Russian Sage

Russian Sage Overview

Description 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.
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

Colorful Combinations

On Russian sage's flower spikes, the individual blossoms are actually very small. They are bluish-purple in color, and if you look closely, you'll see each flower has a four-lobed upper petal and a smaller lower petal. Around these petals is the calyx, a tube that protects the actual 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 so it will appear to be blooming long after its flowers are gone.

In addition to its blossoms, Russian sage has beautiful silver-green foliage. Leaf edges may have a serrated or wavy edge. All parts of Russian sage 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

Because Russian sage is aromatic, most pests tend to leave it alone. This perennial is very heat and drought tolerant, though it should be planted in well-drained soil to avoid rot. Caring for Russian sage is fairly easy. It thrives in full sun. You can deadhead the faded flower spikes whenever you like, but wait to cut back the whole plant until early spring. Before new growth appears, cut the stems down 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.

More Varieties 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

Phlox

blooming phlox flowers
Jason Wilde

Phlox are one of those bounteous summer flowers that 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.

Daylily

purple daylily blooms
Peter Krumhardt

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.

Black-Eyed Susan

black-eyed susan blooms
Perry L. Struse

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.

Milkweed

milkweed blooms with monarch butterfly
Matthew Benson

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

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.

Get this free garden plan.

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.

Click here to download this garden plan.

Butterfly Garden Plan

butterfly garden plan illustration
Illustration by Mavis Augustine Torke

Create a lush and colorful bed of flowers that will entice beautiful butterflies and other beneficial insects to your yard with this garden plan.

Download this free garden plan.

Summer Cottage Garden Plan

Summer Cottage Garden Plan
Illustration by Mavis Augustine Torke

Love a classic look? Eye-catching perennials such as bellflower, lamb's ear, cranesbill, and delphinium are the backbone of this flower-filled garden plan that is perfect for a sunny border along a lawn or walkway.

Get this free garden plan.

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.

Download our free garden plan.

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.

Get this free garden plan.

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