Russian Sage Propagation through Hardwood Cuttings Update

I have confirmed an earlier suspicion, Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) is indeed easy to propagate from hardwood cuttings.  In fact taking hardwood cuttings may prove more reliable than from softwood cuttings.  I’ll continue with both methods at the appropriate times of the year but the hardwood cuttings have not had any trouble with rotting or any other signs of problems.  In general hardwood cuttings are best taken from fall through late winter and softwood cuttings in the spring.  By utilizing both methods you can maximize your output.  Since I cut back my Russian sage each year in the spring to about 8-10 inches tall I usually end up with quite a few hardwood leftovers that end up finding their way to the compost bin.  I think from now on I’ll make cuttings of those leftover branches and get a few more Russian sage plants for the garden.

I started with several 4-5 inch long cuttings and one that was about ten inches long.  I’m not sure why I let that one stay so long, maybe because it had a smaller diameter than the others I thought it needed the extra length. Whatever the reason the shorter cuttings have leafed out much faster than the long one.

How I Made the Russian Sage Hardwood Cuttings:

I followed the standard method I use for most of my cuttings and dipped them into rooting hormone then stuck them in the sand (there is a little peat mixed in from previous cuttings).  Once in the sand I kept them watered, moist but not soggy.  I wasn’t very careful with the amount of sand I initially put in and ended up putting too much in the container.  It’s made watering without spilling difficult but I’ve managed alright so far. I placed them in a sunny window where I kept the cuttings moist and tried not to let them dry out.  Dried cuttings are good for herbs, not for plant propagation!

I used a clear container which gave me one distinct advantage, I can see the roots form on the underside of the container by simply picking it up.  I don’t have to disturb the cuttings until I’m ready to pot them into individual containers or in the garden. Here in the container picture to the right you can see all the little white roots.  They are very small so I labeled them for you! Just look for the cleverly done annotation “Root.” You see, my creativity knows no bounds!

If all works out OK I should have a lucky number of 13 Russian sage plants to plant out in the garden this spring.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed, but I’m not superstitious!  I still need to trim back several more plants outside and I’ll try the same treatment for those leftover branches.  I brought three last year to the plant swap and they left within 10 minutes of the beginning of trading, I think I’d better make a few more for this year!

More on plant propagation

15 thoughts on “Russian Sage Propagation through Hardwood Cuttings Update”

  1. It sounds like you’re using your Russian sage as an ornamental grass, which is really cool.

    Why didn’t you use more of your creativity and put in some little arrows pointing to the roots? ;~)

  2. Absolutely great info Dave. That clear bowl was sheer genius. You labeled the roots so easily and it is exciting to see them! I will have to try this sometime.

  3. I have to agree with Tina, the clear bowl is a great idea! Knowing when cuttings have roots enough to transplant is usually a bit of a guess, but not any more! lol Of course I’ve heard using clear pots, which lets the light thru to the roots, can cause browning and therefore death… maybe doing a pot in a pot, with the outside pot being opaque would help with that problem. Hope to see more pictures once they really get going!


  4. Thanks for the update as well! Good to know info for those of us who want to increase our Russian Sage population.
    any updates on the worm composting planned?

  5. Racquel,

    Thanks. I need to try to keep better records on the successes and failures with propagation. Percentages would probably be a helpful statistic.


    A arrows, what was I thinking? 😉 Oh well I’ll use them next time. I’ve used them as little feature plants here and there but I’m planning a little something enmass this year.


    Definitely give it a go. With the economy as it is free plants are just the right price.


    They are great plants in full sun aren’t they? It’s hard to beat drought tolerant and beautiful from June through September.


    I like the pun, “sheer!” Anyway it was more a matter of what I had on hand and happened to work really well.

    Thanks Skeeter. 🙂


    A pot in a pot would probably help. Or even just a dark piece of paper that won’t let light through. Most of the time I don’t let the cuttings stay in the container long enough for anything bad to happen.


    I can’t get enough of it. It’s look, its smell, and the extra long blooms are great!


    Thanks, you seem awfully excited! If I knew the shipping rules between us and Canada I’d send you one.


    Good question! So far my worm bins are in the garage. I’m waiting for the weather to warm a little more before I go get worms. I need to do a little structure to hold them up better but that should be quick and easy to put together. In short I haven’t done anything lately to them but I’m planning on getting to them soon. Maybe I’ll send my worm catcher out this weekend to find me a few. (aka my 3 year old daughter)

  6. I love Russian sage because it’s hardy, heat and pest resistant, beautiful and because I am Russian, too. Very interesting, informative and useful post, thanks! I never tried to propagate it from cuttings. In my garden, new plants grow from seeds falling around the mother plant. I noticed that new baby plants don’t like to be moved. I might try your method. Thanks for all the detailes and pictures.

  7. I am going to try with some softwood cuttings- but I will try hardwood cuttings in the fall- thank you for explaining your process clearly- it makes us novice gardeners feel like we can try this and be successful! 🙂

  8. Thank you so much for all your instructions and all that you share with all of us. I find myself looking to you for directions on all my gardening issues.
    When propagating Russian sage hard cuttings, when is it time to transfer each one into a pot of soil? As I need to wait till the spring before transplanting them outside correct?

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