Growing Russian Sage from Cuttings (Plant Propagation)

I’ve propagated many plants over the years and one of my favorite plants to propagate is Russian sage. Yesterday I was able to transplant several Russian sage cuttings (Perovskia atriplicifolia) into pots to grow for a little while until I can plant them in the garden. In this post I’ll describe how I propagate Russian sage from cuttings.

Russian Sage flowering

A couple weeks ago I took nine cuttings of Russian sage that were about 4 inches long and placed them in sand after putting some rooting hormone on the cut end. In less than two weeks there was significant rooting and all 9 cuttings successfully rooted.

Check out the root system on this Russian sage cutting in the picture below!

Russian sage cutting with roots
Rooting Russian sage from cuttings. An example of good root growth from a cutting.

Internode: The new roots come out from the sides of the stem and not just the cut end which means it will produce internodal root.

What are Nodes?

Nodes are where the leaves and branches form on a plant and so the internode is the area between the nodes. Many plants will form roots only at that node and so if you take cuttings of those plants your cuttings need to be taken just below the node. In the case of Russian sage cutting beneath the node isn’t necessary since the roots will form all along the stem. The cutting in the above picture has about 4 nodes along the stem. If you take cuttings of Russian sage I would recommend making a similar cutting to the picture with about 3 to 4 nodes.

Russian sage and penstemon cuttings
Russian Sage cuttings (Right) in a sand medium with Penstemon Cuttings

How to Propagate Russian Sage – Video

Here you can see me walk through the steps of taking cuttings of Russian sage.

Success in Propagating Russian Sage

The video below uses the same cuttings from the video above. You can see the results and learn what I think of sand vs. seed starting mix as a rooting soil medium.

After Rooting Russian Sage Care

Once the Russian sage cuttings root you want to get them into a potting mix so that the nutrients in the soil will help feed the plant. If I were to leave them too long in the sand medium I use for cuttings the new plants would eventually fail.

These cuttings are now in a morning sun only location to get acclimated for the outdoors. I will gradually move them into a more sunny location so that I can plant them in a full sun location.

Rooted Russian sage from cuttings potted

In the middle of the potted cuttings you can see two very tiny Russian sage plants. These were a discovery I made yesterday when I moved one of my Russian sages to a new garden bed (future post). It’s always nice to find unexpected seedlings. These should be very similar to my ‘Longin’ Russian sage since that was where I found them, but as always with seeds they may not be true, but probably true enough!

A couple of these will new Russian sage plants will go in the garden, a couple will be given away, and a couple will be traded. The seedlings will also go in the garden. Since I potted up my nine Russian sage cuttings I had room for some more cuttings in the garage. I added fourteen new cuttings this morning! I love free plants don’t you?

Here are a few resources that may be helpful in Propagating Plants. (Am. Aff links)

From Growing The Home Garden

Plant Propagation for Home Gardens

Why I Love Russian Sage in the Garden

Russian sage is attractive

Russian sage has a lot of extremely good properties that make it worth planting in the garden. It is obviously and attractive plant. The purple/blue flowers that emerge on tall spires are very attractive and can be planted well with a number of plants. It goes well with roses, coreopsis, verbena, and many other perennials. Russian sage can be used in front of evergreen plantings to add some summertime color with a green backdrop.

Good Companion Plants for Russian Sage

Rudbeckia (Black Eyed Susans), Echinacea (coneflower), Verbena, Achillea (Yarrow), Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), Daylilies, Asiatic lilies, Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’.

Russian Sage is as Deer Proof of a Perennial as they come!

Russian sage is also DEER PROOF! I have deer issues in my garden and the deer stay away from Russian sage. I can’t say that for many deer resistant varieties. Often deer will sample just to see if they like something but they never worry with my Russian sage plants. That could be due to the strong aroma that the leaves have when touched or brushed against.

Russian Sage Attracts Pollinators

Russian sage attracts pollinators to my garden in droves. When in flower my Russian sage is loaded with bees of all types. It also attracts butterflies and hoverflies which are beneficial insects.

