Russian sage isn’t from Russia and it isn’t from the genus sage. Its botanical name is Perovskia atriplicifolia, named after a Russian general with the last name Petrovsky. This shrub-like perennial has a fragrant sage-like scent and blooms into autumn, its beautiful blue clusters of flowers livening up the yard after other plant’s blooms have perished.
This plant grows 2 to 4 feet tall and spreads about 3 feet wide. It is hardy in zones 5 to 9, especially in well-drained soil that is medium to dry. Soggy soil or clay equals sudden death for Russian sage. The plant flourishes in full sun but will tolerate partial shade.
The light purplish-blue panicles of flowers contrast well with goldenrod or black-eyed susans. Russian sage is a late bloomer, blossoming from July through September. The color of the blooms increases intensity throughout the growing season, but fades off to a gray blue towards the end.
Russian sage attracts butterflies and is drought-resistant, frost-resistant and deer-resistant. It tolerates a wide range of pH level in the soil and is easy to propagate from cuttings or seed.
Planting Russian Sage
Plant Russian sage 12 to 18 inches apart in sandy soil, adding a light organic fertilizer to the planting hole. Because the taller varieties flop, experiment with planting closer together to help grow more upright. Mulch around the plant with 3 inches of organic fertilizer, but don’t apply directly up to the stem. Water around plants until soil is moist, and water weekly, especially for young plants and in dry areas.
Caring for Russian Sage
Every spring, when the lower buds just turn green, cut back new growth to around 6 inches. Division is rarely necessary and can kill woody perennials, so do so only if plant is growing out of control. In warmer areas, deadheading may help to increase blooming.
- Taiga - Grows to about 2½ feet tall and wide, with less floppiness than many other taller varieties (it’s flower spikes grow upright). It is the first Russian sage to be developed as a first year flowering perennial. Its blooms are a brilliant sky-blue.
- Blue Mist - Has lighter flowers and blooms earlier than the other varieties.
- Blue Spire - Has deeply cut foliage and violet flowers
- P. ‘Filagran’ - Has delicate, finely cut leaves.
Plant Russian sage in containers or beds, or use as a border plant as it is just the right size to provide privacy. This airy delicate plant is easy to care for, and you can enjoy its gorgeous blooms in the autumn when garden color is fading around the yard.