If you have heavy clay soil, it is important to amend it with plenty of grit and organic matter to increase the draining capabilities of the site.
There are many options for building your soil up and creating great drainage for other xeriscape plants. Bringing in sandy or gritty soil and creating small ‘hills’ of earth for planting can create visual interest in the landscape AND create the drier conditions you need. Another option is to dig a traditional hole for the plant and refill with gritty soil – planting the Russian sage halfway out of the hole and building more soil up and around it by eighteen inches or so to protect the roots and keep it up and out of the heavier surrounding soil.
Whatever you decide to do, remember that plants will need a regular watering schedule during their first season in your garden. Let the soil dry out between waterings and then water deeply, encouraging roots to go deep into the soil.
Russian Sage is an excellent plant for gardeners who do not have much time to maintain their gardens, as it does not spread, doesn’t need deadheading or dividing, and needs minimal care at the end of the season. For those in cold northern climates (Zone 5), it is a good idea to cut it back at the end of the season and cover with a light, free-draining mulch of straw or garden debris to protect the roots.
In warmer zones, the plant can be allowed to stay as a garden ornament throughout the winter – filtering light through frosted, wispy stems. In early spring before it has broken its dormancy, cut it back to 12-15” above ground.
You’ll find that over time a woody base develops, which makes Russian Sage a difficult plant to divide. If you wish to make more plants on your own, take cuttings of new shoots in the spring and use a rooting hormone with damp vermiculite as a rooting medium.
In summer, you can take semi-ripe shoots with a heel (grasp the shoot and pull down and away from the plant, pulling off a small “heel” at the bottom of the cutting). These are also rooted with hormone and vermiculite. Offsets are often formed at the edges of parent plants which can be severed and replanted to increase or replace stock.
Use alone or pair with others for great impact