Has anyone had any luck with Russian Sage "Little Spires"?

ostrich(3a AB)June 15, 2014

I love Russian Sage. It's such a lovely, airy perennial that goes with lots of garden designs. However, I just don't seem to have much luck here in my Calgary garden.

I planted a 3 gallon Little Spires 2 years ago. It took a while to establish itself. Then last year, it took forever to get going, and once it did, it still was not spectacular. This year, it is only just about to show some green leaves, but only in one spot only. I just don't know what to do with it....

What is your experience with it? It is listed as zone 4 on many websites, but I thought it was good for zone 3 too.... anyway, if I replace it, what would have similar attributes that I should consider in place of it? I already have a Walker's Low catmint which is a gigantic thing now, as it is doing extremely well and so I don't want another one there.....

Thanks in advance!

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From time to time, I've come across Russian sage grown in the Edmonton area, though couldn't say if any of it had been the 'Little Spires' variety. The early and generally reliable snowcover makes it easier to grow zone 4 perennials in this region.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2014 at 11:11AM
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ostrich(3a AB)

Thanks! I could not stand it and so yesterday, I cut the whole thing down to almost the ground level. I will give it another couple of weeks to grow. If it does not do much then, it's DONE. I will just have to replace it with something a lot more reliable for this west-facing area. It's such a shame because it's such a beautiful plant, when it is happy.... sigh!

    Bookmark   June 16, 2014 at 7:35PM
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I have a hard time giving up on something that should be doing well in my climate 5a...
If you dig it up and 'done' with it...check the root structure. Maybe to damp?
I also failed with RussianSage but have wanted another go at it for some time...maybe...
I replaced with globe thistle and love its fuss free care in that spot. Speedwell is another.
A salvia variety for your zone may work, but your Sage should do fine.
Maybe give it another 'out of the way' spot that is dry and a bit sandy...i actually added a bag of sand to my soil and tried it on a higher spot in my garden...still failed but some replacements seem to love the drier area...

    Bookmark   June 16, 2014 at 8:06PM
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I had a Russian sage for years...it grew at least three feet every year and most years it didn't suffer from extreme dieback. I lost it one year and every single replacement (up to at least six so far), have not survived. I have now placed this plant on the list of "Never Again", along with tall bearded iris, Lewisia and Morden Sunrise roses.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2014 at 11:14PM
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hykue(2b Saskatchewan)

Oh, poop! I had one that thrived for two years, it was huge and lovely, but it died when I moved it way too late last year. I'm sad to hear its replacement might not do as well. Just a regular one, not "Little Spires".

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 3:27PM
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ostrich(3a AB)

sleevendog, I think that you are right on the money! I didn't want to admit it or think about that, but I am sure that the area that I planted it in is just too "rich and moist" for this thing. I guess I don't have any sandy and dry soil in my yard! LOL! So perhaps it's just time to give it up. Donna's story just confirmed my fear too.

hykue, perhaps you can try it at least one more time? After all, Donna tried it 7 times already!!! :-)

I am now thinking of planting an agastache there instead - isn't this thing hardy to zone 3?

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 8:11PM
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Us gardeners are an optimistic bunch, or we're stoo-pid, lol.

When I think about all the plants I've tried to grow in my twenty+ years of gardening....so many were assumed hardy but unless you hit the perfect microclimate and gave it winter protection, good luck having it return. Coreopsis, turtlehead (chelone), sea holly, helenium, culver's root, tiarella, Lewisia...those are just a few of the plants that I bought over the years and they never did well. I very rarely see these plants for sale here now, and for good reason - they are expensive annuals.

I know someone growing mophead hydrangeas here in Saskatoon and they are spectacular...rather than entire plant varieties, sometimes there is a single specimen of a plant that is hardier than others of its kind. Too bad we have no way of extinguishing the winners from the duds.

These days, I tend to select plants that I know will be hardy for 2b...just took me twenty years to learn that lesson ;).

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 11:51AM
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north53 Z1b MB(zone 1b Canada)

My experience with Russian Sage was a failure. I started a bunch of plants from seed. I had good germination and planted the seedlings in the garden to start. My garden tends to be very gravelly. They wintered okay. I donâÂÂt remember how long I left them there, but when I attempted to move them about the yard I eventually lost them all. They didnâÂÂt die outright, but took forever to come up in the spring and never reached their potential. I gave up on them.
Then I tried the same thing with agastache. Seedlings actually wintered in their little cell packs. I thought that I was going to regret planting this hardy plant in my perennial bed. It was lovely but seemed so hardy. I thought it would seed all over, since it was so easy from seed. None are left! But wait, I think IâÂÂve found something that looks like it in a forgotten corner!

I really think it may not be so much a hardiness issue though. If you have the right conditions for the plant, I mean the correct PH and soil type, etc. maybe youâÂÂll have success.

However, IâÂÂve had the same experience of having a plant grow successfully for years then upon losing it for some reason or other, having every replacement die immediately or the first winter. Two that come to mind are monarda and sedum âÂÂAutumn JoyâÂÂ.

Some of your disappointments are growing successfully in my yard, Donna. I have several clumps of veronicastrum or culverâÂÂs root doing quite well. I started them from seed. Not sure I like them yet. This should be the year to tell.
Sea holly thrives in my gravelly garden. I know someone who has turtlehead growing naturally out at the lake here. But the others you mentioned, coreopsis, helenium, tiarella, IâÂÂve tried and failed with. I can add echinacia to that list.
I've always wondered about that theory about single specimens being hardier than the rest. I have some plants rated zone 4 growing happily in my yard. Is it a fluke or were they just rated wrong to start with. I guess thatâÂÂs part of what makes gardening such a great hobby though. ThereâÂÂs always surprises to balance out the disappointments.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 1:16PM
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north53 Z1b MB(zone 1b Canada)

I could add the new varieties of heuchera to the expensive annual list also. Though I just had a clump of palace purple survive the winter from hell. Go figure!

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 1:20PM
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Darn, this reminds me that two of my lewisia seemed to have disappeared. The other one is a giant clump now though. Go figure.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 2:59PM
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weeper_11(2b SK)

No, I gave up replanting it. I think it was my heavy clay soil that killed it, probably kept its feet too wet. Boo, I think they are so pretty.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 12:54AM
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I don't know what the soil is like where you are but I am in Southern Ohio and my Sage grows like weeds. It also sends up more plants from the roots. I do not have sandy soil; quite the opposite, heavy, heavy clay. It is soaking wet in the spring and dry as a bone in the summer. Fall is always a guess and winter can be warm and snow-less or the hell we had this past winter.

As a side note-if your soil is clay adding sand to it is a disaster. You want to add peat moss and/or compost. One of the first lessons in Horticulture Science--clay plus sand equal bricks.

Artemisia is a lovely plant with the same coloring as RS.


    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 1:11AM
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ostrich(3a AB)

Linda, Southern Ohio is a completely different story! I used to live in Northeast Ohio and it was so easy to grow Russian Sage there. It is so much warmer there.... and you are in zone 6 or 7, right? Entirely different game altogether...

Artemisia surely has similar colours to the stems of Russian Sage, MINUS the purple flowers. However, it does not have the same size, shape, texture, blooms or airiness of Russian Sage. To me, all those attributes are equally important as the colour.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 9:15PM
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