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Russian Sage Salvia yangii

Previously known as:

  • Perovskia atriplicifolia
  • Perovskia pamirica
Phonetic Spelling
SAL-vee-uh YANG-ee-eye
Description

Russian sage is an erect, perennial shrub that has a woody base and is a member of the Lamiaceae (mint) family. This clump-forming plant reaches 2 to 4 feet tall and wide at maturity. The stems are sturdy, stiff, upright, and squared. The leaves are grayish-silvery green, tomentose, finely dissected, and aromatic when crushed. From June to October, the plant produces whorled, two-lipped, tubular purple flowers on tall many-branched panicles. The sepals of the flowers are covered with white and purple hairs. 

This perennial shrub is native to Southwest to Central Asia where it grows in the hills and grasslands.

The genus name, Salvia, is derived from the Latin term salveo, which means ‘be well’ and refers to the plant's medicinal properties. The former genus name, Perovskia, honors a Russian general from the 1800s, V. A. Perovski.  The former epithet, atriplicifolia, means leaves like saltbush. The common name, Russian sage, is misleading since it is not a native of Russia.

This plant prefers full sun in well-drained, occasionally dry soil. Poorly drained or wet soils should be avoided. The plant flowers best and is less likely to flop over if it is grown in full sun. It also performs best in dry arid conditions. Cut back stems to several inches above the ground in early spring to stimulate good seasonal growth. Rangy plants can also be cut back to 12 inches after the first hard frost in the fall. Propagate this sage by leaf cutting or seed.

The grayish-green leaves of Russian sage have a pungent menthol scent that is apparent when they are crushed or brushed against. This plant has showy blue to purple flowers that bloom in the summer through the fall. Cultivars such as 'Longin', 'Blue Spire', and 'Blue Mist' are superior to seed-grown plants.

Use it in perennial beds, drought tolerant gardens, and as a filler plant. The tall, clear blue flower spikes lend a cool, airy look to the garden and the pleasant scent from the crushed leaves makes it at home in a sensory garden or planted near a walkway or patio where its fragrance can be enjoyed. In the winter, the gray silvery stems remain with sparse foliage and add interest to the winter landscape. 

Seasons of Interest:

Bloom:  Summer and Fall     Foliage:  Spring, Summer, and Fall      Stems:  Winter

Quick ID Hints:

  • Stems grayish, square, bearing opposite leaves
  • Leaves elliptic, pinnately dissected, grayish-silver, and tomentose
  • Small zygomorphic flowers are borne in an elongated panicle
  • Inflorescence interrupted between fascicles of flowers

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems:  Russian sage has no serious insect or disease problems. As the growing season progresses, the plant tends to sprawl or flop over. 

VIDEO Created by Elisabeth Meyer for "Annuals, Perennials, Vines, and Groundcovers" a plant identification course offered in partnership with Longwood Gardens. 

More information on Salvia.

