Pruning russian sage in summer

Planting Russian Sage

Turn heads toward your perennial gardens by planting Russian sage in the mix. This drought-tolerant perennial dresses up the summer and fall garden with a haze of purple flowers atop grey-green leaves on silver-white stems. It’s a looker from midsummer to fall frost. There are some tricks to planting Russian sage that will help the plant establish in your garden.
Start with your planting spot. Russian sage needs full sun to perform its best. Give it a little shade, and plants tend to flop open as stems stretch for sunlight. Choose a location with hot, intense sun, even as hot as the space between sidewalk and street or a strip along a driveway. Russian sage likes sun and heat.
When planting Russian sage, consider two things this beauty doesn’t like: high humidity and soil that stays soggy in winter. Choose a planting spot with well-drained average soil or alkaline, dry soil. Russian sage adapts well to either soil type. If soil is too fertile, plants tend to become loose and floppy. In this case, insert hoop stakes or use stakes and string to prop stems.
Look for containers of Russian sage at your favorite plant shopping spot. Although you can tackle planting Russian sage from early spring to six weeks before frost, the ideal time is in late spring. At this point, soil is warm and plants should start growing quickly. If you wind up planting Russian sage further into summer, be sure to keep soil moist as young plants establish.
Russian sage is drought-tolerant once established, but plants need water until root systems have had a chance to sink deeply into soil. It’s a good idea to water Russian sage during its first growing season to encourage a deep, extensive root system.
Transplanting established Russian sage can be tricky. Dig a large perimeter around the plant, taking as much soil and root system with you as you can. The plant will likely go into shock after transplanting and could take a few months to come out of it. The best time to move Russian sage is in early spring. Wait until soil is warm in coldest regions. Cut stems back by two-thirds prior to moving the plant. Keep the transplant well-watered until you see new growth; then gradually decrease water.
Planting Russian sage is even more fun when you incorporate it into a perennial garden design that features other plants with strong summer and fall colors. Russian sage blends beautifully with ornamental grasses, like switch grass (Panicum virgatum), purple love grass (Eragrostis spectabilis), feather reed grass (Calamagrostis acutiflora) and ‘Morning Light’ miscanthus (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’).
Other great perennial partners for Russian sage include joe-pye weed (Eupatorium maculatum), gaura (Gaura lindheimeri), sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale), rattlesnake master (Eryngium yuccifolium) and goldenrod (Solidago rugosa ‘Fireworks’). Like all of these perennial flowers, Russian sage also attracts butterflies and a variety of pollinating insects. Use Russian sage as part of butterfly or wildlife gardens.

True-blue flowers are hard to come by, even more so late in the year when that crystal-clear autumnal light dramatises every colour.

Perovskia atriplicifolia ‘Blue Spire’ provides a rare infusion of violet-blue from late summer into October, and the spires of bee-friendly flowers are softened by finely cut aromatic leaves set on a branching silver-white frame.

This striking silhouette, about 120cm (4ft) high, will persist throughout winter and several grouped together (or arranged in a convoy) will glow in low winter light. There is no other plant that conjures up such an enduring white skeleton of finely branched verticals.

For this reason alone it is worth planting P. atriplicifolia in a place where it can shine. Although commonly known as Russian sage, the seven known species of this plant are not native to Russia but grow in an area stretching from Iran to India on open, well-drained, rock-strewn ground.

The plant was named after V A Perovski, a Russian general who was famous for leading his army into Afghanistan during the winter of 1837 and probably saw it growing on his campaign trail.

The Russian soldiers may well have used the plant as a medicine to treat fevers, as the local people still do today. P. atriplicifolia was introduced into Britain in 1904 and quickly won favour with William Robinson (1838-1935), the eminent Irish gardener and writer who was friendly with Gertrude Jekyll.

He described it as being “worth a place in the choicest garden for its graceful habit and long season of beauty.” Notcutt’s named and launched ‘Blue Spire’ in the early 1960s, and this superior form, which is widely available, is thought to be a hybrid of P. abrotanoides and P. atriplicifolia.

