the most strongly delicious scented plants we have ever had the pleasure to grow.

Doris grows three to five feet tall, and is heavily branched. The leaves have a fruity scent when brushed, and the blooms appear in winter. Salvia dorisiana was first described in 1950, and has become popular as a greenhouse plant. The entire plant is covered in hairs whose glands release a pineapple-grapefruit scent. I would liken it to a sweeter Pineapple sage, Salvia elegans on steroids. From Honduras, this tender perennial, hardy to zones 10-11 is named after Doris, daughter of Oceanus and Tethys. She [Tethys] brought forth a race of daughters, who have the young in their keeping all over the earth. Doris was the wife of Nereus. She was mother to the fifty Nereids, sea nymphs. (There is a lot of information available online about the Greek mythology of the watery world. Google can help you learn more if you are so inclined.) Added: A comment disputes the mythology naming that was described on several sites, stating that this plant was named for Doris Zemurray Stone, 1909-1994, archaeologist and ethnographer and director of the national museum of Costa Rica.

Our Doris came to the Fairegarden as a cutting from offspring Brokenbeat several years ago. He had been given a cutting from a friend in the mathematics department at UNC-Asheville. Potted up and growing larger and larger during the outdoor time of summer, the fruity scented Salvia was trimmed back each year in the fall as it came inside the greenhouse/sunroom.

One year it was planted in the ground to see if blooming could be coaxed, not realizing the bloom time was in winter. It grew quite large, but did not form buds by the time frost blackened the leaves. Cuttings had been struck to keep it going and to share with Brokenbeat and his friend who had lost their specimens.

This fall there was no pruning of the long branches when its winter holiday indoors began to see if it would bloom, but there was some leaf pruning being done by an unseen interloper. Doris did not receive the dip of death that the other plants get, in particular the orchids, when coming into the house to remove any unwanted guests. She was too large and we felt it would spoil the fragrance and appearance of the luscious foliage to be so treated. Whole leaves were being devoured overnight much to our chagrin, but a webby formation under a leaf alerted us to the location of the large green caterpillar responsible for the destruction. He was unceremoniously lifted, leaf and all and deposited outside into the sub freezing temps of the garden. Sink or swim, Mr. Very Hungry Caterpillar. Or become a popsicle for a hungry bird.

There was ecstatic delight when buds were spied after the leaf muncher was dismissed.

Doris had grown well over the summer in a medium sized pot, but was now needing nearly constant watering to keep those fragrant furry leaves from wilting.

Oh, so tenuously she was repotted into a larger vessel. There were a couple of branches broken in the process which were promptly stuck in potting mix to root. After a day of drooping, the budded limbs perked back up.

The greenhouse/sunroom receives some heat from a ceiling vent tied in to the main house furnace, but with five windows on three sides the temps remain cool with a median temperature of fifty degrees Fahrenheit at night and on colder, cloudy days. Recently there was a spate of sunny and unseasonably warm days in the seventies.

That warmth triggered the buds to open, revealing for the very first time the promised pink parcels of perfection. Doris has been inspected carefully and there have been baby buds spied in nearly every leaf axil. There should be flowers reminiscent of ocean mythology to take us into spring.


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15 Responses to Salvia Dorisiana-A Scent Divine

  1. Donna says:

    how wonderful to see and smell such a reward from all your patient care…lovely and a lovely story

    Thanks Donna. This is the most fragrant foliaged plant ever. Just the breeze from the constant fan in the greenhouse fills the room with sweet scent. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. gardeningasylum says:

    Thanks goodness Doris has come through the caterpillar challenging to bloom so sweetly for you – the sweet spot in the corner was made for her ๐Ÿ™‚

    Hi Cyndy, thanks. I was flummoxed trying to find whatever was eating poor Doris alive! There was no way she would last through the winter, let alone bloom with entire leaves being eaten each night. I was glad it was just one big fat caterpillar instead of many tiny things that would be difficult to remove. Doris is taking up too much space in the small space, but oh that scent! The flowers ain’t bad, either. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Randy Emmitt says:

    Never heard of this one will have to keep an eye out for it. It is hardy here?

    Hi Randy, thanks for stopping by. If by here, you mean zones 10-11, then yes, it is hardy. In my zone 7, it has to come inside the greenhouse for winter. I had never heard of it before, nor have seen it since my son gave me a piece several years ago.

  4. The name Doris reminds me of a woman of a certain age….the flowers seem to be an added bonus to the wonderful scent. What a treat.