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Propagating Russian Sage with Cuttings

Here is summary of the steps to take for successful Russian sage propagation:

  • Take 3-4 node cuttings (about 4 inches long) using a clean pair of pruning shears or scissors.
  • Treat the cut end of the Russian sage cutting in rooting hormone (not absolutely necessary as Russian sage will root without additional rooting hormone).
  • Place your cutting carefully in sand or other rooting medium. Use a pencil to dib holes in the sand to help prevent breakage of the soft stems. (It’s really frustrating when you damage a cutting!)
  • Keep the cuttings moist using a mister or tent the cuttings with a bag. Water loss through transpiration is the primary reason most cuttings fail. I had really good success but I’ve lost other cuttings, you will lose some cuttings at some point!
  • In about 2 weeks check for resistance by giving the cuttings a gentle tug. If there is resistance carefully check for roots.
  • If there are roots on your cuttings transplant the new plants into pots with a good potting soil. If there are no roots and the cuttings are still healthy stick them back into the medium and wait another week.

A Couple Additional Tips on Russian Sage Propagation

While taking cuttings carry a water jar with you. Put the freshly taken cuttings in the jar while you gather other cuttings. This will help reduce water loss until you have several cuttings collected to stick.

Hardwood Cuttings of Russian sage ready for sticking in medium.
Hardwood Cuttings of Russian sage ready for sticking in medium.

Russian sage will root from hardwood cuttings as well. It is treated as a perennial but is really a subshrub. Branches will turn into hardwood in the fall and those branches can be used to make cuttings over the winter.

Best Growing Conditions for Russian Sage

Russian sage is a tough perennial that can thrive in tough places. The one thing I have noticed that you need to avoid are excessively damp conditions. Too much moisture may cause rotting in the roots and death to the plant. A well drained location in full sun is ideal for Russian sage. It isn’t picky about the soil so as long as its roots are not too wet.

Russian sage with Rudbeckia and Shasta Daisies

Russian Sage Varieties

There are many varieties of Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) you can pick for your garden. Here’s a short list of a few you may want to research and plant in your garden: Blue Jean, Blue Spires, Blue Steel, CrazyBlue, Lacey Blue, Little Spires, Longin, Peek-a-Blue, and ‘Rocketman.’

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15 thoughts on “Growing Russian Sage from Cuttings (Plant Propagation)”

  1. Dave, I found some seedlings of Baptisia under the mother plant and wonder what color they will be…maybe they will revert to true purple baptisia….I will have to wait for a few years to see!

    You are a very successful propagator!

    Gail

  2. Whoa! You are ambitious. I am darting around with trays of seedlings over here, trying to get the veggie garden planted. I usually cheat with larger plants, but this year I am “digging deeper” and getting into the process more. It’s more work, that’s all I can say!

    Thanks for sharing your cutting updates ~ it is great to be able to propagate our most beloved plants, and I am not always sure which ones will work. I will be using this ‘borrowed’ knowledge for sure! 🙂

  3. Gail,

    It’s exciting to find new volunteers isn’t it! I’m hoping to find a few more here and there. As they grow they will definitely be the subject of more propagation.

    Tina,

    Can’t beat the price. Unless someone decided to pay you to take a plant. If you find someone like that let me know!

    Jen in TN,

    All knowledge is borrowed at some point. For me every attempt at propagation is an experiment. Just pick a plant and give it a go!

  4. I tried taking some in the autumn here but they failed. I think I timed it wrong and having read your post I will try again and use sand as you suggest

  5. Helen,

    Sterilized sand works really well. It gives the cutting support so it stands upright and it doesn’t have any pathogens that can harm your cutting. Spring and summer are better for softwood or greenwood cuttings since it will give the plant time to grow roots and harden off before winter. Let me know how it goes!

  6. I’m glad I saw your post about taking cuttings from Russian Sage. I would like to try it. What month should I do the cuttings? Also, where can I buy rooting hormone?

    Thanks!

    Neil

  7. Hi Neil!

    I like to take green cuttings in the spring. 3-4 inches long with about 2-3 nodes works great. They root well with internodal cuttings. I’ve done cuttings of Russian sage all the way through the summer but the fastest germination rates are in spring when the plants are actively growing. I picked up on container of rooting hormone from one of our local big box stores but if they don’t have it check your local coop they should. Good luck with your cuttings!

  8. Dave I have an impression that You, like a French chief keep the key ingredients of success secret.

    Why wouldn't You mention that humidity tent (I used foil sandwich bags wraped around containers, kept in place by a rubber) is absolutely necessary to achieve a reasonable percentage of plants that took root???

    I discovered it after I noticed that if one takes the foil off the cutting nods- when you put it back the plant erects again).

    Other imortant things to remember is to watch whether droplets appear at the surface of foil as it is a signal the humidity is too high and the foil needs to be turned over to the other side.

    Direct sunlight must never reach the cuttings but they need a bright spot.

