Native to the northern Mediterranean, sage has been grown since ancient times for its many culinary and medicinal uses.
Sunlight: Full sun to partial shade
Maturity: 70-75 days from transplant, 90-100 days from seed
Height: 12 to 30 inches
Spacing: 18 to 24 inches apart, 2 to 3 feet between rows
A member of the mint family, culinary sage (Salvia officinalis) is a highly aromatic herb with a subtle, earthy flavor. It works especialy well with meats such as pork, lamb and poultry, and is often used in dressings or holiday stuffings. Use sparingly, as sage can be very strong and easily overpower a dish.
Sage is also highly regarded as a medicinal herb where it has been used over the years to cure a long list of ailments from broken bones and wounds to stomach disorders, shortness of breath and loss of memory. Pliny the Elder (23 – 79 AD), a Roman naturalist and philosopher, recomended using sage for intestinal worms, memory problems and snake bites.
An attractive plant with grayish-green foliage and beautiful purple-pink blooms, sage is equally at home in garden beds or containers. We recommend growing sage with other Mediterranean herbs, like basil and rosemary, for a delicious and fragrant kitchen garden. Hardy perennial.
Tip: Try layering a bed of culinary sage on the grill and flavoring meats with its smoke.
How to Plant:
Sage seeds store and germinate poorly. When grown from seed, sage takes about 2 years to reach mature size. Most gardeners start culinary sage from cuttings or divisions using the outer or newer growth. If starting seeds indoors, sow under grow lights 6-8 weeks before the last expected frost. Seeds will take about 3 weeks to germinate. Transplant seedlings to the garden after all danger of frost has passed. Space the plants 2 feet apart and divide every 3-5 years to keep them vigorous (watch How to Grow an Herb Garden — video).
Sage is hardy to -30˚F, if covered. In winter, cut back the foliage and place a thick layer of mulch over the roots to protect them from freezing.
Cut leaves sparingly during the first year of growth; harvest as needed in following years. Sage is best used fresh but may be stored. Dried sage has a stronger and somewhat different flavor than fresh. To dry, tie the cuttings in small bunches and hang upside down in a well-ventilated, dark room. When dry, remove the leaves from the stems and store whole. Learn more about Harvesting and Preserving Herbs here.
Insects and Disease:
Powdery mildew and verticillium wilt are common plant diseases. Choose a site with good air circulation to prevent many problems and apply organic fungicides (copper, sulfur) early when symptoms first appear.
Seed Saving Instructions:
Seeds are ready to harvest when the blooms begin to turn brown and dry. When the heads are completely dry, gently crush them between your hands and then carefully winnow away the chaff.