Phlomis russeliana (Turkish Sage) - A spreading evergreen perennial that grows to 1 to 2 feet tall with wide ranging rhizomes from which rise large 4- to 8-inch-long heart-shaped, soft woolly olive-green leaves on long petioles. Beginning in late spring and often going through summer the unbranched flowering stems rise vertically 2 to 3 feet above the foliage with yellow hooded flowers in 3 to 5 distinct whorls that are about 2 inches wide.
Plant in full sun to light shade in a well-drained soil. A more robust plant with some irrigation but it has persisted in an unirrigated section of our nursery garden for many years and remains evergreen in our near frost free climate and considered root hardy to around 5 degrees F. A great long lived plant that is attractive in or out of bloom with densely overlapping leaves that make it an effective weed-smothering groundcover. Deer reportedly leave foliage alone and, since some butterfly species lay eggs on the leaves, it might be planted just to attract them to the garden. This plant can spread a bit out of bounds in optimum conditions but has not proven invasive in our garden and spread is easy to control.
Turkish Sage is endemic to Turkey, where it grows in hard and softwood forests from 1,000 to 5,500 feet in elevation. The name for the genus has ancient origins as it was a name the Greek physician Dioscorides devised to describe a group of plants. The original name for this plant, Phlomis lunariifolia var russeliana was one given the plant by the English botanist John Sims in 1825 when he published the name in Curtis’s Botanical Magazine, describing a plant cultivated at Kew. He named it to honor the Scottish physician and naturalist Dr. Alexander Russell (1715-1768), author of Natural History of Aleppo. Unfortunately, Sims had confused this Turkish plant with a similar species that had been collected in Syria and to this day it is often listed as originating there. The English botanist George Bentham raised the name to specific rank when he published the name in his Labiatarum Genera et Species 629 in 1834. We first got this plant from plantsman Fred Meyer in 1982 and began offering it at the nursery in 1992.
The information about Phlomis russeliana displayed on this page is based on research conducted in our nursery library and from online sources we consider reliable. We will also relate those observations made of this plant as it grows in our nursery gardens and in other gardens that we have visited, as well how the crops have performed in containers in our nursery field. We will also incorporate comments we receive from others and welcome hearing from anyone who has additional information, particularly when they share cultural information that would aid others in growing it.