Salvia divinorum is not your mother's sage plant. Cultivated by Mazatec Indians in Mexico, salvia divinorum is a powerful drug, containing the natural hallucinogenic salvinorin A. Used as a healing, divination and shamanic plant, salvia divinorum has been used as a legal, recreational drug. Salvia is also a pleasant plant to have in the home when flowered.
Salvia divinorum is perennial, considered a member of the sage mint family. According to Dr. Arturo Gomez-Pompa of Nisao Ogata, the plant is used in healing and divination practices of the Matazec people of Oaxaca. It was first described botanically in the West by Carl Epling and Carlos D. Jativa, according to Betsy Clebsch and Carol D. Barner, authors of the "New Book of Sages: Sages for Every Garden." The plant can be used as a drug by chewing it or smoking it in a condensed form. Chewing is usually undesirable due to the bitter taste, while smoking the leaves requires a very high and prolonged heat.
Salivia divinorum is a sage plant, growing broad, green leaves. The stems are sturdy, according to Will Beifuss, of the Resonance Project, and do not need support unless growing a larger plant. Salvia can grow up to 8 feet tall with the right stem support. In the wild, salvia divinorum propagates when it falls over, then sending out roots which grow into the ground, making a new plant. Salvia divinorum does flower, according to Betsy Clebsch and Carol D. Barner, but it is hard to make it do so except under the correct conditions.
Salvia requires a hot and humid environment where moisture occurs in the air. It likes a good covering from sunlight with the humidity high. In the home, salvia divinorum requires a light misting from a hand-held spray bottle and a warm room, between 60 and 70 degrees F. Full sunlight is best avoided. It is possible to leave a salvia plant outside, but it requires shelter during rains to prevent root rot.
According to Will Beifuss of the Resonance Project, plants will flower in the fall when there is 12 hours of sunlight in the day. Flowering is prevented indoors under grow lamps by increasing the plants light to 14 hours or more. When flowering, the plant sends up a spike about a foot long, which produces small, bluish white flowers. The scent of the flowers is delicate.
According to Will Beifuss, salvia plants can be acclimated to a low-humidity environment. If you receive a plant from a mail order service, it might have origins in a green house and will require extra care. Initially misting the plant heavily and slowly lowering the amount of mist over a month will do the trick.