11 Varieties of Russian Sage for Your Garden

If you want to try growing Russian sage, you may have difficulty choosing a variety. Join organic farmer Jenna Rich as she explores great options for this low-maintenance and easy-to-grow perennial sub-shrub.

A close-up of Russian sage highlights its long and thin stems featuring whorls of tubular purple flowers. Sunlight streams through the flowers, giving them an ethereal effect.

Contents

After learning about this sage that isn’t a sage, I fell in love with Russian sage. Its delicate charm makes it a delight to care for, and it blooms from mid-summer through fall.

Looking more like lavender or catmint and smelling slightly like common sage when the dried leaves are crushed, Russian sage was reclassified as a member of the Salvia family in 2017, now properly referred to as Salvia yangii (Perovskia atriplicifolia). Even though the classification has been updated, the botanical names of each variety discussed in this article will be referred to as their original name due to their wide use in the gardening world. 

If you want to add beauty to your garden without much fuss next season, here are 11 Russian sage varieties to check out.

Full-Sized Varieties

A full-sized plant can grow four to five feet tall and two to four feet wide, with some needing support to keep from flopping over. 

‘Blue Spire’

A close-up of the Blue Spire Russian sage presents clumps of small and dark blue flowers. The shoots of this variety appear fuzzy or hairy.
‘Blue Spire’ features dark blue flowers, thrives in sunlight, and requires pruning during winter.
botanical-name botanical name Salvia yangii ‘Blue Spire’
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height Up to 4 feet 
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-9

Known as one of the loveliest, most vigorous, and multi-stemmed varieties, ‘Blue Spire’ features dark blue flowers that bloom for months. Stems are upright, and leaves are deeply lobed. It’s a hybrid of two species, beloved for its carefree nature and airy appearance. ‘Blue Spire’ has been given the Award of Garden Merit of the Royal Horticultural Society. 

Add this tall cultivar along a border, alongside creeping phlox, or with other pollinator-loved plants. When pruning ‘Blue Spire’ in the late winter or early spring, do so almost to the ground. Propagate by way of softwood cuttings in late spring. 

Remember to plant Russian sage somewhere that receives full sun for at least 6 hours a day, or she’ll surely flop and become leggy. Once it has become leggy or flops over, those stems will never become sturdy. It may seem counterintuitive to cut it back, but trust me, hard pruning and a sunny, well-draining area will ensure a strong, healthy plant!  

‘Filigran’

A close-up of tall and upright stalks of tiny ‘Filigran’ lavender flowers. These stalks are in a wide-Y presentation and boast compact spikes of flowers.
‘Filigran’ is characterized by its loose growing habit and is known as an excellent garden focal point.
botanical-name botanical name Salvia yangii ‘Filigran’
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 4+ feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-9

An 8-year comparative trial done by the Chicago Botanic Garden referred to ‘Filigran’ as a larger, less-refined version of ‘Little Lace™’. The violet color seems light due to its spread-out, loose nature. 

An older cultivar, ‘Filigran,’ has a looser, floppy growing habit and tends to be quite tall, sometimes growing over four feet tall when fully mature. Pairing it with a sturdy shrub or perennial will help naturally support it. 

Its flowers are a steely blue, making a stunning centerpiece of a foundation garden. Place other, shorter plants around “Filigran’ for an interesting lawn piece that’s sure to have people talking. Cut it back or allow it to die back to the crown each winter. Just mark it with mulch or a tag so the crown isn’t damaged in the spring. 

“Denim n Lace’

A close-up of spikes of purple-blue ‘Denim n Lace’ flowers. They are in full bloom and a small bee is atop one of the flowers. The other stalks are blurred in the background.
‘Denim n Lace’ variety, named for its denim-like hue, is the best choice for small spaces.
botanical-name botanical name Salvia yangii ‘Denim n Lace’
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun 
height height 2-3 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-9

Named appropriately for its denim-like color, this blue-violet cultivar will surely please the eyes when in full bloom. Its flowers are closely spaced, so the color is full and vibrant. 

If you have a small outdoor gardening space or have a corner you need to fill, ‘Denim n Lace’ may fit the bill. It easily tucks away in a corner, along a border, or in containers. Just be sure it gets full sun for peak performance

Pro tip: When planted near certain species, fennel can have an allelopathic effect on other plants, including Russian sage. Russian sage is extremely compatible with most other plants, but keep fennel at a sage, er, safe distance. 

