Sage is perennial herb that can be grown from seeds or cuttings. Sow sage seed in the garden in late spring or start seed indoors as early as 6 to 8 weeks before the average last frost date in spring for transplanting out after the last frost. Sage can be started from cuttings taken from new growth in late spring or summer or from divisions in spring or fall.
Description. Sage is a hardy perennial shrub–often woody–that can grow to about 24 inches tall, some varieties taller. Sage has oval- to lance-shaped, wrinkled, grayish-green leaves from 1 to 5 inches long. Several sage varieties have variegated leaves: purple, yellow, green, or green and white. Sage flowers in summer; flowers are commonly bluish-lavender and form in clusters on spikes.
Yield. Grow one sage plant per household.
Site. Plant sage in full sun; sage will tolerate partial shade but the flavor of leaves will be diminished. Grow sage in well-drained soil. Sandy loam is best but sage will grow in nearly poor soil as well. Sage prefers a soil pH of 6.0 to 6.7.
Planting time. Sow sage seed in the garden in late spring or start seed indoors as early as 6 to 8 weeks before the average last frost date. Transplant seedlings out after the last frost when the soil has warmed. Sage can be started from cuttings taken from new growth in late spring or summer or from divisions in spring or fall. Sage also can be propagated by layering during the growing season.
Planting and spacing. Sow sage seeds ¼ inch deep. Thin seedlings or space transplants 20 inches apart or more. Space rows 20 to 24 inches apart.
Water and feeding. Sage requires regular even watering until established. Once established keep sage on the dry side. Lack of water will improve the flavor of sage, but avoid allowing the plant to wilt from lack of moisture. Sage grows best in sandy-loam soil but does not require regular feeding. Give sage a side dressing of compost tea twice during the growing season.
Companion plants. Cabbage, carrots, strawberries, tomatoes.
Care. Where winters are cold, mulch to help sage survive through the winter. Divide plants every three years to maintain vigor. For best flavor, prune away flower stems before they bloom. Trim or cut plants back in autumn to renew their foliage the following season. Sage will become woody and decline after several years and should be replaced.
Container growing. Sage can be container-grown as an annual. Grow sage in a pot at least 8 inches deep and wide. Over-winter container grown sage in a protected place, an unheated garage or patio.
Pests. Sage has no serious pest problems.
Diseases. Sate has no serious disease problem. Sage can suffer root rot if grown in a place that is too damp or shady.
Harvest. Snip off sage leaves as needed during the growing season; only harvest leaves from well-established plants. Sage requires 75 to 80 days from sowing to reach maturity. Trim away 6 to 8 inches of leafy growth twice during the growing season to keep sage bushy.
• Garden sage (Salvia officinalis): hardy perennial to 30 inches; gray-green leaves and violet flowers.
• Salvia officinalis ‘Albiflora’: garden sage with white flowers.
• Golden sage (S. o. ‘Aurea’): compact plant with variegated golden and green foliage.
• Purple sage (S. o. ‘Purpurea’): purple-red edged leaves.
• Tricolor sage (S. o. ‘Tricolor’): variegated leaves of white, purple, red, and pink.
• Clary sage (S. sclarea): tallest sage to 5 feet tall and wide; very large leaves
• Pineapple sage (S. elegans): green leaves with strong pineapple fragrance, not hardy.
• Blue sage (S. clevelandii): tall to 4 feet; substitute for garden sage.
• Green sage (S. fruitcosa): large, gray-green leaves, strongly aromatic.
• Black currant sage (S. microphylla): broad, deep green leaves with currant fragrance.
Storing and preserving. Use leaves fresh. Fresh leaves will keep 2 or 3 days in the refrigerator wrapped in a paper towel placed in a plastic bag. Sage leaves can be frozen or dried. Hang stems or whole plants to dry in a warm place. Store dried leaves in an airtight container.
Common name. Sage
Botanical name. Salvia officinalis and species