The genus Phlomis contains some 100 or so species that are native to the Mediterranean region and east to central Asia and parts of China. There are several horticulturally significant species, chiefly Phlomis fruiticosa and Phlomis russeliana. Phlomis is commonly called Jerusalem sage and the leaves do have a distinct sage-like appearance, though it is more closely related to mint, being a member of the family Lamiaceae. The leaves of P. fruiticosa have a distinct blueish color and a soft velvety texture, while P. russeliana’s leaves are greener and have a sticky feel. Both species sport beautiful bright yellow flowers throughout spring and summer. The flowers surround the stems in tiers and individual flowerlets are hood-shaped and are often tipped with white. They are very attractive to bees and butterflies. Phlomis russeliana flowers are fragrant as well.
Phlomis does well in full sun but will also tolerate light shade. It prefers well-drained soil and is quite drought tolerant once established. P. fruiticosa is evergreen in USDA Zone 7 and root hardy to Zone 5, while P. russeliana remains evergreen in USDA Zone 5 and is root hardy in Zone 4. If desired, Jerusalem sage can be harshly pruned in fall after seed heads have dried out and it will quickly sprout new leaves that will last through the winter. A mature plant will have a quite woody central structure that can, over time, begin to look ragged and that’s a good indication that the pruning shears need to come out. Mature plants can reach a height of 4 feet and a spread of 6 feet. They are resistant to deer.
Phlomis can be grown from seed, and is also easily grown from rooted cuttings, which I feel is the preferred propagation method. In my experience, rooted cuttings will produce a more robust, attractive plant.
Why grow Phlomis?
- It’s an attractive evergreen shrub.
- It has beautiful yellow flowers, which in the case of P. russeliana, are fragrant.
- It’s loved by pollinators.
- It’s abhorred by deer.
- It’s drought tolerant once established.
- Phlomis spp. is easily propagated by seed or cuttings.
Mark Leichty is the Director of Business Development at Little Prince of Oregon Nursery near Portland. He is a certified plant geek who enjoys visiting beautiful gardens and garden centers searching for rare and unique plants to satisfy his plant lust. firstname.lastname@example.org.