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russian sage

RUSSIAN SAGE This plant earned its survival skills the hard way — it’s a native plant of rugged climates such as Afghanistan or the rocky Himalayas. Perovskia atriplicifolia looks like a periwinkle-blue cloud when it blooms in late summer. This shrubby perennial, which may span 4 feet, tolerates our alkaline soils and handles dry sites, which is why it’s a workhorse of supermarket parking lots. Where to plant: Full sun, in really well-drained soil. Break up clay soil by mixing in some sand as well as plenty of compost. Water once a week for the first year. In early spring, prune back old, dry growth to 6 inches. “Tough as nails and showy through the entire growing season,” says Scott Mehaffey, design manager at Craig Bergmann Landscape Design in Wilmette (www.craigbergmann.com). “Treat it as a full-sun shrub, and it’ll be spectacular.” Achilles’ heel: Can’t tolerate soil that stays wet. Chicago Tribune