Instructions for Growing Sage
How to Grow Sage
in Your Herb Garden
Sage is a shrubby sprawling gray-green perennial herb. When growing sage in your herb garden, plant it near the back or as a border, as it can grow up to approximately 2 feet tall. Sage leaves are used as an herb for it’s culinary flavoring, aromatic scent, and health-giving properties. Growing sage will provide not only a pretty plant that lends color and texture to your herb garden, but that is also useful in attracting important pollinators (primarily bees) to your garden. (Honey from sage flowers is a wonderful treat!) In the kitchen, the sage herb is used primarily to enhance the flavor of meats and cheeses. It has a very strong flavor that can be overpowering, if used in excess.
If you have a large pot, sage is a good choice for container gardening also (for more information: container gardening).
Gardening Tip for Growing Sage - Sage is a good companion plant for rosemary, carrots and cabbage. (for more information: companion planting.)
In the 17th Century, it was believed that the condition of a home’s sage bush reflected the financial state of the home. If the sage bush was flourishing, it was thought that the home’s finances were also. In the days of the Roman Empire, women used a strong infusion (tea) of the herb to darken their hair.
Sage tea is considered by many Asian traditions to be strengthening to the digestive system and calming.
Sage oil is known to have antiseptic and antibiotic properties, which have lead to its reputation for helping your body fight infections. It also reputed to be a carminative, spasmolytic, astringent, and anti-hidrotic. The volatile oil contains: thujone, cineole, linalool, borneol, camphor, salvene, pinene, tannis, triterpenoids, flavonoids, and resin.
It is commonly used in treatment of inflammations of the mouth, throat and tonsils, as its volatile oils are believed to be soothing to mucous membranes. A gargle of the tea/infusion is helpful for a variety of throat/mouth infections.
A sage infusion is sometimes used for treating menopause’s night sweats & hot flashes, because it is believed to reduce sweating. Other suspected benefits: an infusion may reduce the production of breast milk, it may be able to help people with diabetes regulate insulin, it may have a calming effect for those suffering from stress and nervous headaches.
Fresh leaves rubbed on your teeth and gums are reported to work as a breath freshener, and to strengthen your gums. A sage compress can help ward off infections and speed the healing of wounds.
Sage is reputed to stimulate the muscles of the uterus, so it should be avoided during pregnancy.
Photo: Courtesy of Carol in Florisant Mo
Sage will grow in most climates, but if you experience severely cold winters, you may want to consider growing sage as a member of your container garden and bringing it indoors for the winter. At the very least, apply a heavy layer of mulch in the late fall to protect if from winter’s cold.
If you’re in a very wet gardening climate, consider a raised bed garden or else container gardening this plant. It’s not particularly happy in soggy situations.
Sage prefers a full-sun location.
Sage seems to grow the best in light well-drained gardening soils. They will grow in average soils, and tolerate dry conditions. Growing sage requires garden soil with a pH of 5.5 to 6.5. (Information on how to test your garden soil pH level)
Gardening Tip - If your garden soil is heavy, you may experience root-rot. Try mixing in compost to help the soil drain better.
Sage plants will grow for several years. When you see that they're starting to wane (after 4 years or so), start fresh plants from cuttings, or from seeds.
Growing sage from seed: sow seed in the herb garden in the late spring. Cover lightly with soil and keep the soil moist (not soggy) until it germinates. Thin plants to 18” apart.
Growing sage from cuttings: in late spring/early summer, trim shoots from plants (at least 6” long). Snip the bottom leaves from the stem (don’t pull them off, or you’ll damage the stem). Some gardeners find that placing the cuttings in a glass of water will cause the plant to grow roots. However, for your best chance at success, dip the bottom ½” of the stems in a root-inducing hormone powder (available online, at garden centers, and even Wal-Mart). Shake off the excess powder, and plant in a light planting mixture of perlite and peat moss (essentially, a seed-starting type mixture). The soil mixture should be lightly damp, but not wet. Using a spray bottle to water works best. To speed up the process, place a heat source below the rooting bed. Once the cuttings have established roots, you can then transplant them into containers. By the following spring, the plants will be established enough that you can move them out of doors, if desired.
Gardening Tip - When the young plants are growing freely, pinch/trim off the branch ends/tops to make them branch out and fill-in. For more established plants, prune them in the spring.
You can grow sage by dividing, but it is not the preferred method.
Water plants only during dry periods, up to once or twice per week.
For optimal growing conditions, add a general purpose fertilizer once or twice a season and water it into the soil.
Harvest young, tender leaves for the best flavor, before the plant flowers. Pick a nice dry morning for harvesting (after the dew is gone), and pick before you get to the hottest part of day.
Gardening Tip for Growing Sage - Stop harvesting in early fall, to allow the plant to prepare for winter.
Note: the advice and information contained herein is based upon our experience and study. As with any advice, please apply at your own discretion.