Perovskia atriplicifolia

Updated: Jul 21


Say that name ten times fast! Or skip the tongue twister knowing that its common name, Russian sage, is even funnier when learning it is not a sage or from Russia. Regardless of all this wackiness, P. atriplicifolia is a dynamic addition to the garden where its texture and coloring will contrast with more traditional plants. Giving off an ethereal effect in masses, its distinctly blue flowers emerge from lavender bracts that feel like velvet. The challenge is to find a location where the colors do not reseed, such as in large masses or with a simple background.


Russian sage lends itself to cottage gardens, particularly if combined with lavender. When both are in bloom, combined with other complimentary plants like ornamental grasses, the image is striking yet calming with their subdued colors. Lavender and sage are classic combinations for Mediterranean gardens, and I often found this combination when I lived/worked in Sonoma County. Just remember that P. atriplicifolia needs more room than expected to really take advantage of their airy form and expansion (they can spread).


facts

Botanical Name: Perovskia atriplicifolia

Perovskia: Honoree, soldier Vasily Alekseevich Perovsky

Atriplicifolia: Having leaves like orache or salt-bush

Common Name: Russian sage

Family Name: Lamiaceae


Origin: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Tibet


design considerations


Positioning: Middle ground of perennial border, texture contrast

Garden Themes: Cottage/Informal, Mediterranean/drought, perennial

Uses: Border, mass, specimen


identifying characteristics


Type: Perennial

Form: Upright

Texture: Fine

Size: 4' and spreading (in favorable conditions)


Outstanding Feature(s): Flower


Bark: Light gray green to silver

Leaf: Fragrant when crushed

  • Type: Simple

  • Arrangement: Opposite

  • Shape: Quadrate

  • Margin: Serrate

  • Color: Gray green above, lighter underneath

  • Surface: Lightly hairy

Flower: Summer into autumn. Terminal panicle of small, light lavender blue, and tubular


cultural requirements, tolerances & problems


Sunset Zones: 2-24

USDA Zones: 5-9


Light: Full sun

WUCOLS SF Bay Area Hydro Zone: Low

Soil:

  • Texture: Sand, loam (well-drained)

  • Moisture Retention: May dry between watering (avoid persistent moisture)

  • pH: Neutral to lightly alkaline

Tolerances: Drought, deer

Problems: May become floppy with too much water and/or too little sun

  • Insects: Not observed

  • Disease: Rot


citations & attributions


Bayton, R. (2019). The Royal Horticultural Society's the Gardener's Botanical: An Encyclopedia of Latin Plant Names. London: Mitchell Beazley.


Missouri Botanical Garden. "Perovskia atriplicifolia." Accessed on July 10, 2021 from https://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?kempercode=e540.


Norris Brenzel, K. (Ed.). (2012). The New Sunset Western Garden Book. New York: Time Home Entertainment, Inc.


UC Master Gardener Program of Sonoma County. "Perovskia atriplicifolia." University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Accessed on July 10, 2021 from http://sonomamg.ucanr.edu/Plant_of_the_Month/Perovskia/.


Water Use Classification of Landscape Species. "WUCOLS IV Plant List." University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Davis. Accessed on June 28, 2021 from https://ucanr.edu/sites/WUCOLS/Download_WUCOLS_IV_List/.


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