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Russian Sage vs Lavender: What is the difference between these subshrubs?

Today’s competitors, Russian sage and lavender, have a lot in common, but they are still two very different plants. Like most of you, I always want to choose the best plant from the range so that I don’t have to replace it later. The wrong choice will result in wasted extra time and money.

The main difference between Russian sage and Lavender is the color of the flowers. Russian sage flowers are blue with a slight purple hue whereas Lavender flowers can be blue, purple, or even white. Russian sage also has larger inflorescences than Lavender.

In addition, Lavender has tubular inflorescences with a very popular fragrance. Russian sage on the other hand has panicle-shaped inflorescences and its scent is different.

Russian sage is a species of subshrub, which in botany is called Salvia yangii. This species is a member of the genus Salvia, but this was not always the case. The old name for this plant is Perovskia atriplicifolia, and it was previously considered a separate genius.

Salvia yangii is mainly distributed in Asia (China, Pakistan). Less common in Eastern Europe. It is a drought-tolerant plant, growing in rocky and mountainous areas in drained soil and full sun.

Lavender, on the other hand, is a genius whose scientific name is Lavandula. When people talk about lavender, they usually mean one of the three most common types:

  • Lavandula angustifolia (English lavender)
  • Lavandula stoechas (Spanish lavender)
  • Lavandula dentata (French lavender)

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In fact, there are many more types of lavender, but I will compare Russian sage with these three.

Habitat of lavender is southern Europe (Mediterranean). This is a sun-loving plant that, like Russian sage, loves well-drained soil.

Russian sage Lavender
Hardiness zone 5-9 5-8 (8-11)
Mature height 3-5′ (0.9-1.5m) 2-3′ (0.6-0.9 m)
Mature width 2-4′ (0.6-1.2m) 4 ‘ (1.2m)
Growth rate fast fast
Light exposure full sun full sun
Soil well-drained well-drained
Soil pH 7.0-8.0 7.0-8.0
Watering One time per ten days in a drought One time per ten days in a drought
Diseases fungus fungus
Pests insects insects
Russian Sage vs Lavender

Russian Sage and Lavender

Russian sage and Lavender flowering is different

The most noticeable difference between Lavender and Russian sage is the flowers. Their color, shape, size, and blooming are not the same, so let’s delve into it and find out how everything really is.

Flowers size and shape

Russian sage has inflorescences growing on the main stem. From this stem, thin flower petioles branch off. The length of flower stalks averages 4 inches (10 cm).

Many small flowers are attached to the flower petioles; flower size up to one inch. The result is panicles 13 inches long (32 cm) covered with tiny flowers.

Everything is a little different with Lavender. This plant also has a stem on which flowers are attached, but it has no lateral flower stalks. As a result, the flowers grow close to each other.

Lavender flowers are smaller than in Russian sage. Their diameter is about half an inch. The lavender inflorescence resembles a spikelet of rye where small flowers grow instead of grain.

In my opinion, lavender inflorescences look more beautiful due to the compact arrangement of flowers. Russian sage also blooms beautifully, but its panicles are voluminous and loose, so they do not give such expressiveness that Lavender can provide.

Flowers color

The color of the flowers is the next visual difference between the two herbs.

Russian sage has blue flowers with a slight purple tinge. You can also find varieties with light or dark blue.

Lavender, on the other hand, has way more colors in its range. Most species and varieties of the genus Lavandula have flowers of a unique blue hue, which got its own name – lavender color.

However, breeders around the world have bred a large number of new varieties and hybrids. And today you can buy lavender for every taste.

For example, there is a lavender called Nana Alba with white petals and dense candle-shaped inflorescences, and its appearance is just excellent. Or another variety called Little Lottie has gorgeous pink and white flowers that provide a strong fragrance. Due to its valuable qualities, this lavender received a royal award.

