Russian Sage vs Lavender: What’s the difference?

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You know that feeling, when you’re walking around your neighborhood and you see a plant that looks just like another plant? But you aren’t sure what the differences are? Russian sage and lavender look similar, so here are all the ways you can tell them apart.

Russian sage vs lavender: While lavender and Russian sage have purple blooms, lavender flowers only grow at the end of stems while Russian sage flowers grow all down the stems. Lavender does better if you consistently have dry conditions and poor soil while Russian sage is more adaptable.

What is Russian sage?

Russian sage is a bit of a misnomer as it is not a part of the sage family but rather the mint family. It is a perennial plant and, in the summer, it has small but plentiful purple flowers that contrast nicely with the silver-green leaves.

The plant is native to Central Asia, which is home to dry, rocky areas. As a result, it has adapted well to arid places in North America, especially as it is drought-tolerant.

What is lavender?

Lavender is an evergreen plant and there are over 30 species that belong to the family. While lavender is native to the Mediterranean region, it has adapted nicely to many parts of North America, especially in dry climates.

Most varieties of lavender have lovely purple flowers that are small and clustered along the stem. These flowers have an attractive scent and are used to attract pollinators to your garden.

Furthermore, you can harvest lavender and use it in dried flower arrangements or as an aromatic oil. Lavender has a calming effect and is often used in bedtime routines to soothe you before you fall asleep.

Difference between Russian sage vs lavender


Lavender plants are usually a lot smaller than Russian sage plants. While lavender can spread out and grow quite large, Russian sage grows faster so you can expect to give up more real estate to the plants.

Taste and smell

While Russian sage is edible, lavender has an advantage as it smells and tastes sweeter. There is even a trend now to include lavender in more baking such as cakes and cookies.

Russian sage, on the other hand, is distinctly more earthy. As a result, it is less versatile than lavender.

Bloom length

While both lavender and Russian sage have gorgeous, purple blooms in the summer, lavender will start to fade by mid-summer. Meanwhile, Russian sage will have blooms that last well into the end of summer.

Furthermore, lavender blooms are concentrated at the end of stems. Russian sage blooms grow further along the stem so you have a larger patch of color for a more striking display.

Ability to handle wet weather

Both Russian sage and lavender are meant for dry, arid conditions. However, Russian sage is far more tolerable if you have some rainy spells mixed in.

Lavender prefers consistent dryness and if it becomes too wet all of a sudden, the plant can start to become soggy and rotten. Russian sage can tolerate extra rain so it is a better choice if your climate fluctuates.

Soil conditions

A major benefit for both plants is that they are fine with poor soil. There is no need to add compost or other nutrients.

Interestingly, though, if your soil is actually pretty good, Russian sage will do better than lavender. This is important to note as many gardeners will grow different types of plants in the same area, which means you will naturally want soil that is nutrient-rich.

If you can, plant lavender on its own as it does better with soil that is of poor quality. Add Russian sage to existing flower beds that have solid soil.

What does Russian sage smell like?

The best way to describe what Russian sage smells like is to compare it to both lavender and sage. It has an earthy, aromatic smell that becomes more fragrant if you brush against it.

While Russian sage does not smell as strongly as lavender, its flowers can still be used for many purposes. You can dry Russian sage and the flowers will provide a subtle scent to your home.

What is Russian sage good for?

Drought conditions

As more people and communities become aware of the importance of conserving water, there is a greater push to find plants that are drought-tolerant. This means you can go much longer between watering.

Russian sage is native to dry areas in central Asia, such as the Himalayans. It does not need very fertile soil and for the most part, can grow just fine with the natural amount of rain.

While you may need to water more often after first planting Russian sage, once it is established, you can greatly ease off of watering.

Medicinal tea

Russian sage has some medical properties, including the ability to relieve stomach pain. It is also effective at easing indigestion.

For the best results, pick some leaves and steep them in hot water. Allow the mixture to sit for 20 to 30 minutes and then drink it.

You can also try to use Russian sage to break a fever. For this, again steep the leaves for 30 minutes. Allow the mixture to cool and then pour some on a towel. Use the compress on your forehead to help cool you down and bring your body temperature to a more normal level.

Repels mosquitos

A lovely summer evening is quickly spoiled by the presence of mosquitos. While you can use sprays and chemicals, there are many natural remedies that work just as well.

The earthy fragrance of Russian sage will repel mosquitos. Plant it around areas like your patio or deck to get the most benefits.

You can also plant lemon verbena and citronella with Russian sage for a more intense combination that will ensure mosquitos don’t trouble you.


Thanks to their bright purple flowers and love of hot, dry weather, it is common to confuse Russian sage with lavender. However, the two plants are different. Choose Russian sage if you want longer blooms and choose lavender if you want more fragrant blooms and have very poor soil.

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