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Arboretum Spotlight: From Russia with water savings

Arboretum spotlight: Silvery blue Russian sage offers a lot of color with little water.
Arboretum spotlight: Silvery blue Russian sage offers a lot of color with little water.

This is one part in a new weekly series featuring the UC Davis Arboretum’s “40 Plants You (Probably) Have Never Heard of – But Will Love,” 40 can’t-fail, easy-care, low-water plants well adapted to our region but hard to find.

Silvery blue Russian sage

Perovskia atriplicifolia “Lissver”

Size: Up to 20 inches tall.

Exposure: Full sun.

Bloom season: Long-blooming, lavender blue flowers from midsummer into fall.

Pruning needs: Deciduous in winter; cut back plants to stems 8 to 12 inches tall before growth restarts in spring.

Water needs: Medium low water; irrigate deeply once a week in summer or twice a month in cooler weather.

Snapshot: This little perennial can steal the show in the summer garden. Instead of the gray-green foliage of many Russian sages, this variety has almost white stems with silver-green foliage. That pretty silver foliage and masses of lavender blue flowers make a real statement in summer flower beds, particularly as a contrast to plants with yellow and gold flowers. With erect woody stems and an informal growth habit, it can stand tall (but not too tall) behind shorter border plants. It drops its leaves in winter, but quickly bounces back again in spring. Another plus: This Russian sage attracts beneficial insects and hummingbirds.

▪ For more on 40 Plants, click on arboretum.ucdavis.edu.

More online

See photo galleries of the arboretum’s Community Favorites, Durable Delights and Arboretum All-Stars at sacbee.com/entertainment/living/home-garden.


Questions are answered by master gardeners at the UC Cooperative Extension services in Sacramento and Placer counties. Send questions to Garden Detective, P.O. Box 15779, Sacramento, CA 95852. Send email to h&g@sacbee.com. Please put “Garden Detective” in the subject field and include your postal address. To contact UC Extension directly, call:

Sacramento: (916) 875-6913; 9 a.m.-noon and 1-4 p.m. Monday-Thursday

Amador: (209) 223-6838;

10 a.m.-noon Monday through Thursday; email ceamador. ucdavis.edu

Butte: (530) 538-7201;

8 a.m.-noon and 1-5 p.m. weekdays

Colusa: (530) 458-0570; 9 a.m.-noon and 1-4 p.m. Tuesdays; website: cecolusa.ucanr.edu

El Dorado: (530) 621-5512; 9 a.m.-noon Tuesday-Friday

Placer: (530) 889-7388;

9 a.m.-noon on Tuesdays, Wednesday and Thursdays or leave a message and calls will be returned; website: http://pcmg.ucanr.org/Got_Questions//

Nevada: (530) 273-0919;

9 a.m.-noon Tuesdays through Thursday or leave a message

Shasta, Tehama, Trinity: (530) 225-4605

Solano: (707) 784-1322; leave a message and calls will be returned

Sutter, Yuba: (530) 822-7515; 9 a.m.-noon Mondays and Tuesdays and 1-4 p.m. Thursdays

Yolo: (530) 666-8737;

9-11 a.m. Tuesdays and Fridays, or leave a message and calls will be returned

More online

To read past Garden Detectives, go to sacbee.com/home-garden