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscapes:
Lake Wall Garden Davidson County Demo Garden Lake Wall Garden
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Blue Haze'
    pale blue flowers, leaves with entire margins
  • 'Blue Mist'
  • 'Blue Spire'
    deep purple flowers, deeply lobed leaves
  • 'Blue Steel'
    violet blue flowers. silver stems
  • 'Crazy Blue'
    compact, erect, violet blue flowers, silvery grayish-green leaves, silver stems
  • 'Denim 'n Lace'
    sky blue flowers with purple calyxes, gray green leaves
  • 'Little Spire'
    smaller variety, 18 to 24 inches tall, lavender blue flowers
  • 'Longin'
    stiff, upright stems, more formal habit
  • 'Rocket Man'
    misty blue flowers, grayish green foliage
'Blue Haze', 'Blue Mist', 'Blue Spire', 'Blue Steel', 'Crazy Blue', 'Denim 'n Lace', 'Little Spire', 'Longin', 'Rocket Man'
Tags:
#purple#fragrant#hummingbirds#evergreen#full sun tolerant#drought tolerant#perennials#shrub#fragrant leaves#salt tolerant#apvg#cottage garden#rabbit resistant#ncemgva2018#cpp#mounding#summer flowers#deer resistant#herbaceous perennials#delicate#long bloom time#border planting#fantz#poor soils tolerant#sensory garden#border middle#walkway planting#patio planting#butterfly friendly#HS302#apvg-p#bee friendly#stormwater demo garden orange co#erect#full sun#landscape plant sleuths course
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Blue Haze'
    pale blue flowers, leaves with entire margins
  • 'Blue Mist'
  • 'Blue Spire'
    deep purple flowers, deeply lobed leaves
  • 'Blue Steel'
    violet blue flowers. silver stems
  • 'Crazy Blue'
    compact, erect, violet blue flowers, silvery grayish-green leaves, silver stems
  • 'Denim 'n Lace'
    sky blue flowers with purple calyxes, gray green leaves
  • 'Little Spire'
    smaller variety, 18 to 24 inches tall, lavender blue flowers
  • 'Longin'
    stiff, upright stems, more formal habit
  • 'Rocket Man'
    misty blue flowers, grayish green foliage
'Blue Haze', 'Blue Mist', 'Blue Spire', 'Blue Steel', 'Crazy Blue', 'Denim 'n Lace', 'Little Spire', 'Longin', 'Rocket Man'
Tags:
#purple#fragrant#hummingbirds#evergreen#full sun tolerant#drought tolerant#perennials#shrub#fragrant leaves#salt tolerant#apvg#cottage garden#rabbit resistant#ncemgva2018#cpp#mounding#summer flowers#deer resistant#herbaceous perennials#delicate#long bloom time#border planting#fantz#poor soils tolerant#sensory garden#border middle#walkway planting#patio planting#butterfly friendly#HS302#apvg-p#bee friendly#stormwater demo garden orange co#erect#full sun#landscape plant sleuths course
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Salvia
    Species:
    yangii
    Family:
    Lamiaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    In many Asian countries, this plant has been used for treating medical conditions such as diabetes, dysentery, fever, and scabies. In Pakistan, it is used as an anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antibacterial product.
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Leaf Cutting
    Seed
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Southwest to Central Asia
    Distribution:
    Native: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tibet, West Himalayas, and Xinjiang. Introduced: Germany
    Wildlife Value:
    The flowers attract bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.
    Play Value:
    Attractive Flowers
    Attracts Pollinators
    Fragrance
    Dimensions:
    Height: 2 ft. 0 in. - 4 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 2 ft. 0 in. - 4 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Annual
    Herbaceous Perennial
    Perennial
    Shrub
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Erect
    Mounding
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Soil Texture:
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Occasionally Dry
    Available Space To Plant:
    3 feet-6 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    5a, 5b, 6b, 6a, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Fruit Description:
    The fruit color is dark brown and elliptic.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Blue
    Purple/Lavender
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Panicle
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Good Cut
    Long Bloom Season
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Fall
    Summer
    Flower Shape:
    Lipped
    Tubular
    Flower Description:
    Flowers are small, purple, and zygomorphic, and the corolla is 2-lipped. The calyxes are very hairy. The inflorescence is a terminal, slender, open, or lose panicle. The rachis internodes are elongated between fascicles. Fascicles are few-flowered. The flowers bloom from June through October.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Gray/Silver
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Opposite
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Leaf Margin:
    Dentate
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    Leaves are opposite, simple, aromatic, elliptical, strongly pinnately dissected, and have grayish-silver foliage with dentate margins. They are 1-2 inches long and have a strong fragrance.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Gray/Silver
    Green
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Cross Section:
    Square
    Stem Form:
    Straight
    Stem Surface:
    Hairy (pubescent)
    Stem Description:
    The stems are silvery grayish green, upright, stiff, and squared.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Patio
    Walkways
    Landscape Theme:
    Cottage Garden
    Drought Tolerant Garden
    Garden for the Blind
    Rock Garden
    Design Feature:
    Border
    Attracts:
    Bees
    Butterflies
    Hummingbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Drought
    Pollution
    Poor Soil
    Rabbits
    Salt