Friday, August 6, 2021

Plant Profile: Perovskia atriplicifolia aka Salvia yangii (Russian Sage)

Latin name: Salvia yangii  ("SAL-vee-ah YANG-ee-eye")
Previously known as:
Perovskia atriplicifolia
Common name: Russian Sage
Originally from: southwestern and central Asia.
Purple flowers from summer to fall.
Light: Full sun.
Water: Winter rain is enough.
Height x width: 4'x4'
Zones: 5-9
Where to find in P. Garden: We have several at PRG

Here's a handsome plant. Tall, upright, with aromatic gray-green leaves and violet-blue flowers on delicate spires, it brings a misty purple element to the garden. At the end of the year we cut it to the base, and forget about it until early summer when it bounces back suddenly and puts on a show.

Since 2017 it's been listed with the genus Salvia, but before that we knew it as a Perovskia after the Russian General-adjutant Count Vasily Alekseevich Perovski (left; 1794 - c. 1857) The common name, Russian Sage, makes remembering the Salvia part easier though, and the species part o the name means "with leaves resembling salt-bush."

In 1839 General Perovski led an invasion of the Khanate of Khiva  to free Russian slaves. His expeditionary force consisted of 5,200 infantry and 10,000 camels. So you could see his name is apt for a smart looking, upright and drought tolerant plant.

General Perovski's left forefinger was lost in the Battle of Borodino in 1812 during Napoleon's French invasion of Russia. He was never able to find the missing digit, and it was replaced with gold fillet. If one wanted to make a further comparison with the Russian Sage, one might find something in the need to cut this plant back to the base each year. Perhaps that's a stretch though.

It is native to the steppes and hills of southwestern and central Asia, and does well in a wide range of climate and soil conditions - we find it very drought tolerant. Several cultivars have been developed too, with different leaf shapes and overall heights.

Not strictly ornamental, Wikipedia says "The species has a long history of use in traditional medicine in its native range, where it is employed as a treatment for a variety of ailments. This has led to the investigation of its phytochemistry. Its flowers can be eaten in salads or crushed for dyemaking, and the plant has been considered for potential use in the phytoremediation of contaminated soil."

 We never water ours - I bet if we did it would be even nice. Give it a try in your garden!

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