How to Grow

Although it looks as though it will tolerate very hot, dry positions and is invariably presented as a drought-tolerant plant, my own experiences with P. atriplicifolia tell me otherwise. I have found that it fails in very dry, hot spots on poor soil and prefers ordinary well-drained ground, especially gritty alluvial loam.

I have seen magnificent specimens thriving in the Vale of Evesham and close to the River Severn and it seems that, like many other plants of high altitude, perovskia needs a cool root run. It will also grow well incoastal gardens. An open, sunny, airy situation in well-drained ordinary soil is also critical for this plant, so that it will develop a stiff, clean-cut skeleton.

Perovskia atriplicifolia ‘Blue Spire’ Credit: Marianne Majerus

You can then enjoy three months of flower, followed by six months of pale winter sculpture. Never feed it — this will only encourage it to flop. Leave plants intact in the autumn so that you can enjoy their winter presence.

Cut them back hard to the new shoots at the base in early to mid-April every year. This will keep the plant compact and make it long-lived. Cuttings root easily from pieces that have been pulled away from the main plant in summer. Plunge into horticultural sand or a half-and-half mixture of compost and sand. Pot up in the following spring.

Good companions

For winter effect, grow perovskia in front of red-stemmed dogwoods to create a sharp mixture of red and silver-white. There are green, golden and variegated forms of Cornus alba, a robust red-stemmed dogwood that suckers. ‘Sibirica’ has plain green-leaves, ‘Spaethii” has golden variegated leaves and ‘Aurea’ starts off gold and matures to green.

The cool cream and green variegated leaves of Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’ tend to flatter the violet-blue flowers better than the other varieties. Cornus sericea ‘Flaviramea’, a dogwood with shiny olive-green stems, would also make a fine backdrop.

It produces lots of stems from ground level and these can be cut back hard in late spring to encourage vibrant new growth. You could also try twiggy-stemmed dogwoods, which have lots of tiny stems radiating from a single trunk. These twiggier cornus only need tidying up in spring: you should never prune them severely. Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ will provide a bonfire of orange and red twigs to enhance the cool white perovskia stems.

Perovskias can be planted in sunny, open borders among lavenders, salvias and artemisias. The lemon-yellow daisies of Anthemis ‘Tetworth’, dark penstemons and rich-purple verbenas (such as V. rigida and V. bonariensis) will also set off the blue flowers.

Their stiff vertical shape can be useful with late-season prairie planting — among echinaceas for instance. The dark echinacea cones look even more dramatic seen against the silver-white skeletons.

Where to buy

Sampford Shrubs, Sampford Peverell, Tiverton, Devon (01884 821164;samshrub.co.uk).

Cotswold Garden Flowers, Sands Lane, Badsey, Worcestershire (01386 833849;cgf.net).

Russian Sage

Russian Sage

With its tall wispy wands of lavender or blue flowers and grey-green silvery foliage, Russian sage, a hardy perennial, is a great addition to a garden as it can act as a specimen plant or provide great contrast to other plants with its texture and color.

genus name
  • Perovskia atriplicifolia
light
  • Sun
plant type
  • Perennial
height
  • 3 to 8 feet
width
  • from 2 to 3 feet
flower color
  • Blue
foliage color
  • Gray/Silver
season features
  • Fall Bloom,
  • Summer Bloom
problem solvers
  • Deer Resistant,
  • Drought Tolerant,
  • Good For Privacy
special features
  • Low Maintenance,
  • Attracts Birds,
  • Fragrance,
  • Good for Containers,
  • Cut Flowers
zones
  • 4,
  • 5,
  • 6,
  • 7,
  • 8,
  • 9
propagation
  • Division,
  • Seed,
  • Stem Cuttings

Garden Plans For Russian Sage

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Colorful Combinations

The flowers themselves are actually very small bluish purple in color with a four lobed upper petal and a smaller lower petal. The blooms have darker markings from the upper petal into the tube. Inside the tube is a clean white color. Often what seems like the flowers on Russian sage are actually the calyx,a tube that protects the flowers from damage before they bloom. In the case of the Russian sage, the calyx is covered in coarse white hairs and are also a lavender blue in color. These are held on the plant for quite awhile and help to add to the overall floral display.

