Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Another Cool Perennial: Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia)

I've talked about Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) before (with propagating) but good things are always worth a second look! Our Russian sage is in full bloom in our front garden and should continue to burst forth with a bounty of purple blooms throughout the summer. These powerful perennials are drought tolerant and have been extremely pest free. There are two varieties in our Middle Tennessee garden one called 'Longin' and another called 'Little Spire' . The 'Longin' Russian sage has performed better than the 'Little Spire' for in our garden. The 'Little Spire' seems to need more watering than the 'Longin' but despite the need for a little more water either variety performs great our Tennessee garden. 'Longin' Russian sage will reach up to 48 inches in height and needs some space to grow while 'Little Spire' is a bit more tame at a height of 36 inches.


Here is what makes Russian Sage a great perennial in the garden.


Russian Sage is Tough


The Russian sage in our garden easily withstood the 100 degree drought temperatures of last summer and each plant promptly came back for spring after wintertime temperatures. We generally have mild winters here in Tennessee but temperatures did drop below 30 on a nightly basis. (Update 3/9/2011 The past two winters have had temperatures that have dipped into the single digits and the Russian sage so far hasn't had any trouble coming back.)


Russian sage has cool foliage


This perennial has silvery-green leaves with a gently serrated edge. The cool stuff doesn't end there! If you rub the leaves between your fingers they emanate a strong yet fantastic smell. That pungent sage-like smell makes them a good deer resistant perennial. I have deer issues in many areas of my garden but Russian sage has never been nibbled on by deer or rabbits. I would consider them to be one of the most deer resistant perennials available. Russian sage isn't used for cooking but its smell might work in a dried floral arrangement or in a potpourri mixture.



Russian sage has a nice form


Russian sage reaches upward in an elegant and almost wispy form. Each branch stretches outward from the center of the plant and generally heads toward the sky. Our plants are somewhere around two and a half feet tall and haven't finished growing yet. Eventually I hope to have more Russian sage to put together in a mass planting with it as the center planting somewhere in our backyard. To keep it in good form prune Russian sage in the late winter or early spring back to 8-10 inches before new growth starts to grow.




Russian sage has abundant flowers

Each branch eventually ends in blooms. Not a bad way to end a branch when you consider how many branches it has and how many blooms you will get! The blooms of both varieties of Russian sage in my garden have the same color. Even though there may be subtle differences, all Russian sages have light, lavender colored blooms. The flowers also attract all kinds of pollinators, especially butterflies.


Russian sage flowers in August of 2009


Russian sage is Easy to Propagate from Cuttings!


Surely you didn't think I'd forget to mention that! I wrote a post back in May about propagating Russian sage so I won't go over the process again here, but feel free to look back at that post. When you take cuttings in the spring, each cutting will cause the plant to sprout two new branches which will double the summer blooms.


Edit: Russian sage can also be propagated through hardwood cuttings taken in fall or winter.



Russian Sage is Not In Everyone's Garden


Russian sage hasn't become a staple perennial in everyone's gardens even though it is worthy enough to be. I like its uniqueness and that's important in my garden!

20 comments :

  1. Your sage looks great! I do like how they take the heat and drought and keep on blooming!

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  2. This is a beautiful plant with bonus of flowers. I really like that color. I would like to try it in my garden here in Fl.
    I have a Flowering Almond & would like to propagate it. Is that possible & just what part do I cut off to do this? It is very pretty in the Spring while in bloom. I brought the plant back from Tn. & it has done wonderful.

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  3. It's a beautiful rugged plant and it looks good right where you have it planted! I like it massed for a huge silvery presence; but don't have the space!

    Gail

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  4. I love the bloom color, and the foliage as well. It would nicely compliment anything you planted next to it.

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  5. I love Russian sage, and it's all over the neighborhood so it must do well in VA, but I haven't had much luck with it. What plants does it grow next to? Do you know what kind of soil it likes? Nice to find your blog--we're zone 7b, too, and I think plants that do well in Tennessee often do well here, too.

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  6. I just bought 2 pots of Russian Sage at a buy 1 get one free sale. I can't wait to plant them as soon as this rain stops! Thanks for posting all the info about them.

