Day 21 of the Perennial Plant Challenge. Perovskia atriplicifolia is commonly called Russian Sage, although it is not truly a Salvia. It is in the mint family (feel those square stems!), so it shares many characteristics with the true sages.
Russian sage is a lovely background perennial for the garden, growing as tall as 4 feet, covered with many spikes of lavender blue blooms that are reminiscent of lavender flower spikes. Bloom time is very long for this plant, more than 3 months, and with some deadheading even longer. Honeybees really adore this plant, but deer and rabbit are not going to be a problem. Once established, Russian sage is very drought tolerant, requiring very little summer water. One fertilization early in the spring is usually plenty for the year.
In frost free zones, Russian sage may not die all the way back to the ground, however to get the best and fullest leaves and flowers it should be heavily pruned. We prune it back to 6 to 12 inches from the ground, so we get sturdy branching from the ground up. After a couple of years, this plant can creep a bit, so every couple of years you may want to dig up the expanding edges. But if you are filling in a big space, or growing it on a berm or hillside, it will hold down soil and give you a massive color display.
Common names can be a bit of a problem. With the word ‘sage’ as part of the name, some people think this might be a delicious culinary plant. Alas, it is bitter tasting at best, just plain nasty at worst. If you aren’t a honey bee, don’t bother flavoring any food with it! Instead, add it to your landscape in a very hot, sunny, dry location and let it thrive.