Mature Russian sage plant.
image by G.W. Priester, Morguefile
Vibrant purple flower stems decorate this spiky plant. Russian sage offers the gardener the choice of a drought-tolerant plant with beautiful colors. These low growing bush-like plants work perfectly as borders or edges. Russian sage also looks beautiful with dramatic purple blooms and muted green leaves as the focal point of a garden. Learning how to prune Russian sage involves observing the growth patterns of the plant. Thinning the plant and pinching back represent the types of pruning that should be used to control Russian sage growth and flowering.
Monitor the condition of your plant throughout the growing season. Russian sage prefers full sun and well-drained soil but can tolerate some shade. Keep the plant healthy with a good layer of mulch and proper watering throughout the growing season.
Pinch back long, sparse stems with few flowers. Pinching back involves using your fingernail to press into the plant stem to remove individual flowers. Remove the growing tips and the first leaves behind the flower. This type of pruning encourages more blooms. You can also use pruning clippers to pinch back flowers if you prefer.
Rejuvenate the entire plant by pruning to the base of the plant in the spring. This type of pruning shouldn't be performed every year since it's a drastic cutting back of the plant. Schedule a heavy pruning every few years to encourage growth from the base of the plant. Use pruning clippers to make 45-degree angle cuts on the stems to limit wound size and speed branch healing. Rejuvenation pruning helps control overall plant size and uniformity.
Thin the plant by clipping back older stems at the base. This allows the newest growth plenty of room to thrive and expand. Prune evenly around the plant to retain shape. Thinning can be performed every year in the spring before new growth appears on the plant.
Avoid simply cutting back part of a plant stem halfway to the ground. Pruning in this fashion encourages the plant to cluster new buds at the site of the cut. Stems on the Russian sage should arch from the center smoothly to the purple flowers at the end. Bunches of leaves will disrupt the natural shape of the each stem.
Collect any clippings from the garden and discard to prevent insect and mold infestation.