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Growing Sage: Step by Step Guide for Bigger & Healthier Sage

No herb garden is complete without Sage. This herb brings a strong aroma and earthy flavor to the table and is used in food dishes around the world. If you want to know how to grow Sage you are going to learn a lot from this article.

We’re going to visit the herb gardens of a few experts to see how they grow the biggest and healthiest sage plants and then pass on all their secrets to you. We have a database full of info that we have sifted through so that we can give you the best tips and advice in the shortest amount of time.

There’s no need for you to try and grow Sage by trial and error when you can use this step by step guide and grow the best sage first time round. We guarantee that this article will be chockablock full of sage advice – pun intended!

So, let’s dig in and see what we can unearth that will help you with planting, growing, and harvesting the loveliest sage you have ever seen.

Sage Plant Benefits & Uses

Sage can be enjoyed fresh, dried, or brewed as a tea. It is easy to add to your diet because it tastes good in most savory dishes. Here are a few ways you can add fresh Sage to your diet:

  • mix it with egg and make an omelet
  • chop some into home-made tomato sauce
  • make sage butter by mixing finely chopped leaves into butter
  • add it to chicken or turkey stuffing
  • use it to garnish soups
  • mix it in a green salad
  • add it to stews

Not only is it a tasty herb, but it also has many health benefits.

Here is a quick list of a few of Sage’s health benefits:

  1. High in nutrients
    One teaspoon of Sage has 10% of the reference daily intake (RDI) of Vitamin K, and 1% RDI of each of the following; Iron, Vitamin B6, Calcium, and Manganese. All this and only 2 Calories and 0.4 grams of Carbs.
    Sage also has lesser amounts of Vitamins A, C, and E.
  2. Full of Antioxidants
    Antioxidants counteract harmful free radicals, which are linked to ill health. The antioxidants found in sage are linked to impressive health benefits, such as a lower risk of cancer and improved brain function and memory. This is according to a study conducted by the National Library of Medicine.
  3. Antimicrobial Properties
    The disinfecting properties found in Sage make it a great natural mouthwash, which is believed to prevent plaque and dental cavities. Sage mouthwash may also help in the treatment of other oral complaints like mouth ulcers, throat infections and infected gums. More research is needed, but be sure to let us know if you try it and find it works!
  4. Blood-sugar health
    More research is needed but in human trials, Sage leaf extracts were found to improve insulin resistance and lower blood sugar levels.
  5. Brain health
    Sage may promote brain health because it is rich in antioxidants. For more information about the brain health benefits of Sage, you can visit the National Library of Medicine.
  6. Cholesterol
    The regular ingestion of Sage has been linked to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and higher HDL (good) cholesterol levels.
  7. Cancer prevention
    Up to now, the research done shows encouraging results that Sage may be able to fight certain types of cancer, but more human studies are needed.

Sage advice: For those who embrace natural living, sage may offer healthier alternatives that are worth exploring but be sure to follow your medical practitioner’s advice.

What are the different types of Sage?

There are many different types of sage plants that range from edible to medicinal or ornamental varieties.

Sage advice: It’s rather important that you know which is which.

Sage is also known as Salvia, garden Sage, common Sage, or culinary Sage. The botanical name is Salvia Officinalis. Sage may be perennial or annual, and flowering or non-flowering. The leaves range in color from green to variegated purple/green or variegated gold. Flowers range from lavender in color to bright blue and even bright red. Wow, talk about variety!

Culinary Sage

Common sage Salvia Officinalis.
Common sage. Image Credit:

Garden sage, also known as common sage is the one that’s used for cooking and making tea. This variety has soft silvery-green leaves and purple-blue flowers. You can use the leaves fresh or dried.

The shrub needs to be replaced every three or four years when it stops producing soft, aromatic leaves.

There are also several sub-varieties of common Sage. These include a dwarf plant, purple garden Sage (which should not be confused with ornamental purple Sage), golden Sage (a creeping variety), tricolor Sage which has a bit of white in the leaves, and Berggarten Sage which does not flower.

