Garden Photo of the Day

It’s Russian sage time!

Click to enlarge.
Photo/Illustration: Michelle Gervais

I visited a bunch of gardens in New Jersey a couple of weeks ago, and one of the most surprising was Colonial Park Gardens in Somerset. It was blazing sun by the time I got there, so these photos aren’t the greatest, but WOW, the Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia, USDA Hardiness Zones 6-9) was kicking! This garden relies on it heavily, and successfully. Check it out in a variety of settings.

Click to enlarge.
Photo/Illustration: Michelle Gervais

I’ve talked to a lot of people who have trouble growing Russian sage, saying that it doesn’t come back reliably for them year to year. I’ve also talked to a couple of people who say that the key is to wait until spring to cut back the dead foliage. What’s your experience?? Comment below…

Click to enlarge.
Photo/Illustration: Michelle Gervais
Click to enlarge.
Photo/Illustration: Michelle Gervais
Click to enlarge.
Photo/Illustration: Michelle Gervais


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  1. user-7006909 07/18/2011

    As your article states, I wait until spring to see how much Russian sage I should trim off from the previous year. It's easier to tell new growth from old or dying growth then, and my plant is currently flourishing (zone 7, North Carolina). It's situated in a warm microclimate, in front of a large rock in my front yard, and loves the hot dry weather we've been having.

  2. JulieBW 07/18/2011

    It is beautiful, drought and deer-proof. In fact, a border of Russian sage, yarrow, catmint, or lavender will discourage deer browsing.

  3. ncgardener 07/18/2011

    Those shots are beautiful! With the hot summer that we have been having a mixture like the one JulieBW described make so much sense. I had a portion of my front yard that the deer were using as an all you can eat deli.

  4. wildwoods 07/18/2011

    The prettiest russian sage I have seen is growing in morning sun next to a sidewalk at my friends yellow victorian house in WV

  5. mainer59 07/18/2011

    I saw a lot of Russian sage in the Montreal area a few years ago (especially at the Flora exposition) so it must be a lot hardier than zone 6. I grow it here in Maine (zone 5), but I find it is slow to establish. It looks better other places around here than it does at my house, so it may be one of those plants that prefers a particular habitat over others.

  6. User avater
    meander_michaele 07/18/2011

    I live in east Tn and Russian Sage is the gift that keeps on giving as far as I am concerned. I cut it back in the spring and then, after it's first flush of flowering starts to wane (late July/early Aug.), I cut it back again to get a beautiful fall swath of blue. It spreads and reseeds so I am never without volunteers to start new patches. Also, in late fall, if I can cut a stem and just poke it into the ground or in a pot with potting soil and it roots all on it's own.

  7. wwross 07/18/2011

    In Zone 7 in a sunny, drained bed, my Russian sage comes up and expands, but its floppy and takes much of the Summer before in blooms, and not that much.

    Any ideas?

  8. perennialgrdnr_z4b 07/18/2011

    I grow Perovskia in zone 4b, south central Wisconsin. It's perfectly hardy here, spreading by underground runners after awhile, and sprawling open at 3 to 4 feet tall before it blooms. I leave it overwinter for the interest that it provides along with the seedheads of ornamental grasses and upright sedums. I only cut it back in the spring after I see new growth showing at the base of the plant. I now am growing P. 'Little Spire' to see if it is a bit less sprawling in bloom, but I really like the cool color, and airy habit that Russian sage lends to the mid to late summer garden.

  9. sheilaschultz 07/18/2011

    Russian Sage is definitely happy in my Zone 5 Denver garden. I cut it back to about 8" to 10" in the early spring and by the beginning of July it is about 3' by 3' and flowering. It is a very carefree plant.

  10. bucksjd 07/18/2011

    I love your pictures of Russian sage. This plant has been really hardy in my central Ohio garden where we are pretty much Zone 5b. I do not do anything to it until spring when I am getting the beds prepared. I cut it back to about a foot high. This year, I was a little late working in this bed, so there was already new basal growth. I just lopped off the plant just above the new growth and it is looking great. A real winner in my garden!

  11. JardinDelSol 07/18/2011

    This is my all-time favorite desert garden plant, and I've got tons of it in my Zone 8 xeric garden. I could never grow them successfully in PA (too many trees - too much shade), but out here in the blast-furnace heat, alkaline/clay soil, and unrelenting sun of SW Utah, they not only flourish, but self-seed so much that I have to (very reluctantly) pull a few young 'uns out now and then. You are right, Michelle, photos do not do them justice. And like you, wildwoods, I think they look positively entrancing in the morning sun, especially next to the bright gold mounds of paperflowers (psilostrophe) that glow alongside them in our yard. As to care: I cut them back in winter (Jan) or early spring (Feb) after the finches have eaten all the seeds........ and that is it. I don't feed them, amend the soil, or do anything else. Many of my plants are irrigated every 3 days, but plenty of our perovskia volunteers are not watered at all...... they somehow find water nearby or deep down to steal (and many grow in the overspray from our tiny lawn). They are as tough as nails, as ethereal as moonlight, and I love them dearly. They even outshine lavender in my book, since our perovskias bloom from May until early December. Who could ask for more from any plant? Thanks for these photos, Michelle. They are gorgeous, and made my day.

  12. User avater
    dagmardweeb 07/19/2011

    Am growing this in 4b North of Peterborough Ontario. In a bed that gets full sun , could never grow it in Toronto as it was too shaded . Love it and Eryngium ‘Sapphire Blue’ , the colour is amazing

  13. kayce 07/19/2011

    I grow Russian Sage in Zone 7-8 in full sun. It is thriving! I wait till spring, when I see new shoots starting, to prune it back.

  14. 77355 07/19/2011

    Zone 8b : Ours thrives in a blisteringly sunny, hot bed that gets regular, light irrigation. I waited 'til spring to see which branches would come back and to shape its direction. Planted with red yucca, Fireman's Cap, oleander, Santolina, feather grass and, yes, Dusty Miller.

  15. DreamGardener 07/19/2011

    My experience has been that if the soil is too rich and/or acidic, that's the death knell for these beauties. I'm going to try 'em again, this time at the far side of the driveway in the unrelenting sun and - er - Lean soil. Wish me luck!

  16. littleloiee 07/21/2011

    I asked for help for my poor Star magnolia that got overly pruned by painters. Didn't anybody respond? Or is this just a one way blog?

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