    In my experience, it is best to take cuttings from tips of the stems rather tham making them from a stem cut into pieces. if the plant is already in flower, cut the flower back and perovskia will send a couple of suitable stems at the base of a plant.

    Never overwater the cuttings and always use the sand to root so that new sages wouldn't rot.

    Unfortunetly I made some sort of mistake at he end of (otherwise successful) 2-and-a-half-week process as my cuttings don't look well a few days after being transplnted into new soil. Possibly it's because i included acidic peat in their new soil or there was too much/ too little sunlight/water at some point.

    Excuse my English BTW, i' not a native speaker and I'm writing this comment in a hurry lol

    1. Andrew,

      You make some good observations about the cuttings however at no time did I deceive you or anyone else on how I did my cuttings. It is true humidity is important for cuttings to prevent desiccation of the leaves and the plastic bag is a good technique for that. It's not always necessary. I didn't use a plastic bag and still ended up with the cuttings. I'm sharing my experiences here. My experience will differ from yours or the next person who visits. Russian sage is a plant that likes well drained soil so a soil with too much peat may encourage fungal disease and rot. A well drained compost, sand or perlite mixture is probably a good bet to go with. I've had success with Russian sage rooting from hardwood cuttings also.

    2. If I'm not wrong, you've mentioned once on your blog you keep containers with cuttings in a fish tank. That may serve as a substitute for foil bags, the importance of which you might have underestimated 🙂 I wasn't assuming bad intentions on your side in a serious way.

      Out of my large number of attempts without humidity control only 1 was succesful. Once i started using foil bags each one was succesful.

      The problem appeared after transplanting to new soil. I've used a mix of fine (probably limestone) gravel, peat, sand and commercially sold gardening soil.
      The drainage is excellent. If fungi are to blame i'd expect more pathogens in compost than peat which BTW is known to absorb the excess of water, providing good aeration. My peat however was not deacidified. If the problem lies in soil it's probably unsuitable pH.

      I'll wait and see. After all my cuttinga are not dead yet. their leaves look better now that'i've put the bags back on. Maybe I'm panicking a little as they're my babies.

      The other frustrating plant was salvia nemorosa. I used to put the cuttings directly into a container with gardening soil and salvias would pretend for many weeks that they've rooted by sending lush new leaves. Then, for no reason they would die, sometimes after a month and a half. Only recently I discovered these salvias had no roots at all and they took their nutrients from the stem. As a result I started puttings cuttings in clear sand to force them to root.

    3. Humidity is important and I don't think I've underestimated it. Back when this post was written (2008) I was simply sharing the results of my propagation experiments. At the time these posts were not intended as how to guides. However I will go back and do some editing to make sure they have more information on propagating. The Russian sage cuttings were done on a window sill without an aquarium or any humidity containment.

      Timing may be another issue. I don't know what zone you're in, or what country, but these types of cuttings usually are taken in spring through early summer. I can be done later but I've found success rates diminish some later in the season.

      As for salvia in most cases they should root in less than three weeks. If they start getting that new growth try pinching it back a little to send energy back to the roots.

  9. Wow, it's so generous of You to rewrite the articles to include more tips. Many people will benefit as Your blog is one of the first google search results in "images" as regards rooting russian sages and salvia nemorosa.

    The place you mentioned the aquarium was in response to Dwayne under heuchera article.

    Downside of foil bags is that even though 100% of cuttings rooted, bags need to be turned over to the other side everytime they get foggy or otherwise the mould may attack. That's part of the reason pure sand is better medium for rooting.

    Rooting cuttings on the window sill (northern one) without humidity control works perfectly with Nepeta Fassenii. You don't even need to use sand or special mixes to succed. Then after two weeks they can be taken to more sunny location and soon planted out into the garden. Russian sage in my experience is way more demanding. Only 1 treated this way survived.

    Yes, i live on the northen hemisphere so it's autumn here 🙂 Spring would be more practical for propagation as the new plants have more time to mature and can be kept outside during the winter.

    Thank you for the conversation. Excuse me that my responses came late sometimes. Best wishes 🙂

    'Andrew'

  10. Thank you, Dave, for teaching me a thing or too! I am new to this planting, as we bought a house, so I'm having soo much fun trying things out! I really want to stay with heat and water tolerant, and for the most part, things are great, but the Russians are getting overgrown, and want to take cuttings and disperse the joy! I have them by my clothesline, s o I get to smell and enjoy as I work! Will be going south for the winter, so gonna try the propagating in the spring! wish me luck!! haha!

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