Russian Sage Vs. Lavender? The Choice is Yours!

lavender blooms

Like many gardeners, you probably want to include a mixture of annuals, perennials, vegetables, herbs, and ornamentals in your garden.  Lavenders and sages are particularly appealing because they have both culinary and aesthetic value.  

You might be drawn to both lavender and Russian Sage, but you think that you might not have the time or garden space for both.  Which one to choose, and how do you make that choice?

First, understand that it may not be necessary to choose. It’s possible to grow both, although you might want to consider growing lavender in your herb and vegetable garden.  Then, you can display your showy Russian Sage in a perennial bed or wildflower garden.

In this article, I’ll share with you some information about both plants, including a description, a little about growing them, and some hints on what varieties might work best for you.  Then, you can make an informed choice on the question of Russian Sage vs. Lavender. 

russian sage flowers vs lavender

What’s the Difference Between Russian Sage vs. Lavender?

Let’s look at the similarities and differences in the two plants.

Both plants produce spiky flowers in a variety of shades of purple, depending on variety, and grow on upright sturdy stems.  

The leaves of both lavender and Russian Sage add a unique silvery green hue to the garden with their leaf color and are aromatic when crushed.

They prefer to grow in full sun in well-drained soil and don’t like to be overwatered or living in soggy areas.

They have the added advantage of attracting pollinators and beneficial insects, which are essential for building a healthy garden.  They also repel many pesky insects, such as biting flies.

If you live in a warmer climate, both plants can be grown as perennials. In my Wisconsin zone 5a/b garden, I have trouble keeping lavender alive through the winter, although it is possible with some special care and the right variety. I tend to treat it as an annual instead and replant it every spring. 

Lavender plants generally grow 1 ½ to 3 feet tall. 

Many varieties of Russian sage, or Salvia yangii, can grow up to five feet tall, although there are smaller, hybrid varieties. 

Russian Sage is related to mint, and there’s a hint of mint in the fragrant blooms, which can be used for culinary purposes or steeped in teas.  The tea has traditionally been used to support digestion.

Lavender, or Lavandula spica, blooms are often lavender, but there are also pink, white, and deep purple varieties available. It can be used in cooking, and it’s also traditionally been used in aromatherapy to relieve stress.

Lavender’s lovely, delicate fragrance is also a favorite in potpourris, and it’s often used in making soaps and lotions. If you’re interested in making your own potpourri or drying lavender for tea or baking, learn more about simple ways to dry lavender from your garden.

So, now you know a little about the plants, but you may still be wondering how to choose Russian Sage vs. lavender.  

summer blooming perennial garden with russian sage

How Do You Choose?

Remember that it might not be necessary to make a choice. With a little planning, you can have both, even if you’re dealing with limited space.

Some gardeners recommend planting lavender in the vegetable and herb garden with other culinary plants. Then, you can plant the Russian Sage outside of this area in the perennial garden.

This can be a particularly good option if you have a fairly large space where you’re trying to create a meadow or a wildflower garden.

If space is a limited, and you really want to grow Russian Sage, there are compact hybrids that you can choose, such as Lacey Blue and Little Spire.

If space is very limited, you might also want to learn more about how to easily build an herb spiral garden.  This creative method allows you to maximize the available space, and an herb spiral can be constructed using simple, inexpensive materials. I often plant either lavender or rosemary at the top of my herb spiral because it’s the driest, sunniest spot.

Other considerations in the Russian Sage vs. Lavender dilemma are soil type and climate. Lavender grows well in Zones 5-9, and it’s extremely drought tolerant. It’s native to the Mediterranean and the mid-East, and it adores dry weather and dry, nutrient-poor soil.  It is, unfortunately, quick to succumb to moist soils and humidity.

If you, like me, have a wetter climate and fertile, moist soils, you could mitigate the soil with compost and coarse organic materials and build a raised bed to enhance drainage.  Still, you might find that you’re struggling to keep the lavender thriving indefinitely, so that’s another good reason to grow it in your vegetable garden and just enjoy it as an annual. 

Russian Sage is well-suited for Zones 4-9, and, like lavender, it thrives in full sun and requires good drainage.  It can, however, tolerate clay soils as long as the drainage is good. Both plants can be set out in the spring and are frost hardy.

You might also consider that, while lavender sometimes blooms in late summer, it’s more likely to bloom in the spring and early summer, depending on where you live. Russian Sage is a late summer and fall bloomer. So, to enjoy the lovely blooms throughout the season, you might want to plant both.

This not only enhances your pleasure in the garden, but it assures that there will be a supply of nectar for those important bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds that we depend on to pollinate our flowers and veggies. Without them, we wouldn’t have those lovely blooms and delectable fruits and vegetables, so let’s give back and provide nectar for them!

growing herbs in a spiral garden

What Variety Should I Choose?

Before you make your final decision on Russian Sage vs. lavender (or both!), consider what varieties might work best for you and what’s available in your area.

There are many cultivars of lavender, but among the most common are the English, Spanish, and French lavenders.  If you live in a wet climate, you might find that the Spanish or French lavenders work best for you.

If space is a consideration, consider a dwarf variety, many of which can also be grown in containers. Dwarf Munstead is always a good choice, and I personally can’t resist the adorable Wee One.

Russian Sage also has a number of cultivators to choose from, and some newer varieties are more upright and smaller than the somewhat floppy older varieties. If you prefer an upright, more compact plant, consider some dwarf cultivars such as Lacey Blue, Little Lace, or Peek-A-Blue. In my garden, I grow Little Spire, which grows to about 2 feet tall.

perennial border with russian sage

You Can Have It All!

So if you’re wondering about Russian Sage vs. lavender, remember that it all comes down to a matter of personal preference.  It’s also not necessary to choose, because you can have both!

Try growing lavender with your other culinary herbs in your kitchen garden, and plant your Russian Sage in your perennial bed.  If space is a problem, look for the dwarf varieties and consider an herb spiral for your herbs.

If you want more information, read more about growing lavender, Russian Sage, and other gorgeous summer blooming perennials.

Whatever you do, take time to enjoy your garden!



Leave a Comment

[email protected]
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
© 2024 All Rights Reserved. | Design by Rebecca Pollock + Development by Brandi Bernoskie