With its tall wispy wands of lavender or blue flowers and grey-green silvery foliage, Russian sage, a hardy perennial, is a great addition to a garden as it can act as a specimen plant or provide great contrast to other plants with its texture and color.
The flowers themselves are actually very small bluish-purple in color with a four-lobed upper petal and a smaller lower petal. The blooms have darker markings from the upper petal into the tube. Inside the tube is a clean white color. Often what seems like the flowers on Russian sage are actually 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 in color. These are held on the plant for quite a while and help to add to the overall floral display.
In addition to its blossoms, it is worth growing Russian sage for the silver-green foliage. Depending on the location of the plant, where the foliage is borne, and the variety, the leaf edges may have a serrated or wavy edge. All parts of the Russian sage plant are quite fragrant when rubbed or crushed. Some people describe it as a sage-like smell, sometimes mixed with lavender scents as well.
Russian Sage Care Must-Knows
The maintenance routine for Russian sage is fairly minimal. It thrives in full sun. It is important to cut the foliage and stems back almost all the way to the soil in early spring, but leaving a few inches of growth above ground level. If the plants seem to be getting too large, or falling over, remove the top 1/3 of the plant to encourage denser branching and a new flush of growth. Plant Russian sage fairly densely as other plants provide support.
Related: Staking and Training Perennials
Initially, when Russian sage was first brought to the market, there were very few options as far as varieties. Most all of the available plants were seed grown. This led to varying degrees of color. Seed-grown plants are generally open-pollinated, so you can have genetics from a variety of plants, especially when they come from many different growers. Now, there are many named varieties where all of the plants are genetically identical. This results in a uniform look and creates better landscaping.
More Varieties of Russian Sage
Russian Sage Companion Plants
Phlox are one of those bounteous summer flowers any large sunny flowerbed or border shouldn't be without. 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. These native gems have been hybridized extensively especially to toughen the foliage against mildew problems; many recent selections are mildew-resistant. Phlox need amply moist soil for best overall health.
Daylilies are so easy to grow you'll often find them growing in ditches and fields, escapees from gardens. And yet they look so delicate, producing glorious trumpet-shape blooms in myriad colors. In fact, there are some 50,000 named hybrid cultivars in a range of flower sizes (the minis are very popular), forms, and plant heights. Some are fragrant. The flowers are borne on leafless stems. Although each bloom lasts but 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.
Add a pool of sunshine to the garden with a massed planting of black-eyed Susan. From midsummer, these tough native plants bloom their golden heads off 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. Average soil is sufficient for black-eyed Susans, but it should be able to hold moisture fairly well.
Brightly colored butterfly weed is a butterfly magnet, attracting many kinds of butterflies to its colorful blooms. Monarch butterfly larvae feed on its leaves but seldom harm this native plant. It is slow to emerge in the spring, so mark its location to avoid accidental digging before new growth starts. If you don't want it to spread, deadhead faded blooms before seedpods mature. It is sometimes called milkweed because it produces a milky sap when cut.
Garden Plans for Russian Sage
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.
This informal mixed garden bed features drought-tolerant trees, evergreen shrubs, perennials, and annuals.
Create a soothing, all-blue garden in a partly shaded spot with this garden plan.
These heat- and drought-tolerant plants will make your yard a shining star all summer long.
Seven perennials and one annual provide colors and textures throughout the growing season. A decorative birdbath adds a focal point.