Russian sage grows as an ornamental plant and not as a culinary herb like other sage varieties. It becomes a large bush if left unpruned, producing lavender flowers in summer and silvery-green foliage year-round. The Russian sage bush has only minimal maintenance requirements and can survive for years untended.
Locations that receive full, all-day sunlight provide the best planting area for sun-loving Russian sage shrubs. The plant tolerates some light shade but it may grow sparse and won't flower well unless supplied with at least six hours of direct sun a day. Beds with a southern exposure provide optimum sunlight. Avoid areas under trees or near buildings that block the sun from reaching the plant.
Soil and Fertility
Russian sage grows well in almost any well-draining soil. It doesn't tolerate acidic soils such as those found near some evergreens. Amending sandy or clay soils with peat or compost prior to planting ensures the roots have access to proper drainage. This sage brush doesn't require fertilization as it gets what few nutrients it needs from those naturally present in the soil.
Sage rarely requires supplemental irrigation and works well in low-water landscape designs. It can tolerate soil that remains moist if it shares a bed with plants requiring higher moisture levels. Beds that collect standing water or become soggy after rain or irrigation can kill Russian sage. The plant also flowers best when it's watered sparingly. Russian sage usually only needs supplemental irrigation during extended dry periods, then only enough water so the soil doesn't dry out completely.
Plants reach up to 5 feet tall and nearly as wide if left unpruned. The plant can survive freezing winters, but prolonged cold periods may cause some dieback on the branches. Late winter or early spring pruning to control the size of the bush and to remove winter-damaged branches improves the appearance of Russian sage. Removing most of the old branches at the base of the plant and cutting back the remaining stems by up to a third of their length encourages new, more compact growth and increased flowering.
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