Russian Sage pruning?

cherry67(6)April 22, 2014

Okay, I've tried a few different times to grow Russian Sage, last year my husband ran over the ones in the backyard with the lawn mower after he THOUGHT our dog killed them(they were damaged but still alive). Anywho, we planted some more in our flower bed last summer/fall and I just planted another in a different bed we just started this spring. They are leafing out at the bottom, I have never pruned them though and I know it should be done in the spring...So should I? I read somewhere on here that someone said they don't prune them for the first 3 years so as to allow them to build up a woody base, but then I've read others prune them every year. They are probably about 2 ft tall...should I at least prune the very thin spindly top growth from last year?

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babera(5a (Montana))

I trim mine the first year. . . I especially hate the long spindly shoots they get. After it blooms you can cut it again and get a 2nd round of flowers. . . works for me anyway. . . I cut about 1/3 off when the blooms fade.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 10:47PM
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Thank you babera! So you don't think it's too late to still prune then? It already has some green growth at the bottom maybe 3 inches or a little less. And it's ok to prune again after flowering so long as it's not in the fall right? I think I read somewhere that you def don't want to prune those types of plants in the fall.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 1:07AM
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Do not prune RS until the new growth has begun. I prune mine every year back to the point at which I want it to branch. Mine blooms all summer so I only prune in the spring. I don't have to prune this year; winter did it for me. To the ground.


    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 1:14AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

pruning ANYTHING...

track down the stem .. and cut just above an active bud.. regardless of its size ... that is why whitelacy waits [so the buds get bigger] ... and most likely what babe does .. and doesnt realize ...

if you cut too far down.. and dont see the bud.. then who knows what till happen ...

again.. any healthy plant .. just leave one to 3 buds .. and you will win ... [just like on trees and conifers.. and the thought of not leaving a stub ....

if you dont find the bud .. then you are guessing.. and that is when problems start ...

i expect a 500 word essay on your voyage of discovery thru the various plants in your garden.. with a full discussion of which can be pruned low .. and which might not .. lol.. i just gave myself a flashback.. it wasnt fun.. lol

and.. keep in mind.. no need to prune the whole plant in one fell swoop.. take off a branch ... and check in a week how it responded... and then cut more ..

good luck


ps: the buds are usually hidden in the nodes.. which is usually where a leaf attaches ... and all you might see is a tiny bump ... but thats a bud .. and if you snip 1/4 an inch above.. and come back in a few days.. that bud will have triggered.. and had explosive growth ...

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 7:58AM
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ummmm..... I don't treat the Russian Sage that way, checking buds etc. Every year I cut it down to about 6 to 8" tall, well before it leafs out, I clean out the leaves & debris collected in it, usually in February so all new growth comes out of the base of the plant. If you do not do this, you will end up with a leggy & poorly shaped plant. Some advise cutting in fall if you don't want to look at the dead stems. I like the texture in winter myself so I wait until late winter.

I have a very old shrub that gets wider at the base each year, its puts out new growth close to the plant. Some people complain about this "suckering" but if you think of the plant as a shrub rather than a perennial it is not a problem, they do need space.

It used to look like crap before I started trimming it this way. There are some that do not get trimmed up the road, they look scraggly & much thinner with few branches.

Let the plant have a few years to develop a good sized diameter at the base, I believe the flopping problems will be solved as it becomes a mature thick shrub, if planted in the correct spot with full sun.

A newly purchased nursery plant can be planted any time up to six weeks before a killing frost. This is a very cold hardy shrub that thrives on neglect. Do not water it or plant in overly rich soil. I believe the dryer the soil, the better the plant looks & its less likely to flop, based on my experience. Find the driest, hottest, sunniest spot you have. Mine loves 100+ temps. in dry lean soil.

Here is the plant a year ago after being trimmed that way, the plant is several years old it gets about 4' x 4' each summer (sorry, its past its first blooming prime in the photo, come fall it will bloom again thickly, without midseason trimming).

This post was edited by TexasRanger10 on Wed, Apr 23, 14 at 14:06

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 1:47PM
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babera(5a (Montana))

Yes, I agree with Texasranger, you can not kill these plants. I had mine in a flower bed that wasn't big enough to give it the room it requires. I dug it up and gave it to my daughter. I took the transplant just fine in mid August and is doing well to date. I'm still pulling tiny pieces out of the ground near and where it was planted. I don't like the straggly look, thus the hard pruning. Now that I think of it, I'm not so sure they sprout on old branches. I'm thinking they come from the roots, but could be wrong. . .

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 9:41PM
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Thanks everyone for you help! I am probably going to go ahead and trim the old growth back to about 6-8 inches here in a little while if I can find my clippers.

Texas Ranger- Your plant looks great! I have heavy clay soil and we tend to get a lot of rain here(TN), but I'm hoping they'll survive.

Oh and one more thing, how long does it normally take before they reach full size?
Thanks again!

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 7:06PM
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Since you just planted it a bag of play sand would make a nice addition to the planting hole. They love sandy soil that drains better. I'd lift the plant, add at least half a bag & replant it, or better yet, add a whole bag to mound it up some. Last spring mine really suffered from a couple weeks of unusually heavy rain, it took all summer to bounce back & I noticed a couple main stems are dead in the center but over all, the plant is quite thick with new stems & about 15" tall.

That one in the picture has been in that spot since 2006, I'd guess it was about a gallon sized plant when I transplanted it. Now its about two feet across at the base but still gets a bit wider every year. I've started a couple new plants off it by digging up a good sized bit of roots.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 9:35PM
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I prune my two Russian Sages the same way as Texas Range. Just did it last week. They always come up bushier and better. Very reliable.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 5:13PM
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I measured the diameter of the base today which is solid with stems. Its a 3 ft circle of new stems coming out of the ground & off the big ones. Bushier is an understatement. It takes up a very big space in the inferno strip down by the road.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 9:39PM
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I asked the same question last year.... And Ken gave me a very similar response then, too. I followed what he said and was not disappointed at all!

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 8:51PM
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Well I cut them all back to about 6-8" so now just so watch and wait. We just had a ton of rain over the earlier part of this week so my beds are pretty wet, but no standing water in them at least.
TexasRanger thanks for the sand suggestion, but I think I'll wait and see how it all goes. I've heard conflicting stuff about sand and clay soil so for now I'm just making sure we till some composted manure in any new beds although it probably wouldn't hurt to use it as a yearly addition to the top of the beds too. Hopefully they'll be as big as yours someday.
Thanks again for all of your advice, everyone!

    Bookmark   May 1, 2014 at 2:28PM
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