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How to Grow Russian Sage

Perovskia atriplicifolia - An End of Summer Stunner in the Flower Garden

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Perovskia

Perovskia Hybrid with Upright Habit

Marie Iannotti Perovskia Plant Demonstrating the Somewh

Perovskia Plant Demonstrating the Somewhat Floppy Habit

Marie Iannotti

Overview and Description:

Russian sage, or Perovskia, is a woody sub-shrub, with long panicles of lavender-blue flowers that become increasingly brilliant as they open. Although its branches are woody, like a shrub, the top portion of the plant will die back in cold winters.

  • Foliage: Russian sage grows as a many stemmed clump. The foliage is finely cut gray-green leaves that are slightly scented.

  • Flowers: Each stem ends with long, thin flower panicles. When fully in bloom it looks like a purple haze.

Botanical Name:

Perovskia atriplicifolia

Common Name(s):

Russian Sage

Hardiness Zones:

Reliably hard in USDA Hardiness Zones 4-9. Plants grown in Zone 4 may need some winter protection.

Mature Size:

4 ft. tall x  3 ft. wide

Exposure:

Russian sage needs full sun to bloom well. Since it is drought tolerant, it can handle dry, hot areas well.

Bloom Period:

July through August. The flowers start off subdued and gain brilliance as they open, gradually fading away again.

Cultural Notes:

Russian sage is usually transplanted from container grown plants, These can be planted any time during the growing season. If you are planting more than one, be sure to give each plants at least 2 -3 ft. to fill out into.

These plants are very easy to grow. They tolerate poor soil, a wide range of soil pH and drought. Although Russian sage is extremely drought tolerant, new transplants will need regular water.

Maintenance:

Prune plants back to about 6 - 8 in. in the spring, just as the lower leaf buds are beginning to open but before new growth starts. In warmer regions, deadheading may result in a second flush of bloom. Otherwise, leave the flower heads for winter interest.

Many varieties of Russian sage have a somewhat weeping habit. If you want a more upright plant either choose a variety bred to grow upright. like 'Login', or use something like pea brush to keep the weeping side from flopping.

Once established, the plants can start to spread by runners (it is in the mint family). They can become quite aggressive, if you don't remove the new plants, roots and all, fairly soon. These offshoots do not transplant easily

It is recommended you divide plants every 4 - 6 years, to rejuvenate them and to cut back on their ability to spread. I have not found this to be easy to do and my plants still spread.

Design Tips:

This is an airy plant that makes a great specimen. The lavender-blue works especially well with whites and yellows and with other gray foliage plants.

Suggested Varieties:

  • Perovskia ‘Filagran’  - has delicate, especially finely cut leaves

  • Perovskia ‘Login’  -  a narrower more upright plant than than the species P. atriplicifolia

  • Perovskia 'Little Spire' - a dwarf variety that only gets about 2 ft. tall.

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