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Sage

Home gardeners are growing sage for its many culinary and medicinal uses. Here's how.

Culinary SageA member of the mint family, culinary sage (Salvia officinalis) is a highly aromatic herb with a subtle, earthy flavor. It works especially 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 highly regarded as a medicinal herb and has been used for 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, recommended using sage for intestinal worms, memory problems and snake bites.

Sage is attractive with grayish-green foliage and beautiful purple-pink blossoms. It is equally at home grown outdoors in garden beds or indoors in containers. We recommend planting this hardy perennial with other Mediterranean herbs, like basil and rosemary, for a delicious and fragrant kitchen garden. Sturdy plants — 12 to 30 inches high — are perennial in zones 5-10.

Tip: Try layering a bed of culinary sage on the grill and flavoring meats with its smoke.

Choose from a large selection of heirloom herb seeds available at Planet Natural. Planting instructions are included with each ​packet and shipping is FREE!

Quick Guide: Planting, Growing & Harvesting Sage

  1. A must-have herb for pork, lamb and poultry and stuffing
  2. Grows best from cuttings or divisions
  3. Plant in full sun in compost-rich soil that drains well
  4. Handles cold very well; add mulch for winter protection
  5. Watch for slugs, spider mites, powdery mildew and verticillium wilt

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

Site Preparation

Sage grows well in prepared garden beds or containers and require full sun — tolerates partial shade — and well drained soil to thrive. Dig in plenty of organic garden compost or well-aged chicken manure prior to planting.

How to Plant

Seeds store and germinate poorly. When grown from seed, sage takes about 2 years to reach mature size. Most home gardeners start culinary sage from cuttings or divisions using the outer or newer growth.

If starting seeds indoors, sow under plant 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 our video How to Grow an Herb Garden).

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.

Harvesting and Storage

Harvest leaves sparingly during the first year of growth; pick as needed in following years. Sage is best used fresh but may be stored. Dried leaves have 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. Read our article about Harvesting and Preserving Herbs to learn more.

Insect & Disease Problems

Slugs and spider mites are a few of the common garden pests found on sage. Watch closely and take the following common sense, least-toxic approach to pest control:

  • Remove weeds and other garden debris to eliminate alternate hosts.
  • Discard severely infested plants by securely bagging and putting in the trash.
  • Release commercially available beneficial insects to attack and destroy insect pests.
  • Spot treat pest problem areas with diatomaceous earthneem oil or other organic pesticide.

Foliage is susceptible to fungal diseases, such as powdery mildew and verticillium wilt, which can disfigure the leaves under severe infestations. To reduce these plant problems:

  • Avoid overhead watering whenever possible (use soaker hoses or drip irrigation)
  • Properly space plants to improve air circulation
  • Apply copper or sulfur sprays to prevent further infection

Seed Saving Instructions

Sage seeds are ready to save when the blooms turn brown and dry. When completely dry, gently crush the heads between your hands and carefully winnow away the chaff.

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3 Responses to “Sage”

  1. ani on March 1st, 2013 at 2:53 pm #

    First time growing sage, I picked up a packet of the seeds from my local grocery store last week, and they have germinated already, which I did not expect them to since I had read everywhere that they take a long time to germinate.

    What I did was soak them in water for 24 hours, rinsing them and changing the water about twice, then I placed them on to a moist paper towel and put that in a tupperware with the lid on, but not tightly. I placed the tupperware next to my heater vent because that is the warmest place in my house. 4 to five days later, when I checked them today I noticed a little fuzzy root coming out of three of the four seeds that I had put in the tupperware. No signs from the parsley seeds that were with the sage seeds though.

    Maybe I was just lucky?

  2. Stephanie on August 20th, 2015 at 3:47 pm #

    HELP!! I think I’m killing my sage! I’m in the dark here trying to learn how to grow an herb garden for the first time and I’m not doing so well!!

  3. M on July 11th, 2018 at 2:23 pm #

    Hey so I tried Ani’s response (I know its really late in the season for growing sage) but MAN does it work, I just did the wash and left it for 24 hours… I came back to put them into a container in a wet paper towel and found one seed had already sprouted roots! 1 out of the 5 I put in there had already germinated in 24 hours! I’m going to keep them in the toilet for a couple days and see if any more germinate and then start planting… I live in an apartment so its going to have to be all indoor plants so that works (temperature controlled rooms). I have a plant light, some pots and ma ready to go!

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