In addition to its blossoms, it is worth growing Russian sage for the silver-green foliage. Depending on the location of the plant, where the foliage is borne, and the variety, the leaf edges may have a serrated or wavy edge. All parts of the Russian sage plant are quite fragrant when rubbed or crushed. Some people describe it as a sage-like smell, sometimes mixed with lavender scents as well.

Learn how to stake and train Russian Sage in your garden.

Russian Sage Care Must-Knows

Maintenance of Russian sage is fairly minimal. It thrives in full sun. It is important to cut the foliage and stems back almost all the way to the soil in early spring, but leaving a few inches of growth above ground level. If the plants seem to be getting too large, or falling over, remove the top 1/3 of the plant to encourage denser branching and a new flush of growth. Plant Russian sage fairly densely as other plants provide support.

See more drought-tolerant plant options here.

New Innovations

Initially, when Russian sage was first brought to market, there were very few options as far as varieties. Most all of the available plants were seed grown. This led to varying degrees of color. Seed-grown plants are generally open pollinated, so you can have genetics from a variety of plants, especially when they come from many different growers. Now, there are many named varieties where all of the plants are genetically identical. This results in a uniform look and creates better landscaping.

Get your guide to hardy perennials like Russian Sage here.

More Varieties of Russian Sage

‘Blue Spires’ Russian sage

‘Blue Spires’ is a vegetatively produced variety featuring deep blue flowers on a tidier habit than the straight species. Zones 4-9.

Plant Russian Sage With:

Phlox are one of those bounteous summer flowers any large sunny flowerbed or border shouldn’t be without. There are several different kinds of phlox. Garden and meadow phlox produce large panicles of fragrant flowers in a wide assortment of colors. They also add height, heft, and charm to a border. Low-growing wild Sweet William, moss pinks, and creeping phlox are effective as ground covers, at the front of the border, and as rock and wild garden plants, especially in light shade. These native gems have been hybridized extensively especially to toughen the foliage against mildew problems; many recent selections are mildew-resistant. Phlox need amply moist soil for best overall health.

Daylilies are so easy to grow you’ll often find them growing in ditches and fields, escapees from gardens. And yet they look so delicate, producing glorious trumpet-shape blooms in myriad colors. In fact, there are some 50,000 named hybrid cultivars in a range of flower sizes (the minis are very popular), forms, and plant heights. Some are fragrant.The flowers are borne on leafless stems. Although each bloom lasts but a single day, superior cultivars carry numerous buds on each scape so bloom time is long, especially if you deadhead daily. The strappy foliage may be evergreen or deciduous.Shown above: ‘Little Grapette’ daylily

Add a pool of sunshine to the garden with a massed planting of black-eyed Susan. From midsummer, these tough native plants bloom their golden heads off in sun or light shade and mix well with other perennials, annuals, and shrubs. Tall varieties look especially appropriate among shrubs, which in turn provide support. Add black-eyed Susans to wildflower meadows or native plant gardens for a naturalized look. Average soil is sufficient for black-eyed Susans, but it should be able to hold moisture fairly well.

Brightly colored butterfly weed is a butterfly magnet, attracting many kinds of butterflies to its colorful blooms. Monarch butterfly larvae feed on its leaves but seldom harm this native plant. It is slow to emerge in the spring, so mark its location to avoid accidental digging before new growth starts. If you don’t want it to spread, deadhead faded blooms before seedpods mature. It is sometimes called milkweed because it produces a milky sap when cut.

Russian Sage, Perovskia atriplicifolia

Neither truly Russian nor a sage, Perovskia atriplicifolia holds its own when it comes to being a trustworthy, drought-tolerant shrub useful in a variety of sun-filled landscape designs. In 1995, Russian sage received the Perennial Plant of the Year award, and rightly so. If you have ever grown this plant, you will agree that it posses numerous lovable merits. And if you are new to the scene, please let me introduce you two.

Keep reading to learn more about this well-deserving shrub:

Above: Echinacea varieties and hazy purple Perovskia atriplicifolia (Russian sage) mingle in designer Piet Oudolf’s garden at Hummelo. Photograph courtesy of My Garden School.

