Betsy’s Favorite Perennials: Russian Sage is High on the List

Can you imagine working with your favorite plants all day long, for pay?  Yeah, me neither.  But Betsy Winters, Homestead’s perennials manager and buyer, does exactly that.  So of course we all want her to pick her absolute faves, right?  I asked for five and got seven – really, how could she limit it to seven?  So let’s start a seven-part series here on the blog, shall we?  Beginning with a BIG fave of mine, too.

Russian sage with tall and short rudbeckias along a city street

Its official Latin name is Perovskia and this beauty was chosen as Perennial of the Year in 1995.  As good as it looks here, it’s really dramatic in large clumps. They’re also great with purple coneflowers, daylilies and ornamental grasses.  They come to us from Afghanistan and Pakistan. (What, not Russia?  I know, but that’s what the sources tell us.)


  • Grows to 3-5 feet.
  • Likes full sun and good drainage.
  • Take a year or more to establish.


  • Prune in early spring by cutting stems to 6 inches or so from the ground.
  • Drought-tolerant.
  • It’s recommended that they be pinched or cut back by one-half when they reach 1 foot to produce more branches and general bushiness, but I haven’t tried this myself yet.
  • No need to divide them and they probably wouldn’t like it, anyway.

Text and photo by Susan Harris.

4 Responses to Betsy’s Favorite Perennials: Russian Sage is High on the List

  1. One of my faves! We planted 6 of them last year, some in awful rocky soil with no protection from many hours of direct sun, and they all did well. You can’t beat that beautiful purple-blue mist of flowers!

    This year I’ll have to try pinching them back.

    Great entry – looking forward to the rest of the series. :-)

    KC Neal
    Potatoes and Beyond

  2. I’m Rita from Indonesia. Wow very beautiful garden. Glad to have found your this blog. Waiting for the next postings.

  3. Lisa Winters says:

    This is also a great plant for bees and other beneficial insects.

  4. Betsy Winters says:

    Thanks Susan for writing about Russian Sage. It is such a pretty plant, often misunderstood ~ but once you get to know it and embrace it, quite lovely and fun to have in the garden. One of the best displays I have ever seen is at Oxon Hill Manor, an old colonial mansion overlooking National Harbor. There is a beautiful gated entrance which boasts two very large beds on either side full of Knock-Out Roses – they are surrounded by Russian Sage. Talk about contrast of color and texture. If you are in the area late Spring, please take a trip down Oxon Hill Road – it is worth the detour!


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