A 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
- A must-have herb for pork, lamb and poultry and stuffing
- Grows best from cuttings or divisions
- Plant in full sun in compost-rich soil that drains well
- Handles cold very well; add mulch for winter protection
- 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
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
- 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 earth, neem oil or other organic pesticide.
- 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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