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Russian Sage

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Russian sage photo. As picture shows, Russian sage has silvery foliage and violet-lavender flowers.

Photo of Russian sage plants.

David Beaulieu

Plant Taxonomy of Russian Sage:

Plant taxonomy classifies the Russian sage that I grow as Perovskia atriplicifolia. For a more rigidly upright type, grow the species, Perovskia longin.

Plant Type for Russian Sage:

Technically, Russian sage is classified as a woody sub-shrub. But because many people prune these bushes annually and thereby keep them relatively short, they are often treated as if they were perennial flowers.

Characteristics:

A graceful perennial with silver stems (so chalky in appearance they sometimes seem to be white) and feathery, silvery leaves, Russian sage plants (at maturity and/or if you don't prune it annually) can reach a height of 4 feet (with a spread of 3 feet) or greater. This bush produces panicles of small, bluish-lavender flowers from June through September, allowing us to group it loosely with the long-blooming perennials. The plant has fragrant foliage.

Planting Zones for Russian Sage Plants:

Indigenous to central Asia, Perovskia atriplicifolia can be grown in planting zones 5-9.

Sun and Soil Requirements for Russian Sage Plants:

Plant Perovskia atriplicifolia in full sun. These bushes grow best in well-drained ground.

Uses for Russian Sage:

Its fine texture makes Russian sage a good choice if you're seeking contrast with plants exhibiting a coarser texture. For examples of such contrasts in landscape design, see my pictures of how plant texture is used to good effect.

More generally, Perovskia atriplicifolia is used en masse in border plantings and -- because of its drought-tolerance -- in rock gardens.

If not overpowered by plants with larger, showier flowers, it can serve as a specimen plant.

Wildlife Attracted by Russian Sage Plants:

Russian sage plants attract hummingbirds and bees. They are also plants that attract butterflies. Like many aromatic plants, they are, fortunately, deer-resistant plants and unlikely to suffer from rabbit damage.

Pruning Russian Sage:

Some gardeners choose to prune Russian sage annually. The argument for pruning is that the plant will grow to be bushier as a result of this care.

When to prune Russian sage:

The time to prune Russian sage is early spring.

How to prune Russian sage:

Prune down to within a few inches of ground level.

One reason why spring is the best time to prune is that leaving the silver branches adds interest to the winter landscape.

Outstanding Features of Russian Sage:

Perovskia atriplicifolia is a drought-tolerant shrub, rendering it low-maintenance and a sound candidate for xeriscaping. Its long blooming period will be valued by those who seek a flower bed that remains in bloom throughout the growing season. Not to be outdone by its flowers, the plant's stems and foliage make a strong statement of their own, perhaps even outstripping the floral display as the chief reason to grow the bush.

Landscaping With Perovskia Atriplicifolia:

Russian sage plants, given their long-blooming nature and how tall they are, can be an excellent choice for the back row of a flower bed.

Plants that look great juxtaposed to Perovskia atriplicifolia and are commonly used as companion plants for it include:

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