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Russian sage gets contained

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Q: I planted a Russian sage in a large pot, and it looks really good. I just learned that they can spread really easily, so how do I prevent that from happening? – F.F.Y., Albuquerque

A: There are two ways your Russian is going to try to spread. First is by seed. As soon as the blue-purple bloom stalks look at all spent, cut them back completely. Take off each stalk to a couple of inches below the blooms to keep the plant contained. Spread newspaper around the ground to lay the clipped bloom stalks on and collect any errant seed that might fall.

The second way your Russian might think about spreading will be to grow out of the bottom of the pot. Keep an eagle eye out for any suckers that could pop up. If you see any pop-ups, cut them off as soon as possible.

In order to keep the plant a bit healthier, do a root pruning. Twice a year, un-pot the plant and cut the root back to help keep it happier and help prevent any pop-outs.

That’s what I suggest, consistent spent bloom removal and watching for any surprise growth at the base of your pot.

Q: What is the magnif-icent tree-ish shrub blooming everywhere in town now? Most have a brilliant blue-purple-colored, pointy-shaped cluster bloom and some have a more muted color. – S.C., West Side

A: I’m going to bet that what you are admiring is one of my favorites, the Vitex, or chaste tree. These usually multi-trunked wonders are quite popular because they can handle everything our climate throws at them and they still reward you with ease of growth.

The leaves alone offer so much color and texture. The narrow leaves are darker on top with a lighter silver color underneath. And then there is the scent of the leaves. Take the time to search out a Vitex and rumple a few leaves in your hands. You’ll be rewarded by a clean, nearly astringent fragrance. The bloom spikes can be, like you say, a vivid blue-lavender color or you’ll see some that are paler but staying in that lavender hue. If you have a space to offer in your landscaping, go for it. You’ll enjoy it for a long time to come.

Tracey Fitzgibbon is a certified nurseryman. Send questions to Digging In, Rio West, P.O. Drawer J, Albuquerque, NM 87103.

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