    Hi MMD, thanks. Yes, Doris, like Frances is not a name used anymore. Maybe it will come back into favor. The flowers were worth the effort, most certainly. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. F this is just beautiful and would be wonderful to see and smell indoors in the dead of winter. Makes everything seem hopeful. H.

    Hi Helen, thanks. It is very spring, or even summer like in there with that large Salvia blooming. So much more impact than the orchids, lovely as they are.

  6. alistair says:

    Hello Frances, I do know one other plant named Doris which happens to be a pink as we call them here, you may know them by the name Dianthus. Plants on steroids, I have just ordered some Orienpets, Lilies which grow to eight feet, I wonder how they will do.

    Hi Alistair, thanks. Oh yes, we have pinks, Dianthus. They have mixed up and seeded all along a long terrace path. No names, but lots of color and flower form varietion. You will love the Orienpets. We have a few, they need staking! ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Patsi says:

    Doris has come a long way. She’s looking wonderful now. Temps near the seventies …woo hoo spring is on the way.

    Thanks Patsi. After that weekend in the 70s the temps plummeted back down to low 20s. That is our normal winter here. Doris is same and happy in the greenhouse. She is just green leaves in summer, but needs little care of watering, thank goodness. ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. gail says:

    Wow! It’s a beauty and she has fragrance! Doris would be fantastic massed in a garden! Oh, those lucky Zone 10 gardeners. But, she does look pretty in your greenroom. One big cat is certainly better then a hord of tiny ones! She would be attacked by the Stealth Chompers in my garden~Tiny little hungry, hungry caterpillars that morph into a pretty crimson moth! xxoogail ps Transplanting salvias is a careful job. The stems snap and we lose the buds. But, now I am going to pop them in the rooting hormone and try to get more…

    Thanks Gail. She is a wonder, a very large plant. Very reminiscent of the Pineapple sage, only bigger in every way. I would love to take Doris over to The Hop to live and grow as large as she wants. I can’t imagine transporting her without breaking every single branch. Good luck with your rooting! ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Leslie says:

    Lovely and I’d love to smell that! I wish I had room for something like that inside as it looks like it wouldn’t like it outdoors here either. Although it might be worth the gamble.

    Hi Leslie, thanks, the smell is a delight. I am not sure if your minimum temps are high enough there in Davis. Are you like Honduras? Blooming in the winter means to me that it would have to be tropical, nothing less than 50F. Now as a greenhouse plant, it is superb. ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Cindy, MCOK says:

    Doris is quite lovely … wonder how she’d do in my garden? (In our current weather, not so great …)

    Hi Cindy, thanks. I doubt that Doris could withstand the cold weather you have been having now. She is a tropical gal! ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. ricki says:

    You are so right…some names sing of days past. For years, the best ribs in town here were from the Doris Cafe, where the scent was just as heavenly, but of the BBQ variety. Frances is a great name…I’m sure it will cycle back into use eventually.

    Hi Ricki, thanks for visiting, nice to see you here. Doris is an interesting name, I did not realize she originated in Green mythology. Yummy BBQ smells, makes my mouth water just to think about it. As a child, I dislike my name, so old fashioned. I learned to appreciate it with a few years behind me. ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. Diana says:

    Oh, my Frances! She is beautiful and I have to have one. Grapefruit is most surely my favorite of scents and I’m smitten with her fuzzy leaves and plump pink blooms. I will be searching for a source for her — thank you for all the details about her history (botanical as well as family!) and the Greek mythology. Fascinating. Hope you are keeping warm!

    Hi Diana, thanks. It is a very sweet smell and the leaves and flowers are lovely. I had no idea about the name Doris and its history! We are trying to keep warm, the sun is out so that makes for a nice day even when it is cold. You too stay warm!!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. Lola says:

    That is a lovely plant. You do have beauty in the winter time. I must keep it in mind to see if I can find one. I’m afraid it will still have to be brought in even in my zone 8B/9.

    Hi Lola, thanks. It is a very lovely plant, having it all with fragrance, beauty and blooms. It would not be able to stay outside for you, if the zone recommendations are correct of 10-11. It is worth bringing inside though. ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. sequoiagardens says:

    FUN!! (And I love the mythological info… somehow that makes for more real gardening:)…)

    Thanks Jack. The mythology does add to the enjoyment. I will never look at Doris the same way again! HA ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. David says:

    It was Named for Doris Zemurray Stone, 1909-1994, archaeologist and ethnographer and director of the national museum of Costa Rica, not for the daughter of Oceanus and Tethys!

    Thanks David. I have added your information to the post.

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