Is Russan Sage Drought-Tolerant?

This is my 400th article!!!  Pretty crazy.  Little did I know when I started this website years ago that it would evolve to discuss gardening, of all things.  That would’ve been quite shocking to me back then.  However, since creating my garden in Bend: gardening has become a relentless new passion.  And in the heat of summer months, the numerous Russian Sages spread throughout my property become my “Late Summer Superstars.”  They LOVE the heat.  In fact, they THRIVE in it.  With so many of us having to reconsider our watering needs as droughts become increasingly worse, I pose this question: “Is Russian Sage Drought-Tolerant?

Benefits of Growing Russian Sage, Girl Who Gardens

Three Russian Sage grow together in my front yard, surrounded by pink snapdragons & tall Karl Foerster grasses behind them….

Beautiful pink roses, candy-colored foxgloves, & tall native grasses that sway in the wind are some of my favorite companion plants for Russian Sage…..

Russian Sage

Native Grasses

Foxgloves

Is Russian Sage Drought-Tolerant?

Cutting right to the chase: YES, Russian Sage is one of the most drought-tolerant plants you can buy.  Because it’s part of the “Sage” family, which is known for its ability to survive in harsh desert climates with very little water, Russian Sage will be one of your best performers in warm weather.  Hardy in zones 4 – 9, Russian Sage goes dormant during winter in colder climates (like my Zone 6 garden); but when the days reach 100+ degrees, you may find that your sage can grow up to a foot a week!  

Many websites state that Russian Sage needs regular water throughout their first year to “establish.”  Frankly, I’m not sure how true this is.  If you’re planting Russian Sage in spring or fall, I would be sure to water them during their first two weeks to help roots get established.  Ideally, they would be on “drip” irrigation, watered very, very minimally (if Russian Sage are near sprinklers, this can be too much water for them ~ which can cause root rot & overall poor performance). 

3 Flower Alternatives to Lavender, Girl Who Gardens

Russian sage is my favorite lavender alternative: & it LOVES the heat of summer. This is a great choice for full-sun, warm gardens ~ Russian sage will thrive there.

But I have a Russian Sage that I planted in a pot last spring: I NEVER water it!!! EVER!!  Maybe during that whole time, a summer filled with 90+ degree days: I’ve watered her once or twice.  She’s just in a spot that I totally forget about.  And below is a photo of her today: not entirely thriving, but NOT DEAD!! 

If this was a hydrangea, you can bet it would be dead as a doornail.

Is Russian Sage Drought-Tolerant? Girl Who Gardens

This is the Russian Sage I NEVER water, in the blue pot: she’s survived a summer filled with 90+ degree days & has only been watered once or twice! So drought-tolerant indeed..

Is Russian Sage Drought-Tolerant? Girl Who Gardens

Russian Sage mimic the look of lavender with much less need for water. Photo courtesy of BirdsandBlooms.com

Find out what two other plants, besides Russian Sage, give you the romantic look of lavender…..

Do Russian Sage Plants Love Heat? Girl Who Gardens

I include this photo because this particular Russian Sage has entirely SELF-propagated! She spontaneously self-seeded in between two of my boxwoods…with no other Russian Sage near her.

Is Russian Sage Drought-Tolerant? Girl Who Gardens

These two Russian Sage occupy the “front row” of my raised bed garden. They’re in full sun on drip irrigation: last week, I cut TWO feet off them! They were blocking the fountain & roses behind them…

In my experience, Russian Sage grows best in FULL SUN, on drip irrigation with just the smallest amount of water emitted. Once established, there are days when I don’t water them at all: I find it’s made them heartier. It’s perfectly fine to let Russian Sage dry out a bit between waterings.

Benefits of Growing Russian Sage

  • Russian Sage is a perennial, which saves you money: it keeps coming back year after year (with no additional money spent);
  • As discussed, sage needs only the smallest amount of water in order to thrive ~ making it a wonderful addition to low-water or xeriscape gardens;
  • Russian Sage looks very similar to lavender, but it’s heartier & has a much longer growing season (typically June thru November, depending on the climate);
  • You never need to fertilize Russian Sage, & they grow in virtually any type of soil: from sandy to rocky to plain old construction dirt ~ they’ll survive pretty much anywhere;
  • There’s very little maintenance involved with Russian Sage: in late summer, you may need to cut yours back if they’ve grown too much;
  • In the heat of summer especially, Russian Sage are extremely fast growers;
  • Sage has the tendency of self-propagating (aka popping up in other places in your garden spontaneously) ~ this may be a good or bad thing, depending on how groomed you keep your garden;
  • Russian Sage can have medicinal benefits: if you steep the sage leaves in hot water for 15-30 minutes, it can help relieve stomach pain & indigestion;
  • The sage leaves smell absolutely wonderful, & attract all kinds of bees, butterflies, & wildlife to them ~ which can help pollinate your entire garden;
  • Russian Sage is extremely versatile in terms of the type of garden it works in: against a backdrop of roses & foxgloves, it looks lovely in an English cottage garden ~ but used minimally, it also works well in a desert or modern-type garden; but then again, due to its nearly-identical look to lavender, it also looks fantastic in a French country garden!
  • And finally, Russian Sage can make a surprisingly pretty, if unusual, cut flower.

Is Russian Sage a Good Plant? Girl Who Gardens

I cut these Russian Sage a week ago, & they’re still looking wispy & pretty in an antique white vase…

Is Russian Sage Drought-Tolerant?

If you’re experiencing any kind of drought in your area & you love the look of lavender: Russian Sage are a wonderful option for adding color to your garden with very little water required.  Another great option in this category is easy-to-grow catmint

xoxo Noelia

Read Next: How to Create a French Country Garden

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