Sage (Salvia officinalis) is a hardy perennial (in zones 5 to 9) that tastes aromatic and slightly bitter. It is easy to grow, only having three major requirements - plenty of sunshine, good drainage and good air circulation. Sage grows well in a variety of climates, and it can survive in temperatures as low as zero degrees Fahrenheit. It looks pleasant in the garden and grows pretty purple, pink, blue or white flowers in summer. When harvested and dried, it can be used as a stuffing for poultry, rabbit, pork, and baked fish, and can also be used in sausage or meat loaves. Learn how to grow sage so that you will always have some on hand.
1. Buy sage seeds or a sage plant
You can begin growing sage using several methods. If you've never had sage before, you can either plant fresh sage seeds(which can be temperamental) or purchase a small plant from the garden center and transplant it into your garden or a clay pot.
- However, if you already have an established sage plant, you can use cuttings or layering techniques to grow a new plant.
2. Prepare the soil
Sage grows well in rich clay loam that drains well and is rich in nitrogen. It prefers soil with a pH of 6.0 to 6.5.
- If you're using clay soil, try mixing in some sand and organic matter. This lightens the soil and helps with drainage.
- Sage grows best when it is planted with other perennial herbs, such as thyme, oregano, marjoram and parsley.
3. Plant the sage
After prepping your soil, you can plant the sage either in pots or in the ground. You can either plant sage plants or plant seeds.
- If you are transferring a sage plant into the ground, then make sure to plant it at the same level as it was in the pot.
- If you decide to plant seeds, they should be planted in late spring (in a bed or in a container) about 1/8 inch deep and 24 to 30 inches apart. They will take 10 to 21 days to germinate.
4. Go easy with watering
When the sage plants are small, you should mist them with water to keep the soil moist.
- But when they reach maturity, you should only water sage when the soil surrounding the plant is dry to the touch.
- In fact, in some climates you won't need to water your sage at all - they'll get all the moisture they need from rainfall.
- Sage is a tough little plant and is very drought-tolerant.
5. Provide adequate sunlight
Ideally, sage plants should grow in full sun, but they will also survive in light shade in hotter areas.
- If sage is exposed to too much shade, it will grow leggy and flop over. So if you keep your sage plant in an indoor area without much sunlight, you can use fluorescent lights instead. Standard fluorescent lamps should be 2 - 4 inches above the plants.
- However, high output fluorescent, compact fluorescent, or high intensity discharge (metal halide or high pressure sodium) plant growing lights work better and, if used, should be placed 2–4 feet (0.6–1.2 m) about the plants.
1. Prune the sage in early spring
Prune the older, woodier stems in early spring, after the danger of freezing is past but before new growth has really begun. Prune each stem by about a third.
2. Prevent mildew
Mildew is one of the only problems sage-growers have to deal with. You can avoid it by watching the plants carefully during hot, humid weather and by thinning the plants regularly to increase air circulation.
- You can also try mulching the earth around the plant with pebbles, as this helps any moisture to evaporate more quickly.
- If mildew does develop on you plant, try spritzing it with a horticultural oil or sulfur spray.
3. Control pests
Sage is usually not a target for pests, but sometimes it will be affected by spider mites, thrips, and Spittlebugs. If you notice any pests, try using an organic pesticide (like pyrethrum) or an insecticidal soap to keep them under control.
4. Replace the plant every three to five years
After about three to five years, the sage plant will become woody and straggly and will need to be replaced. You can either start again with a new plant or seed, or use the old plant for cuttings or layering.
- To layer the plant, bend a branch of the existing sage towards the soil. Use some wire to pin the branch to the ground, about 4 inches from the tip. After about four weeks, roots will begin to form. Then you can cut the branch and transplant the newly formed sage plant to another location.
- To use cuttings, cut the top 3 inches from the branch of an existing sage plant. Strip the lower leaves from the stem, or use a scissors to cut them off. Dip the ends in rooting hormone, then place in sterile sand. Wait 4 to 6 weeks for roots to form, then move to a pot and later the garden. It is best to take cuttings of plants in early spring, just after you notice some new growth.
1. Harvest the sage
Harvest the sage lightly during the first year, picking off leaves as you need them.
- In subsequent years, you can harvest the sage year round by cutting entire stems from the plant. Sage is considered to be at its best just before the flowers bloom, usually in mid-summer.
- Do your last full harvest approximately two months before the first major frost of the year. This gives any newly formed foliage enough time to mature before winter sets in.
2. Dry the sage
Sage is one of the few herbs that develops a stronger flavor when dried. However, it needs to be dried quickly to avoid developing a musty taste.
- To dry sage, tie a bunch of sprigs together and hang them upside down in a warm, well-ventilated location away from direct sunlight.
- Once they are dry, store the leaves (crumbled or whole) in an airtight container.
3. Use the sage
In addition to being used as an aromatic herb in cooking, sage can also be used in potpourri and soap. Here are some things you can do with sage:
- Make Parmesan and Sage Biscuits
- Make a Violet and Sage Cold Sore Cream
- Make Oatmeal and Sage Soap
- Make Sage and Ginger Tea
You may need: