Growing Russian Sage Plants: How To Care For Perovskia

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Russian Sage (aka Perovskia atriplicifolia) is a beautiful and useful herb. As the name implies, it is similar to the culinary sage in scent and appearance and shares some uses.

Like many herbs, it is a carefree herbaceous perennial plant; however, it stands out in appearance thanks to its striking silver-tinged, blue-green foliage.

flowering Russian Sage - Perovskia atriplicifolia - makes an impressive mass planting that can mimic hedges of lavender in both appearance and scentPin

This hardy plant is an excellent addition to your herb garden, and it also has many ornamental landscaping uses. In this article, we will discuss the care and uses of the Russian Sage plant. Read on to learn more.

Best Performing Russian Sage Varieties

Russian Sage is such a versatile plant that it is an excellent choice for any garden setting. Perovskia is equally at home as an ornamental grass in a rock garden, xeriscaped yard, perennial border, herb garden or themed garden. The Perovskia plant is native to India, Russia, Afghanistan and the foothills of central Asia.

Perovskia is highly adaptable and grows easily in many parts of the United States. It is rated as hardy in USDA Plant hardiness zones 4-9.

Here are just a few of the best performing cultivars:

  • Filigran stands two or three feet high and produces very delicate, lacy leaves topped by striking bright blue flowers. Blooms during mid summer, late summer, early fall and mid fall.
  • Blue Spire is a 3′-5′ feet tall, sturdy plant that produces interesting, attractive leaves and tubular flowers in a dark shade of purple. While others are already out, the blue spire plant will still be there with its blooms during late summer months.
  • Longin is a nice choice for formal gardens. It is very stiff and upright and presents a tidy appearance.
  • Superba is a beautiful cultivar with gorgeous blossoms of a blue/violet shade.
  • Blue Haze produces an abundance of attractive flowers in a pale blue shade.
  • Little Spire is a small cultivar that attains a height of only two feet.
  • Blue Mist is a lovely, mid-sized variety with pale blue flowers.

How To Plant Russian Sage

To be sure of success during the first year, it’s a good idea to start off with well-established, vigorous young plants – as opposed to starting from seeds. Established potted seedlings have a much better chance of survival than sprouts.

If you are not able to find established, potted specimens, seek out a fellow gardener who can supply you with some strong runners of this perennial plant you can pot.

Get them in the autumn and keep them indoors in pots through the winter. Acclimate and set them out in your garden after all danger of frost passes.

Getting Perovskia atriplicifolia Off To A Good Start

When choosing the right setting for this hardy, drought tolerant herb, plant in full sun. If you plant perovskia atriplicifolia in partial shade, your sage will be leggy and sickly and will fail to bloom.

Your soil does not need to be exceptionally rich, but a well-draining soil is essential. Russian sage grows in almost any soil type including poor soil.

During the first year after planting, you will need to water regularly to ensure your plants get off to a good start. After the first year, your watering chores will be reduced because the plant is quite drought tolerant when mature and well-established.

Adding mulch is a good idea as it helps make the most of the available water. Additionally, mulching with a good, organic compost is probably all the fertilization these herbs will ever need. They are not heavy feeders at all and will do quite well in average, well-drained soil with a top-dressing of good mulch.

It is classed as a “sub-shrub,” and produces new growth annually from its woody base where flowers emerge on the new growth. For best performance, leave the old growth through the winter and then cut it back early in the springtime.

Prune Effectively

To get the most use and the most flowers from Russian sage little spire, you should prune with pruners like these dramatically in the springtime. After the initial surge of growth, prune your plants to a height of ten inches. The best time to commence pruning is early in March. When new growth emerges following a good pruning, you will see lots of lovely blooms.

Depending on the cultivar, the perovskia plant will grow 2-5 feet high. It tends to spread to a width equal to its height. Energetic cutting in early spring will result in an abundance of blooms for a full fifteen weeks.

Although these plants can be a bit finicky to start, once established they are hardy outdoors all year round even in frigid settings. In areas that have mild winters, foliage will persist through the winter months.

In areas that freeze, stems and foliage will die back in the winter, but new growth will emerge from the roots in the springtime.

Enthusiastic pruning of the new growth in early spring will encourage it to grow in more thickly and to produce more blooms. It is a good idea to thin plants annually in the fall and/or spring to encourage healthier growth.

Control Spread

This herb spreads quite easily via runners. In fact, under optimum conditions, without control, it can become quite invasive. Prune underground runners early in the spring and again in the autumn.

You can transplant runners to share with others or discard them. Be advised if you toss them into your compost heap; they very likely will take root. If you want to dispose of them, set them out with the trash or burn them.


Replanting runners is a simple matter. Look for hearty ones with generous, strong roots. Cut them clear of the parent plant using sharp scissors, knife or pruning shears like these favorites. Replant the cuttings into small pots using a compost mix lightened with perlite or vermiculite for good aeration and drainage.

