Russian Sage (Perovskia) is not a sage and it’s not native to Mother Russia—but it has become a landscaping staple in Western xeriscapes. First introduced into US horticulture in the early to mid-1990’s, it has been more familiar in Europe for many years, as it was recommended by nineteenth century English garden designer Gertrude Jekyll. The plant provides a months-long display of showy smoky-blue flowers held above aromatic foliage and is an indispensable source of nectar and pollen for honey and bumble bees.
In addition to its beauty, Russian sage’s enormous popularity is no doubt due to its ability to thrive in dry, tough conditions. It blooms all summer and grows successfully in any soil, from clay to sand, as well as salty and highly alkaline ones. And if that weren’t reason enough to plant it, Perovskia is extremely resistant to browsing deer, rabbits and even elk. Native to central Asia, it ranges from Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and Tibet, it is incredibly well adapted to life in the U.S.
Russian sage is a low care plant that looks its best when cut back hard (leaving 6 to 12” of stem above ground) in mid-spring. This keeps the plant more compact and encourages more vigorous blooming. This shrub has a tendency to spread by suckering, so it’s advisable to dig up the suckers in early spring to keep the plant within bounds. When used to cover large areas, don’t bother. An application of Yum Yum Mix fertilizer in the fall is all that’s needed to keep the soil healthy and the plant happy.