‘Blue Steel’

A close-up of numerous upright branches laden with clouds of tiny ‘Blue Steel’ violet-blue blooms. The flowers feature a slightly fuzzy texture. The blurred background highlights the vibrant color of the flowers.
The ‘Blue Steel’ variety has upright lavender blooms and is easy to maintain.
botanical-name botanical name Salvia yangii ‘Blue Haze’
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 3 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-11

‘Blue Steel’ has a nice, upright growth habit with light lavender blooms. The erect and silvery stems are filled with 5-6” panicles full of tiny flowers, giving a shimmering effect when blown around in the wind

Provide well-draining soil and top dress with a little well-aged compost in the spring for fertility. It doesn’t demand much in terms of amendments and is drought-resistant. 

Pull up any suckers or ‘minis’ in the spring to keep this plant from spreading. Pot and gift them to a friend, or expand your Russian sage plot. 

Compact Varieties 

Compact varieties may grow more densely and uniformly, growing just 18-36 inches tall and 2-3 feet wide

‘Peek-A-Blue®’

A field of tiny ‘Peek-A-Blue ®’ flowers fill the frame. Delicate small leaves surround the blooms. The picture depicts wind movement which is evident with the position of the flowers.
‘Peek-a-Blue®’ brings a formal flair of color effortlessly and is low maintenance.
botanical-name botanical name Salvia yangii ‘Peek-A-Blue®’
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun 
height height 2 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-9

Recognized for its uniformity and hardiness, select ‘Peek-A-Blue®’ if your garden needs a formal pop of color. It was specifically bred to be stout and compact, perfect for growers with small gardening spaces.

It grows fast and requires very little attention, so it’s great for beginners and master gardeners alike. Pair it with ornamental grasses for a whimsical garden effect or in containers near your porch.

Native to Central Asia, Russian sage does well in rocky, sloped, and soils with less than great fertility. The main thing to remember is it needs well-draining soil as it will underperform or die in soggy, wet conditions. 

‘Lacey Blue’

A close-up of a solitary upright stem features tubular ‘Lacey Blue’ flowers. Both the stem and the petals appear to be hairy. Other upright stems of the same elements are blurred in the background.
‘Lacey Blue’ thrives in solo or en-masse and requires trimming in spring.
botanical-name botanical name Salvia yangii ‘Lacey Blue’
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun 
height height 12-18 inches
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-10

This dwarf variety is perfect as a stand-alone statement piece or planted in mass. It also does well in containers; its old-timey grayish-green foliage lends itself well to a cottage garden. Bred to be sturdy without flopping over, it’s also extremely deer-resistant

‘Lacey Blue’ should be trimmed down to just a few inches in the spring. This will encourage heavy, dense summer growth with blooms lasting until the fall. 

Remember to split your plant every 3-5 years to keep its performance tip-top. Also, don’t forget to heavily prune in late winter or spring so your Russian sage remains healthy for what could be a 20+ year life!

‘Blue Jean Baby’

Upright stalks of dark violet ‘Blue Jean Baby’ flowers fill the frame. The petals are tubular and are in full bloom. Spiky and elongated leaves are at the base of the stalks.
‘Blue Jean Baby,’ an early and consistent bloomer with dark violet flowers, appeals to growers globally.
botanical-name botanical name Salvia yangii ‘Blue Jean Baby’
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun 
height height 2-3 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-9

A showy variety, ‘Blue Jean Baby’ features dark violet flowers and is early to bloom. With a wide range of hardiness, it’s a great option for growers across the globe. Just be sure to keep the soil well-draining to keep her happy

These plants are consistently productive, shaped, and sized each season, and this variety holds onto its colored calyx well into fall. Enjoy it long after its bloom time has passed by, sometimes into October. 

If you’re going for garden drama, try pairing ‘Blue Jean Baby’ with scarlet bee balm, coneflower, or bold-colored asters. 

