Sage, or Salvia officinalis, is one of the world’s most versatile culinary herbs, allowing you to give your dishes an earthy, experimental taste. Although you can find this Mediterranean herb at several herb shops or grocery stores, some people prefer growing sage at home.
If you want to know how to grow sage, I can let you know what to do, what to avoid, and how each type of sage might differ from the other.
- How to grow sage
- Pests and diseases
- Harvesting and storing sage
- Sage varieties
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Is sage easy to grow?
- Does sage come back every year?
- How long does it take for sage to grow?
- Should I let my sage plant flower?
- How do you know when sage is ready to harvest?
- Why do my sage plants keep dying?
- How do you harvest sage so it keeps growing?
- What can you not plant with sage?
- How often do you water sage plants?
- How can you tell if sage is overwatered?
How to grow sage
When you plant sage indoors or in a garden, there are several steps you should follow to keep them in stable conditions.
Planting your sage
- Step 1 - Plant it in well-drained soil with a temperature between 60° and 70° F.
- Step 2 - Space each herb 24 inches apart. That's the ideal spacing for it to grow properly.
- Step 3 - Let it grow at least 12 to 30 inches. This is well known as the optimal height.
Care and maintenance
As a low-maintenance plant, you can care for sage very easily by:
- Step 1 - Pruning it in early spring, as this is the peak season for this herb.
- Step 2 - Limit your watering. Sage can be delicate, so you don't want to drown it.
- Step 3 - Provide direct sunlight whenever you can. If it's outside, keep it out of the way of everything else. If it's indoors, keep it next to a window.
Pests and diseases
Like other plants you grow in your outdoor and indoor garden, they might become susceptible to pests or diseases. As you learn how to grow sage, I suggest taking action as soon as possible when dealing with:
Whiteflies (eat the sap inside of sage leaves, carry botanical diseases, and secrete honeydew that attracts more pests).
Spider mites (induce leaf stippling). These little critters are hard to see and can do some serious damage if left to their own devices.
Crown call (enters open plant woods and produces galls on its roots that dry it out).
Mint rust (produces colored lumps on the undersides of sage leaves kills leaf tissue).
Harvesting and storing sage
When you harvest sage from your herb garden, it’s best to start light when working with first years. I usually leave some stalks for fresh leaves to grow next time.
After your sage becomes an established plant, you can harvest sage up to three times every season.
When storing sage, you can use it immediately as fresh sage to preserve its flavor or dry them before placing them in airtight jars.
Quick Tip: Planting specific flowers and vegetables can deter some pests away from your sage.
Here are some examples of what culinary sage or ornamental salvia plant you can add to your garden.
White sage is a culinary sage that grows at least three feet high. Young plant leaves are green and turn white as they age. Some people use it as a dry sage for ceremonial purposes.
Berggarten sage, also known as salvia officinalis or common sage, grows best when cultivated in soils with minimal moisture and full sunlight.
Mealycup sage, unlike Russian sage, is an annual plant that grows up to three feet in clay soil with excellent drainage.
Garden sage produces purple-blue flowers that can enhance your garden’s appearance.
Pineapple sage prefers their soil moist, and blossoms between August and October. When placed in an outdoor garden, it attracts hummingbirds.
Golden sage has green and golden hues on its leaf edges.
Mexican Brush sage makes an excellent ornamental plant in drought conditions, but might not thrive in winter.
Scarlet sage grows best in sandy soil. It grows well as a perennial plant in warmer climates and tolerates temperatures below freezing when grown as an annual.
Grape Scented sage can grow up to six or eight feet high, making it one of the tallest varieties.
Purple (s. purpurascens)
This cultivar of garden sage has a purple tinge on its leaves.
I recommend using this ornamental sage variety for adding color to your garden.
Some people use this herb to create a tea to relieve coughs, colds, and sore throats.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you can't find an answer to your question below, get in touch and we'll be happy to help.
Is sage easy to grow?
Many gardeners consider planting sage an easy process in indoor and outdoor locations. When growing sage indoors, give it as much direct sun exposure as possible by placing it near a window.
A sage plant is naturally hardy and doesn’t require too much watering once it’s well established in your herb garden.
Does sage come back every year?
Sage qualifies as a perennial herb and typically grows back every year, typically growing bigger and spreading further during its growing season in planting zones 5-8.
If you live in planting zone 9, some types of garden sage grow annually, going through one growth cycle within a year before it dies.
How long does it take for sage to grow?
If you’re planting your seed indoors, it takes a few years for it to mature. It takes about three weeks for the seeds to start germinating when preparing them in advance. If you want to move them into outdoor soil, place them in your prepared soil beds after the frost dissipates.
Should I let my sage plant flower?
Although your sage might produce colorful flowers, I don’t recommend letting your sage plants blossom. Once you let your sage flower, its taste might begin losing its robust flavor. If you prefer letting it grow, you don’t have to use it for cooking and admire its beauty in your garden.
How do you know when sage is ready to harvest?
Although its leaves grow year-round, harvest-ready sage tends to be ready for harvesting before its flowers begin blooming.
Why do my sage plants keep dying?
If you notice your sage plants keep dying, several factors might come into play. Some possible results might include:
- Overwatering (it doesn’t need much water as a drought-resistant plant)
- Mildew development
- Using too much fertilizer
- Fungal diseases
- Slow-draining soil
- Your sage species being sensitive to extreme weather than others
How do you harvest sage so it keeps growing?
If you want to harvest sage to produce a consistent crop, there are several factors you should consider. After letting the plant develop its roots, you should harvest it lightly during its first year to allow it to develop for the following years.
What can you not plant with sage?
Although planting your sage plant near a companion plant can drive pests away, attract pollinators, and enhance their soil’s nutrients, some might not be compatible with each other.
These plants include:
- Cucumbers (sage stunts its growth)
- Rue (it hinders the growth of your sage seedling or seed)
- Fennel (it damages sage as it drives away whiteflies)
How often do you water sage plants?
Watering conditions for your sage plant might differ in different types of soil or climates. When cultivating a sage seed, you usually water it once or twice each week to keep the soil moist. As these seedlings develop sturdy root systems, you can water them once every week or two.
How can you tell if sage is overwatered?
If you’re a novice sage gardener, you might have trouble measuring how much water you should give your sage seedlings. Giving it too much water is as harmful as giving it none.
Some signs indicating overwatering include:
- Saturated soil
- Fragile roots
- Its leaves darkening
- Mildew development
- Leaves with edema
Learning how to grow sage is a trial and error process that many herb gardeners like you can overcome. As a hardy plant, you don’t have to monitor its every move when providing it water. Weekly or biweekly watering keeps them perked for some time.
Sage comes in many different shapes, sizes, and colors, allowing you to select ones best suited for indoor growth or your garden.
At first, it was challenging for me to understand how to grow sage. However, once I did some research, my interest in planting several varieties for livening up my garden and experimenting with their flavors skyrocketed.
If you keep their growth stable, expect a plentiful harvest.