Landscaping With Russian Sage

When the Russian sage grows freely, this beautiful plant can attain a height of two-to-five feet. Its final height depends upon care, conditions and the particular cultivar. If left to its own devices, tall varieties of Russian Sage may tend to sprawl. This quality makes it a nice plant to use at the edge of containers for a “spilling” effect.

As an ornamental plant, it is quite beautiful when used as a counterpoint to plants blooming in shades of white, pink and/or yellow. Contrasting it with other tall, dramatic flowers such as Tiger Lilies and Sunflowers is an excellent idea.

Russian sage makes an impressive mass planting that can mimic hedges of lavender in both appearance and scent. It also makes a beautiful backdrop for shorter, smaller flowering plants. To create an attractive border with Russian Sage, select a smaller cultivar (e.g. Little Spire).

Another excellent use for this aromatic and beautiful herb is butterfly gardening. Bees and butterflies flock to it, and it can provide them sustenance late into the autumn.

Russian Sage Repels Pests

This tough perennial herb is naturally resistant to disease and pests. It is not bothered by insects, nor eaten by rabbits and is considered deer resistant.

Russian Sage Uses

Russian Sage is vaguely related to the culinary sage as both types of the mint family; however, this plant is somewhat different than the Salvia plant.

While used in some medicinal and culinary applications, its best value comes as an ornamental plant. As a shrub, it makes an excellent foundation plant. Because it comes in a variety of sizes and shades and does well in wide-ranging types of soil and climates, its gardening and landscaping uses are many and varied.

As a culinary herb, Russian Sage does have some possible applications, but its flavor is quite a bit stronger than culinary sage, so it cannot simply be substituted. Proceed with some caution when using this plant in the kitchen as its enthusiastically robust flavor can be overpowering.

This fragrant herb is very useful in preparing aromatic concoctions for household cleaning. It is also an excellent choice for creating beautiful, sweet smelling flower arrangements. The edible flowers can be tossed in salads as-is, and the strong tasting leaves can be chopped and/or dried for careful use as a seasoning or as a medicinal tea.

Russian Sage In Natural Medicines

In herbal concoctions for healing, Russian Sage has long been valued for soothing upset tummies, reducing fever and helping alleviate symptoms of cold and flu. Here are a few ideas you may wish to try – after consulting your health care professional, of course!

Tummy Soother

If you are suffering from indigestion, try steeping one tablespoon of fresh or one teaspoon of dried Russian Sage leaves in eight ounces of very hot water for fifteen minutes to half an hour. You can flavor the tea with honey if you wish and drink it hot, warm or cold. It may bring some relief to upset stomach, indigestion and/or diarrhea.

To Reduce Fever

Prepare tea as described above (omitting honey) and allow it to cool thoroughly. Use the tea to soak a washcloth. Wring out the excess and apply the cool, damp cloth to your forehead to help bring your temperature down. This treatment also delivers a soothing dose of aromatherapy.

Reduce Symptoms Of Cold and/or Flu

The aromatherapy effects of Russian Sage can also be helpful in soothing your stuffy nose and sore throat. Additionally, inhaling steam produced by a strong brew of this strong-scented herb can help clear mucus from your chest and throat.

To use the herb in this manner, put a generous amount of dried or fresh Russian Sage leaves into a pot of boiling water. Allow the water to boil for 3-5 minutes and then remove it from the heat. Cover your head with a towel or other large cloth and lean over the strong, hot steaming brew. Inhale deeply to reap the benefits of the herb for your nose, throat and lungs.

Does The Herb Have Real Medicinal Value?

During the mid-latter 20th century quite a bit of wisdom regarding herbal medicine was labeled as useless “old wives tales”. Today many scientific studies are proving that these old “myths” were actually true and quite useful.

This knowledge of the efficacy of herbal treatments is good news, and it should also act as a caution for us. When we believe that herbal treatments are ineffective, we may tend to disregard the potential danger of using them. Now that we understand the effectiveness of some herbal remedies, we know that herbal treatments must be used properly and with care.

You should never use an herbal remedy instead of seeking proper medical care; however, the marriage of modern medicine and herbal treatment can be a very happy and successful one. Talk with your health care professional about adding Russian Sage remedies and other natural remedies to your health and personal care routines.

Russian Sage Care

With lots of full sun, well-drained soil and consistent mulching, you can’t go wrong with Russian Sage. This versatile plant tolerates a wide range of soil types.

The main thing to remember is that water-logging will cause root rot. When you prepare your bed prior to planting, be sure to dig it deep and fill it with loose, light, well-aerated soil. Remember to keep the soil moist (not soggy) during the first year. After that, you can enjoy the ease of care that comes with a sturdy, drought tolerant perennial plant.

The fact that this plant is so versatile is quite fortunate since it does tend to multiply and spread with great abandon once established. Consider using your runners to create attractive container planting arrangements. Dry the leaves to create herbal teas. Use the flowers and leaves for sachets. Pot the runners to share with your gardening friends.

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