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  7. Skeeter,

    For some reason I just can't get enough of it. When it seems we're low on water everywhere it's nice to see a plant you can count on despite drought conditions!

    Lola,

    I'm sure it can be done! I haven't done the flowering almond yet. I have two that need to be planted from a plant swap earlier in the year. I would take a 6 inch cutting with at least 3-4 nodes from a stem tip. Try for semi-ripe wood it should root easier than hardwood. Then use the rooting hormone and stick it in half and half peat and sand. Just make sure it stays moist but not soaked. It may take several tries to get it to work. Let me know if it works! I'm hopeful that I may have some Japanese maples rooted using the same method with the exception of the peat.

    Gail,

    Surely you can find one little spot for it! Who knows I may know a gardener who might have some extras ;).

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  8. Russian Sage is so pretty. I love the scent of it too. It probably wouldn't bloom much at my shady place though.

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  9. Russian sage is so pretty! That's awesome that it can withstand this heat we have. The blooms are gorgeous. I don't know if it's right for me though. It does look a little wild, lol, but i love the color

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  10. Tina,

    Do you have any in your garden?

    Nancy,

    It really does compliment nearly anything. If it goes well with purple or silver-green foliage it would work!

    Cosmo,

    Thanks for visiting! Russian sage can tolerate a variety of soils even the poorer ones. I suspect that dry sandy soils would be ideal but they are doing fine in our heavy clay based soil here in TN. You're probably right that most of what we grow here will work up there in VA. My RS is near Salvia and Silver Mound...hmm I suppose I have an S garden!

    Laurie,

    That's a great deal! Now you can propagate more and make that deal even better! You can make them get real bushy by clipping the tip growth of each stem after you plant them. More stems mean more flowers!

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  11. I came across your blog while searching
    Blue Spires Russian Sage.

    I have had Russian sage in my garden
    for 3 seasons now. Can you possibly
    tell me why it has not bloomed this
    year? I see others in my vicinity that
    have flower, but none on mine.

    Thanks,

    Mary
    z 5b KS

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  12. Hi Mary!

    Thanks for your question. It could be a couple things. Since it has been in the ground for three years we can rule out an immature plant. My Russian sage cuttings will bloom the second year if not late in the first. Did it bloom last year and just hasn't this year? If it's never bloomed then it could be its location. Russian sage likes full sun and if it doesn't have enough sunlight that could effect its blooms. It also could need a good dose of compost/fertilizer. Just keep the Nitrogen low and the other numbers P and K higher. (Nitrogen and Phosphorous) If you would like to send me a picture of your Russian Sage send it to thehomegarden@gmail.com and I may be able to help more. I hope that helps, if not send me an email and I might be able to help more!

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  13. Have you come across any information on possible culinary use of this plant? Do you think it could be used like ordinary sage? It smells the same, but I would want to be sure before I stuffed a chicken with it :-)

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  14. Abby,

    It smells great but it's not a true sage. The leaves shouldn't be eaten but I found that the flowers can be used in salad (here's a useful link: Russian Sage in Cooking). It can be dried and used in potpourri.

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  15. second year for my russian sage. Last year very beautiful. This year they grew very well but no flowers. Any answers or suggestions?????

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  16. Russian Sage is a subtle beauty.

    I am doing the strip of soil outside my fence in the back alley all in blue and I intend to add Russian Sage to the sunnier end as it is so drought tolerant and keeps its good looks all season. A real winner!

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  17. bi5451,

    Sorry for the late response! It's possible that they may be late in flowering if they haven't had enough sunlight and warmth. Ours usually don't bloom until the end of June beginning of July so depending on where you are the bloom time might be later than you think.

    Ms. S,

    I couldn't agree more. It's great in a sunny spot. Just make sure you have room because in year number three they get large!

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  18. I am in Eastern Nebraska and have Russian Sage throughout my yard. The plant is a beauty however it is also EXTREMELY invasive and aggressive and I am not sure if they are as invasive in other areas of the country. They are surely easy to propagate.To be honest, I only keep mine around because they do attract beneficial bugs like bees and butterflies.

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  19. I have a very tiny 2" cutting which is just about rooted now ..... I wish it would grow faster ! I just cant wait to see it flower ....I would love it to become invasive ! lol ! Debbie

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