In the heat of summer, Russian Sage (Perovskia Atriplicifolia) is an aromatic garden treasure, its tall, airy, spike-like clusters creating a lavender-blue cloud of color above finely textured, icy silver-gray foliage. Vigorous, hardy, heat-loving, drought-tolerant, its delightful minty scent also makes it naturally deer and pest-resistant. And while the scent is unappealing to deer and insects, pollinators such as butterflies, honeybees and hummingbirds love it.
The graceful, long-blooming Russian Sage flowers throughout the summer, maturing at a height of 4 feet with a 3-foot spread. Because of its height, staking (such as with peony stakes) can help keep the stems from flopping over, if it’s grown as a specimen plant. Clustered together, the plants can help support each other for a lovely sagebrush kind of appearance. Russian Sage is great for xeriscaping, since once it is established, it is very tolerant of hot, dry conditions.
Russian Sage needs full sun to be at its best. It thrives in well-drained ground but can tolerate clay soil. Ideally it prefers alkaline soils of pH 7 and greater but can handle a wider range of soil pH. It likes medium to dry soil and will do fine in hot, dry areas of your yard or garden.
The shrub is a deciduous, flowering herbaceous perennial, and although it is not a member of the genus Salvia like other plants commonly called sage, it is a close relative. Russian Sage is actually a member of the mint family, and as such, spreads by runners. It’s advisable to monitor the plant’s reach, to remove it from places you don’t want it to spread. Pull up suckers in the early spring when you see them, and divide the plants every four to six years to refresh them. Its fine texture makes it a good choice if you’re seeking contrast with plants that are more coarse in appearance. Russian Sage’s height and long bloom period make it a great option for the back row of flowerbeds, as well as a wonderful companion for perennials, succulents and ornamental grasses.
Pruning is optional, but it can keep the plants neater, in a more formal structure if using them as a soft divider hedge. Also, annual pruning encourages the plant to grow bushier, for a fuller appearance. At minimum, trim dead branches for plant vigor and to keep it healthy-looking. Opt to prune in early or mid-spring as opposed to the fall since the shrub’s silvery branches add interest to an otherwise barren winter landscape. Another reason to avoid fall pruning is so you don’t stimulate new growth if a hard freeze is delayed. The tender new growth can be killed by a late frost.
Some varieties of Russian Sage to consider adding to your garden include:
Perovskia Filagran – For its fine-cut leaves and airy appearance.
Perovskia Longin – A more rigidly upright and narrower variety with slightly larger leaves.
Perovskia Little Spire – A dwarf variety which matures at about 1.5 to 2 feet tall and wide.
At Farmside Landscape & Design, we have plenty of great ideas and plants to create a stunning and easy-to-care for landscape. Contact us today for more great ideas!
Main Photo Credit: HGTV – Pruning Russian Sage