So lavender can offer blue, purple, violet, pink, white, and even light yellow colors and their shades. It’s much more than the Russian sage has. So here, the advantage is on the side of Lavender for sure.

russian sage vs lavender


Blooming time

Russian sage under proper conditions blooms from mid-summer to late September or early October. In cold climates, the flowering period may be shorter.

While Lavender blooms earlier than the Russian sage, early flowering is characteristic of French lavender, which begins to bloom in late spring and July. If you live in a warm 8 USDA zone, its flowering can last until the end of summer.

English lavender begins to bloom in June and through the summer to October. This species tolerates low temperatures better, and the flowering period does not depend much on climate.

In general, lavender blooms a little longer than the Russian sage. You can even plant French and English lavender side by side and get the most prolonged flowering period from May to October. Russian sage is not able to provide such a long blooming.

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Lavender is smaller

Lavender is more compact in size and slightly denser. Its height usually does not exceed 3 feet. For example, English lavender is slightly more compact than other species and rarely exceeds 30 inches in height.

Lavender bushes are always larger in width than in height. After several years of growing, lavender can exceed 3 feet wide, but this does not apply to English lavender, which will grow no more than 25 inches wide.

Russian sage can easily exceed 5 feet in height and 4 feet in width. This means this plant is almost twice taller than its competitor. Also, it has a wide-conical shape. At that time, lavender has the form of a flattened sphere.

Flower panicles make Russian sage taller than Lavender. Although in my opinion, compact and dense lavender looks more elegant.

russian sage vs lavender

Russian Sage


The leaves are another big difference between Russian sage and lavender.

Russian sage has leaves up to 2 inches (5 cm) long and up to 1 inch (2.5 cm) wide. They are attached to the stem by tiny petioles. The leaf is highly dissected and forms an interesting pattern. The color of the leaves is mostly green but can sometimes be grayish-green.

The lavender leaves are another matter. They will vary slightly depending on the species, but their elongated shape looks very unusual.

The leaves of the French lavender are the most interesting. It has a beautiful pattern around the edge and is green in color. The English lavender has gray leaves that are slightly shorter and narrower than the French lavender.

Also, lavender leaves are juicier than Russian sage and very fragrant if crushed. Russian sage leaves are also fragrant but still not as intense as lavender.

Because of the leaves, which contain a lot of essential oil, lavender is highly prized. The leaves are dried or extracted with oil and used in perfumery, medicine, etc.

So, lavender leaves are more ornamental and useful than Russian sage leaves.

Lavender likes alkaline soil

Alkaline soil is best for growing lavender. But it will also grow in neutral or slightly acidic soil.

English lavender can tolerate a soil acidity of 6.5-6.7 pH. On the other hand, the French lavender prefers either neutral or alkaline soil (up to 8 pH).

French lavender can also grow in slightly acidic soils, but it will not have as many flowers, and the scent will be much weaker as if it were in alkaline soils.

Russian sage also feels better in neutral or alkaline soil, but all will be fine if the acidity is 6.5-6.8 pH. You will not see any changes in the overall appearance of the plant.

Consequently, lavender is a bit more sensitive to soil pH than Russian sage. But this is not a severe problem as it is easy to make the soil alkaline. All you have to do is add some garden lime. This product is cheap and is available at almost every garden center.

Whichever choice you make, it is worth remembering that both of these plants need well-drained soil without stagnant water.

Russian sage and Lavender hardiness is different

Russian sage is a hardy plant and will grow well in 5-9 USDA zones. You won’t have to cover it or make any winter preparations.

On the other hand, not all lavenders are as hardy as Russian sage.

For example, French lavender does not tolerate frost and can not be grown north of the 7 USDA zone. The only solution to this problem is to plant French lavender in a container and place it indoors for the winter.

Fortunately, English lavender is as hardy as Russian sage (5 to 8 hardiness zones). It can easily handle cold temperatures and snow. The only thing it does not like is frosty winds so plant it in a wind-proof location.

In conclusion, I want to say that the English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) will be a better choice than the Russian sage because it has several advantages and it looks way better.