Native to Central Asian countries, and named in honor of the Russian General V.A. Pokorski, Russian sage is a member of the illustrious mint family, and like other mint family members, the woody stems and leaves are very aromatic. Russian sage, as the second half of the name hints, smells similar to crushed sage—though is not recommended for cooking. But back to the mint family. Mints like to spread, and Russian sage can attempt world domination if given the right opportunity, so take this as a polite warning.

Above: Photograph by Marie Viljoen.

Russian sage exudes elegant wispy wands of lavender blue flowers from finely-textured silvery green leaves. This hardy and airy beauty blooms from summer to fall, and does an excellent job filling in the empty spaces or acting as that sometimes much needed vertical element. Tip: plant in clusters (en masse) for intensification of its presence and to provide much-needed neighbor support to avoid the possible and inevitable floppiness. Russian sage, due to its fragrant nature, is predictably resilient to deer, rabbits, and other smaller creatures. The one possible downside is that Russian sage is deciduous, but you two will be happily reunited in the spring.

Above: After new construction left stone rubble in its wake, garden designer James Basson used the old stone to make terrace walls and planted hardy perennials, such as Russian sage, capable of thriving in the dry, rocky conditions. See more in 10 Garden Ideas to Steal from Provence.

Cheat Sheet

  • Russian sage attracts butterflies and bees and is dramatic as an unsung cut flower.
  • Combines perfectly with other low water plants like lavender, sedum, and ornamental grasses, even pairs nicely with bold leafed succulents like large agaves and aloes.
  • At home in deer-visited, Mediterranean themed gardens, Russian sage also fits in with xeriscapes, hillsides, and rock landscapes.

Above: For more of this garden, see Rehab Diaries: The Resurrection of a Medieval Nobleman’s Garden. Photograph by Dario Fusaro via Cristiana Ruspa

Keep It Alive

  • Site Russian sage in a sunny spot with well-draining soil. Dislikes soggy sites. Water weekly to encourage deep roots. Successfully grown in USDA zones 5 to 9.
  • Vigorous growth from 3 to 4 feet tall and wide.
  • Low maintenance and zero fertilizer needed. Prune low (several inches above ground level) in the very early spring to promote dense growth and prolific bloom. Also, after waiting a few months you will be rewarded with silvery interest during the stark winter scene.

See more growing tips in Russian Sage: A Field Guide to Planting, Care & Design. Read more in our curated Garden Design 101 guides:

  • Perennials: A Field Guide for Planting, Care & Design
  • Garden Design: Learning to Plant the Piet Oudolf Way

Russian Sage Edible?
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Rick Berger
Posted on: July 11, 2007
I recently planted Russian sage in my perennial garden. It looks nice, but is it edible?
Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) is a distant relation to the true garden sage (Salvia officinalis) commonly used in cooking — both are aromatic and both belong to the same family of plants, the Lamiaceae, but that’s where the similarity ends.
Frankly, before you posed your question, I had always thought of Russian sage only as an aromatic plant useful in potpourris. However, according to the “Plants for a Future Database”, Russian sage is listed as edible, as the “small lavender flowers have a sweet flavour and can be eaten in salads or used as a garnish.” I have not tried the flowers but they sound they could be a fun addition to summer salads. As always, when trying a new ingredient, it is wise to exercise caution, adding small amounts until you are sure that there are no adverse effects. Plants that do not have a long history of use can present unexpected risks to some individuals such as allergic reactions. Even if the new ingredient seems safe you can never rule out the possibility that there are long term negative implications to health, such as cancer. If you choose to use it, use it in moderation.

Russian Sage Care: Tips For Growing Russian Sage Plant

Admired for its silvery gray, fragrant foliage as much as its lavender-purple flowers, Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) makes a bold statement in the garden. The abundant, spiky clusters of flowers bloom from late spring until autumn, almost completely obscuring the leaves. Use Russian sage as a ground cover for open areas or as a specimen plant. Learning how to grow Russian sage plants is easy, as is Russian sage care. It prefers very dry conditions, making it an ideal plant for xeriscaping.