Ornamental Sage

Ornamental Wood Sage
Wood Sage. Image Credit:

There are many varieties of ornamental sage, too many to list them all, but here are a few of the most popular ones:

  • Pineapple sage (Salvia elegans) which attracts butterflies and hummingbirds to its tubular red flowers.
  • Grape scented sage which grows quite tall and also attracts hummingbirds.
  • Scarlet sage (Salvia splendens) has scarlet blossoms and the plant loves full sun.
  • Mealycup sage (Salvia farinacea) gets blue, white, or purple flower spikes.

Interesting fact: Sage is a member of the Mint family.

Growing Sage

If you have any questions about how to propagate and care for Sage, including how to grow Sage from seed, and when is the best time to harvest, you’ll find the following points very informative.

1. When should I plant Sage seeds?

After you have decided which variety of sage you want, you can plant your seeds directly into the soil in spring after all danger of frost has passed. However, you could plant the seeds in indoor planters six to eight weeks before spring to get a nice head-start.

2. How long does it take to grow Sage from seeds?

The Sage seeds will begin to germinate from between 10 to 21 days. After five to six weeks the seedlings will be ready to be transplanted.

You can begin to harvest leaves after 75 days. If you want the plant to establish a solid frame, try not to harvest in the first year; or harvest very lightly.

Sage advice: Plant a few seeds in spring every year so that you are assured of an ongoing supply of this aromatic herb.

3. How to plant and sprout Sage seeds.

If you are planting in seed trays or seed flats you don’t have to worry about spacing until you are ready to transplant the Sage seedlings into your herb garden. You can transplant them when they have two sets of true leaves. At this stage, they will be about 4 inches high. This will take about six weeks.

Here is a helpful video that illustrates how to plant your Sage seeds and how to transplant the seedlings:

[youtube video=”fCeYEe4BFvI”]

4. How to grow Sage from cuttings.

Jump-start your Sage plant’s development by propagating from an established plant. Watch this great video for tips on growing Sage from cuttings, and advice on caring for your Sage plant after a cold winter. :

[youtube video=”Lb7p2jt-o0w”]

5. Growing Sage outdoors vs indoors.

Sage loves sunlight so, if you want to grow yours indoors, be sure you choose a sunny spot that will get as much light as possible. Even the sunniest indoor spot may not give your sage plant enough light for it to thrive because, ideally, sage needs six to eight hours of full sun daily. Indoor sage plants also need to be kept out of drafts and in a warm room with sufficient humidity.

The growing medium for potted sage should be well-drained and loamy; it is not suitable to use regular garden soil for potted Sage, or any herb for that matter. To ensure sufficient drainage, put a layer of pebbles at the bottom of the pot before filling it with potting soil.

Sage advice: If you don’t have a garden and your sunny spot doesn’t allow your sage to flourish you can use artificial light. Use a pebble bed to create humidity.

6. What size containers can I plant Sage in?

Your plant pot should be at least 8 inches deep and have a similar width. Sage is a resilient plant and survives being transplanted quite well so you can move it to a bigger pot if it becomes root-bound.

Sage in ceramic pots
Sage in Ceramic Pots. Image Credit: Gardener’

Should you choose to grow your Sage outdoors, when the seedlings are ready to be transplanted into the garden beds, space them 18 inches apart in full sun.

7. How much water does sage need?

Young Sage plants need to be watered regularly until they are fully grown – they must not be left to dry out. They’ll need a consistent moisture supply until they start growing quickly.

Once the plant has established a healthy root system we advise that you ease off on the watering and rather keep the plant on the drier side. This will vary from garden to garden, depending on soil drainage and ambient temperature. Hotter gardens with better drainage will require more frequent watering. As a general rule, only water the plant when the topsoil feels dry.

Don’t water the plant from overhead as this can cause powdery mildew or leaf spot. We will look at pests and diseases in the next chapter.

8. When to harvest Sage.

You can harvest sage after about three months, but in the first year, you should harvest very lightly. After that, you can harvest as you need.

