How to Plant and Grow Russian Sage

Russian sage, a hardy perennial in Zones 4-9 and is a great addition to a garden. It can act as a specimen plant or provide contrast to other plants with its wispy texture and lavender or blue color.

russian sage blooms
Peter Krumhardt.

On Russian sage flower spikes, the individual blossoms are tiny. Each flower has a four-lobed upper petal and a smaller lower petal. Around these petals is the calyx, a tube that protects the flowers from damage before they bloom. In the case of the Russian sage, the calyx is covered in coarse white hairs and is also a lavender-blue. These are held on the plant for quite a while, so it will appear to bloom long after its flowers are gone.

Russian sage also has silver-green foliage. Leaf edges may have a serrated or wavy edge. All parts of Russian sage are quite fragrant when rubbed or crushed. It's been described as a sage-like smell, sometimes mixed with lavender scents.

Russian Sage Overview

Genus Name Perovskia atriplicifolia
Common Name Russian Sage
Plant Type Perennial
Light Sun
Height 3 to 8 feet
Width 2 to 3 feet
Flower Color Blue
Foliage Color Gray/Silver
Season Features Fall Bloom, Summer Bloom
Special Features Attracts Birds, Cut Flowers, Fragrance, Good for Containers, Low Maintenance
Zones 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
Propagation Division, Seed, Stem Cuttings
Problem Solvers Deer Resistant, Drought Tolerant, Good For Privacy

Where to Plant Russian Sage

Keep Russian sage away from shade, where stems will stretch and flop in search of the sun they crave. The hotter and stronger the sun, the better. Use Russian sage to add color to a sidewalk, a concrete patio, or next to a driveway or carport. Plant this tough perennial in well-draining soil.

How and When to Plant Russian Sage

You can plant Russian sage up to 6 weeks before the first frost. If you plant during the hottest months, Russian sage could experience shock. The best time to plant is in late spring when the soil has gotten warmer from rising temperatures. Plant them at least 18 inches apart for best air circulation and room for growth.

Dig a hole about the same width and depth as the planting container. Remove the plant and loosen the roots a bit from the root ball before placing in the hole. Backfill with soil, tamp lightly, and water well.

Russian Sage Care Tips

Caring for Russian sage is pretty easy. Its drought tolerance and ability to grow in high heat make it low maintenance.


Russian sage thrives in full sun. The hotter, the better. As long as it has enough water to keep it alive, it thrives in heat.

Soil and Water

This perennial is very heat and drought-tolerant, though it should be planted in medium to dry and well-drained soil to avoid rot. Russian sage won't grow in very wet soil, but it will succeed in rocky, poor soil that's alkaline (pH of 7.0 or above).

Avoid overwatering to prevent root rot, but water regularly during the first season to help your plants create a deep root system.

Temperature and Humidity

As much as Russian sage loves the sun, it will do fine in cold weather, too, down to Zone 5. In winter, add mulch to protect the roots during the coldest months—the top portion will die back but they'll grow again in spring. A hard freeze does serious damage to Russian sage blooms and foliage, so your plants will need protecting if it gets below 32ºF and you want to extend it's season.


There's no need to fertilize Russian sage, but you can mulch lightly with compost in the spring. If you're planting it in a pot, use a potting soil with a premixed fertilizer which will feed it for the growing season. After the first year, feed the plant with a water-soluble fertilizer every few weeks (at least once a month), according to package directions, during the growing season.


You can deadhead the faded flower spikes but wait to cut back the whole plant until early spring. Then, before new growth appears, cut the stems to a few inches above the ground. This helps keep Russian sage looking its best each year.

If the plants seem to be growing too large or start falling over, remove the top third of the plant. This will encourage a new flush of growth with denser stems. Plant Russian sage where other plants can provide support if needed.

Potting and Repotting Russian Sage

For best results, plant containers with Russian sage in early spring. They should be added to the containers at the same depth they were in the garden-store pots. The potting soil should be light weight and well-draining, and the containers need to have drainage holes to prevent soggy roots. Add fertilizer every few weeks to potted Russian sage. It's best in colder climates to treat potted Russian sage as an annual.