How to Grow Russian Sage

Russian sage is hardy in USDA plant hardiness Zones 5 through 10. Choose a location with very well-drained soil of average fertility in full sun. Growing Russian sage in partly shaded locations may cause the plants to sprawl.

Set out new plants in early spring, spacing them 2 to 3 feet apart. Water the plants occasionally during dry spells until they are established and growing. If you would like to apply mulch around the plants, gravel is a better choice than organic mulch because it allows better moisture evaporation.

Russian Sage Care

Watering care for Russian sage plants is minimal. In fact, Russian sage thrives in dry soil and rarely needs watering once established.

Scatter a handful of general-purpose fertilizer or a shovelful of compost around each plant every other year in late fall.

North of USDA Zone 6, provide a 2-inch layer of pine needles over winter and remove them in spring when new growth emerges.

While allowing the stems and seed pods to remain in the garden until spring creates winter interest, if you prefer a tidier appearance, you can cut the stems back to a foot above the ground.

Spring and summer care for Russian sage consists mainly of pruning. When new spring growth emerges, cut the old stems back to just above the lowest set of leaves. If the plant begins to spread open or sprawl in late spring or summer, shear off the top one-third of the stems to encourage upright growth. Remove the top half of the stems if the plant stops blooming in summer. This encourages new growth and a fresh flush of flowers.

Propagate Russian sage plants by dividing the clumps or taking cuttings in spring. Dividing the clumps every four to six years reinvigorates the plants and helps to control their spread.

Are you looking for a plant that survives freezing winters and scorching summers, is drought tolerant, blooms all summer, and attracts bees and butterflies? Look no further, because it’s right here…Russian Sage. Its botanical name is Perovskia atriplicofolia. This tough beauty is originally from the region around Afghanistan, and it is one hardy (zones 4 through 9), gorgeous plant. But it’s not really Russian, and it’s not really sage either…

Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicofolia) is one of my absolute favorite perennials. It is completely different from culinary sage (Salvia officinalis) and you do not cook with it. It is a member of the mint family (Lamiaceae) but is not generally considered edible. (If you smell it you will know why. It smells rather medicinal.) It is considered an herbaceous perennial. It is tough as nails once it gets established, and blooms nonstop midsummer to fall. I have it in my front flower bed with my Red Double Knockout roses; full sun, facing east, in a very well drained raised brick bed. This is a photo taken in late June.

It grows to a tall (around three feet) airy shrub with delicate gray-green leaves with tall spikes of tiny purple/blue flowers. It really is stunning. The bees love it too.

If it gets too tall for you or starts to flop over, just give it a trim and it will recover and be blooming again in just a few weeks.

Maintenance on this is super easy, I just give it a very hard pruning (to about 6 inches tall) in the late winter. If I find a plant in a spot where I don’t want it, I have the best luck moving them in winter while they are dormant. I have killed a few (ok, many) transplants during their active growing season. My gardening style is best described as “benign neglect” so this is an ideal plant for me.

When I first planted three of them behind my roses, the plant instructions said they rarely reseeded. Well, I beg to differ…I had dozens of tiny baby Perovskia coming up in the bed the next spring. Most of them were in desirable places so I let them be. I don’t really consider them invasive, but if I left them alone they would definitely take over the bed. This winter I have been able to share some of my extras with a couple of friends. Since that first season, they aren’t reseeding so much as rooting from flopped stems and spreading by runners, as mints will do. This year I will try some pinching back early in the season to see if I can reduce the flop factor. They get more water than they really need since they are in with my roses that are watered fairly regularly. That combined with their eastern exposure is causing them to be “floppy”.

To keep these happy plant in full sun in well-drained soil. Cut down almost to the ground in late winter or early spring, as they bloom on new wood. They are pretty drought tolerant once established.

Below is a photo of Russian Sage used as a tall bedding plant at MS&T in Rolla, Missouri. This was taken in late June.

Here’s a closer look at the flowers tucked behind some four o’clocks…

I highly recommend this plant if you have a well-drained spot for it. It won’t disappoint!