You can pinch off one leaf at a time or cut an entire stem if you want to. Air-dry harvested Sage by hanging it upside-down.

How to manage pests and diseases

The old adage “Prevention is better than cure” is very true when it comes to diseases on any herbs. Most of the time we’re growing herbs to eat them, and many pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides are toxic.

To prevent the onset of any diseases we recommend that you keep your Sage in a sunny place, don’t over-water, ensure good soil drainage, and prevent dense foliage by harvesting entire branches rather than removing just the tips.

Unfortunately some cheeky pests and pesky diseases may present themselves, so here’s a quick guide to combating them.

  1. Powdery Mildew on Sage
    Look for a fungicide that will leave no residual effect once it has dissipated. Try neem oil, sulfur dust, or the biological fungicide Bacillus subtilis. Read here for more information on powdery mildew.
  2. Leaf Spot on Sage
    Sage leaves turn yellow if the plant is over watered and spots will appear on the leaves if it is frequently splashed or watered overhead at a time of day where the leaves have no time to dry out before nightfall.
    Sage advice: Grow your sage in full sun; water fairly deeply less often; water early in the day.
  3. Crown Gall on Sage
    Galls are light-colored bulges that darken as they grow larger. They are caused when a bacterial disease enters a wound on the plant. To prevent this from happening plant Sage in well-draining soil and avoid wounding the plant.
  4. Mint Rust on Sage
    This is a fungus that spreads from plant to plant. Small orange, yellow, or brown pustules can be seen under the leaves which will eventually die. Infected plants need to be removed to prevent the spread of this disease.
  5. Sucking Insects
    Mites, Aphids, Thrips, Whiteflies, and Spittlebugs can be sprayed with insecticidal soap. Spray thoroughly and repeat as needed once or twice a week. This product kills all insects on contact so please make sure there are no ‘friendly’ bugs on the plant before you spray.
  6. Slugs
    Unless you are facing a slug onslaught of astronomical proportions, we advise against the use of slug bait as it is toxic. Remove the slugs by hand if there are only a few of them or use natural traps like grapefruit halves or natural deterrents like coffee grounds, tiny pebbles, or crushed eggshells.
  7. Caterpillars
    These ravenous creatures can decimate your Sage in next to no time. Once again, we caution against the use of toxic chemicals – especially if you want to eat your Sage one day. Rather pick the caterpillars up off the Sage. We don’t like caterpillars but do remember that they turn into butterflies, and we love butterflies.

How to prune Sage

Sage is a woody perennial that should be pruned in spring to ensure a healthy plant. Pruning is not the same as harvesting. We found a great step-by-step guide with illustrations that will guide you through the pruning process.

Growing Sage for smudging

The best Sage to plant for smudging is white Sage. It also makes a beautiful landscape plant, smells wonderful, has medicinal values and is popular with honey bees.


In Conclusion

Sage is a wonderfully versatile herb that can be grown indoors or outdoors, enjoyed for its aroma, flavor, and health benefits, or simply grown for its aesthetic appeal and the fact that it attracts bees, butterflies, and sometimes even hummingbirds.

Sage essential oils are wonderfully aromatic. Blend some with bees wax to make sage-scented candles.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the benefits of Sage?

Sage contains Vitamin K, Iron, Vitamin B6, Calcium, and Manganese. It also contains low levels of Vitamins A, C, and E. It is high in antioxidants and has antimicrobial properties. It is also used in many home remedies as a mild disinfectant for oral hygiene. For more information and useful resources, check out this guide on how to grow Sage.

How long does it take to grow Sage from seeds?

Sage seeds will germinate between 10 to 21 days. After five to six weeks the seedlings will be ready to transplant. Leaves can be lightly harvested around 75 days. For more information on how to grow Sage from seeds, check out this useful guide.

Which is the best Sage for smudging?

If you want to grow Sage to make your own smudge sticks, the best variety to choose is White Sage. It is a beautiful landscape plant, smells wonderful and is valued for its medicinal properties. For more information on how to grow your own Sage, check out this full guide.





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