- Author: Polly Nelson
- Editor: Noni Todd
By Polly Nelson UCCE Master Gardener
Common Name: Russian Sage
Scientific name: Perovskia
Planting area: Sunset zones 2-24
Size: 3-5 ft tall, 2–4-ft spread
Bloom Season: Summer to fall
Exposure: Full sun
Pruning needs: Annually to stimulate new growth
Water needs: Low, once established
Snapshot: Russian sage may look like a California native sage, but it has its origins in western and central Asia. It is a member of the Lamiaceae (mint) family and is a woody perineal shrub that blooms in summer and into fall. Green whorled leaves grow at the lower end of a square stem, topped with spires of delicate tubular flowers growing in shades of light blue to purple. The blooms do not have an obvious scent, but the fragrance of crushed leaves in your hand is heady.
Full sun is essential; if insufficient, the blooms will not stand upright, and the plant will sprawl. Russian sage grows in most soils, tolerating even poor soil, if well-draining. Planting in the fall is ideal. Plant 2-3 feet apart in a garden bed, or closer together to create low-lying hedges or to concentrate color, such as in a meadow. It can be grown in large containers if water is sufficient.
Water 2-3 times per week when initially planted during the first year (in the absence of rain), then reduce to weekly for in-ground plants. Overwatering will lead to root rot. In containers, the water needs will be greater, and can be monitored based on soil needs and outside temperatures.
Cut back down to two inches high in late winter or early spring to make room for new growth. Fertilize after pruning. Use a slow-release 5-10-5 fertilizer around the base of the plant and scratching it into the soil. Apply according to label instructions.
Propagation from seeds can be done any time of the year. Simply cover seeds lightly with soil and keep damp until roots are established. Collect softwood cuttings in late spring or semi-ripe cuttings in summer to propagate with stem cuttings. Monitor your plants for unwanted spreading over time.
If you are looking for a plant that requires little care and thrives where other plants will not, the Russian sage plant may be for you!
Our Advice to Grow By Workshops are back!!!
Our next workshop will be Saturday October 15th, 2022, at 10:00 to 12:00 p.m. in our Seven Sisters demonstration garden at 2156 Sierra Way, San Luis Obispo. The topic will be “Soil Improvements for the Home Garden”. Register at http://ucanr.edu/atgbsoil
You can also view workshops on Instagram live at slo mg or visit our You Tube channel at “San Luis Obispo County UC Master Gardeners.”
Our physical offices are now open!!!!!
Covid may still affect staffing levels, so it is best to call before heading to your local Helpline office:
San Luis Obispo: 805-781-5939 (Monday and Thursday 1:00 to 5:00)
Arroyo Grande: 805-473-7190 (Wednesday 10:00 to 12:00)
Templeton: 805-434-4105 (Wednesday 9:00 to 12:00)