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Russian sage is a fantastic plant for us on Nantucket, having all the qualities we look for in a great perennial:

  • It’s hardy, overwintering easily without any special coddling needed from the gardener
  • It performs best in the lean, sandy soil that most of us have on the island.
  • It’s aromatic grey green foliage has just enough fuzz to make it very deer resistant
  • It has a long season of interest, looking great from June through October
  • It flowers for a very long time in mid to late summer, when seasonal residents are on the island.
  • Its lacy leaves, blue flowers and open habit make it quite versatile in the landscape. It can be added to perennial gardens, makes a dramatic mass planting and pairs extremely well with ornamental grasses.

Although many of us have been taught to leave Russian sage standing and prune it in spring, I’ve also had perfect results pruning it in fall, when I cut down my spent perennials. Just be sure to wait until it is dormant, preferably after a frost.

Objectives for pruning Russian Sage are: Removing dead twigs, removing broken or damaged branches, stimulating strong growth from a balanced framework of stems that will flower the following summer.

Follow these steps to prune Russian Sage while dormant:

  1. Cut back all growth from the past season to healthy buds, within 6-8 inches from the soil.
  2. Remove any dead branches as well as broken or damaged wood.
  3. Remove any skinny twigs incapable of supporting strong new branches next season
  4. If possible, cut back a few of the oldest stems close to the soil, to encourage strong young shoots to replace the older ones.

Russian Sage before pruning

Now that we know the right way to prune Russian Sage, I’ll let you in on a little secret. This plant is extremely forgiving; most landscapers on the island use the “Hair Cut” method of pruning. Just gather up the twigs in one hand and prune them all off evenly with the other. Or, if you prefer, take to them with your hedge trimmers! New growth next summer will quickly cover any dead twigs remaining.

Russian sage in full bloom in August

Russian sage is a beautiful plant that has gorgeous purple flower spikes in July and August. Not only is Russian sage attractive, it’s extremely drought tolerant. It makes a fabulous low maintenance addition to Colorado landscapes. It’s also pretty commonly used.

How should you cut Russian sage back in the spring? Be sure to watch my video that shows you the two best methods to prune Russian sage in spring.

Keep in mind it’s a “subshrub,” meaning the top half of each stem dies back each year, but the bottom part of each stem lives through the winter. This can make the whole process a little confusing.

Option one for bold people

Cut all the stems to the ground. This is my favorite option for mature Russian sage plants located at elevations under 7,000 feet. It helps keep the plant fresh-looking and clean, since all the old growth is removed. If the stems are left intact for years, they become grey, old, overly woody and ultimately unsightly. Removing all that growth makes a plant more symmetrical and mounded in its shape. Be sure to cut the stems as close as you can to ground level. Don’t leave any stubs. The new stems will be light grey and supple.

Cutting Russian sage back to the ground usually doesn’t affect the flowering time much. It might be a week later than normal, but the effect on flowering is almost unnoticeable. The flowers will be normal size, with the plant producing the normal amount (or even more).

Don’t worry about injuring these plants with this method. These plants are adapted to periodic fire, so they regenerate perfectly well from the crown. If you’re worried about the results, simply try this method on one plant. Then you can judge the results for yourself. If it works, you can do more the following year.

Option two for more conservative folks

If you’re worried about injuring the plant, you can take a more moderate approach. Step back and mentally divide the height of the plant into thirds. With each stem, cut off two thirds of last year’s growth, leaving a third of the original height in place. For example, if the plant was four tall at the end of last summer, cut each stem to 18 inches tall or so. This method ensures you cut off all the old growth, but you leave the live portion of the stems.

Taking a more conservative approach guarantees that Russian sage will grow to its full height and flower right when you expect it. This is also a good approach for plants were recently transplanted and haven’t reached their full size.

Option three for high elevation areas

If you live above 7,000 feet in elevation, cutting all the stems to the ground may not work that well. The plant will spend a long time growing new stems. By mid-summer, the plant will be shorter than normal and bloom later, or may not bloom at all before the growing season is over.

Instead of taking such a drastic approach, wait until the new leaves start to come out in May. Then simply cut off the dead portion on each stem. Clip right above a newly emerging leaf. After you cut off all the dead material, step back and notice how symmetrical the plant is. Trim back irregular height stems in order to make a nice, mounded plant.

