Featuring clouds of tiny light blue flowers on spikes and finely dissected, fragrant, gray-green leaves, Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) works well for perennial borders, mixed borders, wildlife gardens and other landscape areas. This drought-tolerant, woody-based perennial is hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 9, and grows 3 to 5 feet tall and 2 to 4 feet wide. Its two-lipped, tubular flowers appear in summer through fall.
Russian sage gives the garden a hazy background of blooms over a long period in perennial borders. Plant Russian sage toward the back of the border, where it adds height and doesn't screen smaller plants. Plants at the front and sides of Russian sage help provide support, as this plant often flops. Pink-flowered plants complement its colors.
Grow Russian sage in full-sun borders to help reduce flopping. This low-maintenance perennial tolerates dry, rocky, chalky and alkaline soil, and its salt tolerance means it grows well in coastal gardens.
In mixed borders, Russian sage's gray stems and blue flowers contrast with green foliage on shrubs. Mixed borders contain perennials, shrubs, bulbs and other plants. Grow Russian sage toward the front of mixed borders to avoid problems with shade.
In front of evergreen shrubs, Russian sage stems contrast with the green of the shrubs and provide vertical accents through winter, and its blue flowers offer summer color. Prune Russian sage to 6 inches above the soil surface in spring, as new growth provides the best flowering. Before and after pruning Russian sage, sterilize pruning shear blades by wiping them with a cloth dipped in rubbing alcohol.
Butterflies and hummingbirds are attracted to Russian sage in wildlife gardens. Providing food, water and homes for local insects, birds and other animals, wildlife gardens have an informal look.
In a sunny site with well-drained soil, Russian sage fits right in to a wildlife garden, where its flowers provide food for hummingbirds and beneficial insects, and its crowded, fine stems provide shelter. Rabbits and deer rarely eat this plant. Grow Russian sage in groups of three, five or other odd numbers for a natural effect.
Russian Sage Varieties
Cultivars of Russian sage have a range of uses in gardens too. Russian sage "Little Spire" (Perovskia atriplicifolia "Little Spire") grows 1 1/2 to 2 feet tall and wide, and provides informal hedging and edging for paths. This compact plant also grows well in containers. Russian sage "Filigran" (Perovskia "Filigran") grows 2 to 4 feet tall and 2 to 3 feet wide, and features lacy silvery foliage, which looks decorative in an ornamental border. Russian sage "Longin" (Perovskia "Longin") grows 3 to 4 feet tall and 2 to 3 feet wide, and has an upright habit, making it a useful vertical contrast to rounded, bushy plants. "Little Spire," "Filigran" and "Longin" are hardy in USDA zones 5 through 9.