How to Prune a Russian Sage

Overview

Gardeners have included Russian sage in their gardens since the 1800s. One look at Russian sage's woody stems, silvery-green foliage and light-blue flowers held on airy stalks explains why it has been cultivated for so long. Added to the beauty of Russian sage is its disease-, pest- (including deer) and drought-resistance. Russian sage, or peroviskia, got its name because its leaves emit a minty-sage smell when crushed. Although related to culinary sages, this plant is not edible. Russian sages only need pruning to maintain their tidy mounds. A pruned Russian sage is bushier and may produce more flower stalks than an unpruned counterpart.

Step 1

Prune Russian sage in spring after it begins to leaf out (produce new growth). Waiting until new growth emerges allows you to see where the buds are on the plant. As new growth and dead stems intermingle on Russian sage plants, you will need to remove both to keep your plant healthy and compact.

Step 2

Cut the new growth and dead or broken stems back to just above the lowest leaves or buds. If an entire branch is dead, cut it back to the main stem (trunk). Your plant will regrow from these buds, making your Russian sage a more compact and bushier plant.

Step 3

Prune Russian sage again in late summer after flowering if it looks ragged or unkempt. This time you will cut back faded flowers and tattered foliage.

Step 4

Remove the faded flower stalks making cuts just above healthy leaves. Cut broken or diseased branches back to the stem (trunk).

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not cut your Russian sage plant back to the ground in summer. Leave at least 1 foot of growth (with plenty of leaves) so your plant can continue to photosynthesize and store sugars for winter.

Things You'll Need

  • Pruning shears

References

  • "Perennials for Every Purpose"; Larry Hodgson; 2000
  • Missouri Botanical Garden: Caring for Russian Sage
  • New Mexico State University: Pruning Spanish Broom and Russian Sage

Who Can Help

  • Pruning Guide for Perennials and Small Shrubs
  • Wisconsin Master Gardener; Growing Russian Sage
Keywords: pruning Russian sage, Russian sage, caring for Russian sage, how to prune Russian sage