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!