Microphyllas are perhaps the largest useful group of salvias. They are generally small (to a metre) shrubby evergreen plants that flower a lot in pink and red shades and cope with drought and cold to about -10C, which covers most of Australia.
Microphyllas generally set seed and cross readily so that there are many salvias with some microphylla in their parentage. Microphyllas are similar to greggii in plant and flower size and cross with each other so identification can become an educated guess, however microphyllas tend to have many more multiple stems than greggii which is more likely to be a neat bush.
A few microphyllas like cyclamen, tend to run given a few years, but most people find the flowers worth it. ‘Penny’s Smile’ has a slightly larger same colour flower as cyclamen. ‘Penny’s smile’ also runs. I am told it is a seedling of ‘Silke’s Dream’ which was a darcyi x microphylla cross. Unfortunately in Australia it has been introduced by seed as well as plant so there are variations and we will likely lose sight of the original.
Because they are so easy many nurseries cross them or name accidental hybrids so there is a terrible proliferation of plants and names in this group. I like plants that have been imported because that seems to indicate they are a worthwhile plant. Raspberry is a good colour in this group and there are many that look very similar. ‘Blaze’ is a patented raspberry ‘microphylla’ from Plant Growers Australia. It has also been sold by nurseries called microphylla pink or something else and it would be hard to prove that it is not ‘Blaze’ if it looks like it. ‘Blaze’ is a very good plant but so are many other microphyllas.
Microphylla ‘Peg’ is white flowered. It originated in South Australia. It insists on sun to flower and never flowers a real lot for me in comparison with greggii white for example.
I think calling a plant microphylla ‘Pink Blush’ relates it to that group but often that is not the correct way to write the name of a hybrid. However the average gardener doesn’t care about the exactness but just wants to know what sort of plant it is. When I was inexperienced I called ‘Sensation’ and ‘Iced Lemon’ microphyllas but these days I would relate them more to greggii, however they have been around 20 years or so that way so the name will stay. ‘Sensation’ is a pretty apricot colour with a dark calyx.
‘Huntington’ is generally called a microphylla. It has been about a long time in Australia. Noteworthy used to be the white stripe that runs up the stem but a few newer salvias tend to also have this stem stripe. Flowers are red. This salvia gets about 2m high. There will be more flowers if it is pruned back a third to a half every six months or so. The foliage of ’Huntington’ has a very pleasant piney scent.
Microphylla red and cerise are good dense shrubs that stay less than a metre for at least 3 years. They could get taller but the hedgers can fix that. They flower an incredibly long time, most of the year.
‘San Carlos festival’ is an imported microphylla which has good dense foliage that is suitable for hedging and landscaping use. Magenta colour. This is the plant above in the banner. ’ San Carlos Festival’ doesn’t like being in a pot more than a month or two so can look a bit unenthusiastic until it is planted and allowed a bigger root growth.
‘Margaret Arnold’ grows about 1.5m and gets a good hold on Australia so that it is difficult to remove. It is a cross with microphylla cyclamen in it.
‘Musk Pink’ is a very pretty pink that reminds me of the musk sticks I ate as a child.
Neurepia is a diminutive salvia with small evergreen leaves and low growth. Pinky red flowers begin about November and go through to May. There is some discussion over which is the correct plant, whatever, this is a great front of the border salvia.
A recent arrival is an Australian hybrid ‘Angel Wings’ (pictured) which is an excellent plant flowering continuously for at least 9 months and is justly popular.