Don’t do nothing

If you leave Russian sage alone, it won’t look attractive. The new growth that emerges this year will grow into the old, dead material from last year. The flowers will be obscured by all the dead stalks, and the whole plant will have a brown-grey cast. Instead, choose one of the three options, take action and look forward to a beautiful plant in the middle of the summer.

Feel free to alternate between different methods each year. It’s perfectly fine to rejuvenate a Russian sage shrub that’s several years old by cutting it to the ground. You can then be more conservative the following year, then cut it to the ground again some time in the future.

To see how the different pruning methods affect Russian sage plants in June, click here. If you’re wondering when to prune, check out this post on fall versus spring pruning.

(Answer)

Although some gardeners cut back their Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) plants in the fall, it is better to leave the plant over the winter and cut them back in the spring. This provides winter interest in your garden. It may also protect the plant in a particularly hard winter as it holds the snow in place and gives insulation.

In the spring, just as the buds are breaking, cut back the stems. There are two choices at this point. You can give your Russian sage a hard prune to just above ground level. New shoots will emerge and flower. Alternatively, you can cut each stem back to at least where the new growth has begun – look for emerging buds. The stem above that point is deadwood and will not develop leaves or flowers. With this pruning you can also prune for shape, getting rid of particularly long branches, or to develop that shape of the plant that you are looking for. While the latter option means that you will start in the spring with a plant with longer stems; it is a more complicated pruning job.

Companion Plants for Russian Sage

I have 16 Russian sage coming in. Would oriental lilies be a good companion plant, maybe the dwarf varieties or should I really go with something else?

Lilies would be a nice partner for the Russian Sage. If you are growing the straight species of Russian sage it can be 5 or 6 feet tall. Tall lilies can be equal in height or taller. Check the height listed in the catalogue or on the tags. Dwarf just means shorter than the straight species so a dwarf lily may still be 4 or more feet tall. You might want to add a few more plants for added interest. Blue willow amsonia (Amsonia) is a nice plant. Blue flowers, narrow leaves and yellow fall color. It would look nice in front of the lilies. A few peonies for spring bloom or shrub roses for year round interest would also make nice companions. Add a mildew resistant garden phlox for additional summer bloom. I like to visit botanical gardens throughout the season to get ideas for my garden and others. These are good places for evaluating what you like and how it would fit into your landscape.

Perovskia ‘Blue Spire’

I have a group of Perovskia Blue Spire plants in a sunny gravel garden. They flowered well last summer and are now just silver stems with no sign yet of any new growth. when should I expect new green growth to start appearing? In the meantime I have not pruned any of the silver stems as I do not know if they should be cut down?

gardenlover

2017-02-21

Hello there In the spring, say about March I would cut the plants back to a framework approx 30-45cm above ground. This will help to encourage bushier growth. As these are later flowering plants they can be quite late to show any new shoots.

2017-02-22 All my Perovskia stems have turned silver during the winter, and there is no new growth coming through yet. I have not cut any stems down. When should I expect new growth?

gardenlover

2017-02-18

Hello, These are late-summer flowering, so I would not expect them to be showing any signs of life for another couple of months. You shoud however cut them back in March.

2017-02-24

Helen

Any reason why myplants are not flowering? Hello. I have some plants that seem to be happy and growing well but aren’t flowering- two Fuchsias, a Crambe cordiflora, and a Geranium ‘Buxton’s blue’. Even those that are flowering are a bit rubbish – a Perovskia ‘Blue Spire’ and some Verbena bonariensis have produced some flowers but not many. What can I do to improve flowering – is there a particular feed or fertiliser I should use? The soil is dense london clay, but the garden is not shady, but nor is it in full sun. It is quite sheltered. Many thanks, Robert

Robert Wilne

2009-07-26

Hello There, There are a number of reasons why plants don’t flower including too much shade, not enough water or nutrients, or pruning at the wrong time of the year. It can also be caused by the plant putting on new root growth instead of focusing its energies on producing flowers. I am not really sure why yours has not produced buds, but you can often give them a bit of a push by feeding with a high potash fertiliser. I hope this helps. Helen Plant Doctor

2009-07-27

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