Repot when plants are ready for division every few years.

Pests and Problems

Because Russian sage is aromatic, most pests tend to leave it alone. The biggest problem Russian sage may have is root rot, so be judicious about watering.

How to Propagate Russian Sage

The most effective way to propagate Russian sage is through basal cuttings. You do this by watching for new growth in the spring where plants were cut back the year before. Slice off one of the new, growing stems along the root ball along with some roots. Add the cutting to a pot filled with cactus mix or to your garden in appropriate soil.

Any Russian sage plant should be divided after four to six years.

Types of Russian Sage

'Blue Spires' Russian Sage

blue spires russian sage blooms
Hirneisen Photography

'Blue Spires' features deep blue flowers on a tidier habit than the plain species. Zones 4-9

'Rocketman' Russian Sage

Rocketman Russian Sage
Courtesy of Walters Gardens, Inc.

Strong stems help hold 'Rocketman' upright as it produces clouds of purple flowers. Zones 4-9

Russian Sage Companion Plants


blooming phlox flowers
Jason Wilde

There are several different kinds of phlox. Garden and meadow phlox produce large panicles of fragrant flowers in a wide assortment of colors. They also add height, heft, and charm to a border. Low-growing wild Sweet William, moss pinks, and creeping phlox are effective as ground covers, at the front of the border, and as rock and wild garden plants, especially in light shade. Zones 4-8


purple daylily blooms
Peter Krumhardt

Daylilies are easy to grow, yet they look delicate, producing trumpet-shaped blooms in myriad colors. Some are fragrant. The flowers are borne on leafless stems. Although each bloom lasts a single day, superior cultivars carry numerous buds on each scape, so bloom time is long, especially if you deadhead daily. The strappy foliage may be evergreen or deciduous. Zones 3-10

Black-Eyed Susan

black-eyed susan blooms
Perry L. Struse

Add a massed planting of black-eyed Susan to your garden. From midsummer, these tough native plants bloom in sun or light shade and mix well with other perennials, annuals, and shrubs. Tall varieties look especially appropriate among shrubs, which in turn provide support. Add black-eyed Susans to wildflower meadows or native plant gardens for a naturalized look. Zones 3-11


milkweed blooms with monarch butterfly
Matthew Benson

Brightly colored butterfly weed attracts many kinds of butterflies to its colorful blooms. Monarch butterfly larvae feed on its leaves but seldom harm this native plant. It's slow to emerge in the spring, so mark its location to avoid accidental digging before new growth starts. Zones 3-9

Garden Plans for Russian Sage

No-Fuss Sun-Loving Garden Plan

low maintenance hot-weather garden bed
Mavis Augustine Torke

This garden stays looking great, no matter how hot the weather gets. Follow this garden plan for a low-maintenance bed with the best hot-weather plants.

Drought-Tolerant Garden Plan

backyard garden with decorative stone birdbath
Peter Krumhardt

This informal mixed garden bed features drought-tolerant trees, evergreen shrubs, perennials, and annuals.

A Simple, Late-Summer Perennial Garden Plan

perennial garden with birdbath
Mavis Augustine Torke

Seven perennials and one annual provide colors and textures throughout the growing season. A decorative birdbath adds a focal point.

Easy-Care Summer Garden Plan

Easy-Care Summer Garden Plan
Illustration by Gary Palmer

Add this easy-growing collection of beautiful perennial flowers to your yard for big summer bang.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is Russian sage invasive?

    Russian sage isn't classified as invasive, but because it can self-sow and has rhizomatous roots, it can grow rapidly without being planted. Dig up new plants that you don't want, and look for newer cultivars that are bred to be less prolific at spreading.

  • Do I need to stake Russian sage?

    Sometimes Russian sage will flop over. You can stake your plants, but it's easier to plant them in clumps so they can support each other as they grow.

  • Is Russian sage deer resistant?

    Yes, and rabbits stay away from it too. On the other hand, bees, birds, and butterflies are drawn to Russian sage.

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