‘Little Spire’

A close-up of branches in horizontal position are filled with dark purple ‘Little Spire’ blooms. The branches and the petals have a glittery effect on them. This characteristic is more evident because of the blurred background.
The ‘Little Spire’ variety is distinct for its gray-green foliage and minty aroma.
botanical-name botanical name Salvia yangii ‘Little Spire’
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 18-24 inches
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-9

‘Little Spire’ is stunning with gray-green foliage and almost glittery stems. Their foliage is slightly aromatic, making it a lovely option to plant near an outdoor seating area

Space other plants about two feet away as she spreads out. To keep ‘Little Spire’ aesthetically pleasing, prune it back to about a foot tall each spring. 

Try planting this compact cultivar along a walking path or adding it to a rock garden where passersby can enjoy its minty aroma. 

‘Rocketman’

A field of small deep ‘Rocketman’ flowers fill the frame which gives the photo a lush effect. The blooms grow in compact masses. Spiky and elongated leaves are also observed in the picture.
‘Rocketman’ is aromatic with bug-repelling qualities, easy to care for, and perfect to create contrasts.
botanical-name botanical name Salvia yangii ‘Rocketman’
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun 
height height 2.5-3 feet 
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-9

Like ‘Little Spire,’ ‘Rocketman’’s grayish foliage is aromatic and may help repel mosquitoes. Add a unique flare to a fire pit area by planting it nearby and reap the bug-repelling benefits. 

When transplanting, bury the rootball just to the plant’s crown so it can breathe when buried with soil. Water it well upon transplant and until it becomes established. After the first year, not much irrigation is needed. 

Mix in pinks and yellows to create tropical vibes by growing ‘Rocketman’ alongside phlox or rudbeckia for a nice contrast. 

‘Little Lace™’

A close-up of upright stalks filled with light ‘Little Lace™’ lavender blooms. Small and delicate leaves can also be observed. The blurred effect of the background brings the focus to the flower
With pale lavender blooms, ‘Little Lace’ complements vibrant flowers and attracts pollinators, but is deer-resistant.
botanical-name botanical name Salvia yangii ‘Little Lace™’
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 18-24 inches
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-9

‘Little Lace’ has well-spaced-out flowers, giving it a light and airy effect. Its delicate features and light lavender shade pair well with bright pink or salmon zinnias, rudbeckia, and red and magenta Dianthus. This compact cultivar can be grown in containers and does well in mass plantings. 

Russian sage offers easy-to-access food for butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds but isn’t as palatable as some other garden goodies to deer, so you’re safe there. 

Dry gardening or growing in a hot, dry climate? Russian sage is perfect for you as it thrives in drought conditions and needs little when it comes to fertilizer or watering. However, it doesn’t love humid environments. 

‘Sage Advice’

A close-up of upright stalks features ‘Sage Advice’ flowers in full bloom. There are trees and shrubs blurred in the background. The high contrast of the photo emphasizes the vibrancy of the colors of the flowers.
‘Sage Advice’ is cold-hardy and sturdy, with dark purple blooms, and is an option for dried bouquets.
botanical-name botanical name Salvia yangii ‘Sage Advice’
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun 
height height 2.5-3 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-9

Blooming in mid-summer and extremely cold-hardy, ‘Sage Advice’ is a favorite among landscapers. Its purple shade is darker than most, making a statement along borders, in mass plantings, or in a cottage garden. 

This variety is known for its sturdiness, so you won’t need to worry about supporting it. It’s similar to ‘Denim n Lace’ in look with darker calyxes and broader leaves. 

‘Sage Advice’ can be cut, dried, or displayed as a fragrant, wild-looking bouquet. Enjoy the plant through the fall, cutting it back in the spring to above the lowest bud present. 

Key Takeaways

  • For a lacy effect, choose ‘Denim ’n Lace,’ PEEK-A-BLUE®,’ or ‘Filigran’ for their dissected foliage.
  • Compact varieties can be grown in containers, mass plantings, foundation gardens, borders, cottage gardens, or perennial patches.
  • Russian sage, by nature, is deer-resistant and mostly disease-resistant.
  • Pollinators love Russian sage due to the large amount and shape of the flowers.
  • Well-draining soil is key to its survival.
  • It’s low-maintenance, thrives in hot, dry climates, and should be pruned annually.

Final Thoughts

Russian sage is loved for its carefree nature, requiring little attention, thrives in hot, dry climates, and even performs well in poor soil. Plant these Russian sage varieties in a sunny place, then sit back and delight in their charm.

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