719 Perovskia atriplicifoliaCommon Names: Russian sage Family: Lamiaceae (mint Family)
Russian sage is a deciduous semi-woody subshrub with upright, grayish white stems and lobed, silvery gray leaves to 2 in (5 cm) long and 1 in (2.5 cm) wide. Older stems are woody at the base, and younger stems are herbaceous and square in cross section. The stems and leaves give off a pungent odor when crushed or bruised. In late summer and autumn Russian sage produces 12 in (30.5 cm) spires of small, tubular lavender flowers. Flowering persists for two or three months. Russian sage grows in a clump, 3-5 ft (0.9-1.5 m) tall with a spread of two or three feet, and sometimes falls over, especially if not positioned in full sun.
'Filagren' has finely dissected, almost fernlike leaves; 'Blue Haze' has leaves that are hardly lobed at all; 'Blue Mist' has light blue flowers and blooms earlier in the season; 'Blue Spire' has darker violet flowers; 'Longin' is more upright and less spreading than the species. Any or all of these cultivars may in fact be hybrids between Russian sage and P. abrotanoides.
Russian sage, Perovskia atriplicifolia, is native to Afghanistan and Pakistan where it grows in gravelly or rocky situations.
CultureLight: Russian sage likes full sun. It will survive in partial shade but it will become leggy and probably need staking. Moisture: Russian sage is fairly drought tolerant. Hardiness: USDA Zones 5 - 9. Russian sage seems to perform best in zones 6-8. Propagation: Start new plants from softwood tip cuttings in spring, or from semi-ripe cuttings with a heel in summer.
Russian sage is at its best in mass plantings. Include a group of Russian sage in a mixed border. The pale gray stems provide a strong vertical element, and are especially appealing in winter when they are leafless. However, Russian sage should be cut back almost to the ground before growth begins in spring since the best flowering occurs on new growth. Russian sage is tolerant of dry, chalky soils with a high pH; and it is salt tolerant and drought tolerant. It is therefore a good shrub to grow in a seaside garden.
Russian sage is easy to grow in full sun in any well drained soil. The grayish stems and leaves provide a fine-textured backdrop for the pale lavender flowers.
Named for a 19th century Russian general, the genus Perovskia includes only seven species. But it is one of some 220 genera in the mint family (Lamiaceae). With more than 5500 species, the mint family is the seventh most diverse plant family, exceeded in number of species by the asters (Asteraceae), the orchids (Orchidaceae), the peas (Fabaceae), the madders (Rubiaceae), the grasses (Poaceae), and the spurges (Euphorbiaceae).
Steve Christman 6/24/00; updated 9/6/03, 7/30/04