Growing Sage

growing sage in the garden
A clay pot works well for sage because it dries out quickly

Sage needs light, well-drained soil, which makes it a good container plant. A clay pot works well for sage because it dries out quickly.

In the Garden

Common sage takes the form of a low shrub that can be wider than it is tall. The soft gray-green foliage is great in pots or the garden. Consider planting and growing sage in a container with rosemary, basil, and other Mediterranean herbs for a fragrant mix. While cooks appreciate the distinctive taste and scent of sage, gardeners also enjoy its velvety, evergreen foliage, and delicate blooms.

Soil, Planting, and Care

If you live in zones 5 to 8, your sage will grow as a hardy perennial. However, in the humid climes of zones 9 and farther south, sage is usually an annual, as it does not easily tolerate summer heat and humidity. Set out plants in spring or fall, planting seedlings 18 to 24 inches apart. Choose a sunny spot in well-drained soil with a pH between 6.5 and 7. If you have clay soil, add sand and organic matter to lighten up soil and provide better drainage.

Prune plants back in early spring every year, cutting out the oldest growth to promote new growth. You will begin to see little pink or purple flowers in late spring. Even with pruning, plants can get woody and stop producing lots of branches after 3 to 5 years. At this point, you may want to dig up your original and plant a new one.

Troubleshooting

Mildew is a problem for sage, so thin plants regularly to encourage air circulation. Watch carefully on the hottest, most humid summer days. You can also mulch with pebbles to help keep the area immediately around the leaves dry. The moisture from pebbles evaporates quickly compared to organic mulches.

Harvest and Storage

A large harvest of sage leaves by a woman in a pink shirt

After the first year, you can harvest as much sage as you need year-round.

In areas in which it is perennial, harvest sage only lightly during the first year. In subsequent years, harvest sage as you need it, year-round. Cut an entire stem if desired, or just pinch a leaf at a time. To give new foliage time to fully mature, leave 2 months between your last big harvest and the first frost of the season. Dry harvested sage by hanging bunches of stems upside-down. Strip the dry leaves from the stem and store in an airtight container. Keep the flowers on the stems to cultivate pretty pods that work well in dried herb arrangements.

Download our How to Grow Herbs instructions. They are in .PDF format.

FAQs

Chopped dried sage and fresh sage are used in holiday cooking and poultry dishes.

Dried sage is an essential ingredient in poultry seasoning and dressing for your holiday turkey.

Use fresh or dried sage in your holiday recipes, as well as to accent pork, poultry, sausage, game, stuffing, and vegetables.

8 Comments

rob

I have a nice two year old sage plant that is loaded with new green stems and flowers. is now the time to cut a stem to root it ?. I would like to propagate my own herbs as much as possible

Donna

Can all sage plants be used for cooking? I one that is called Salvia Burgandy Candles.

Mary Beth

Hi Donna, Thanks for writing. Let me first say that we aren’t the proper folks to state what all in nature is safe for food-grade edibles, as many varieties have seemingly similar species that may be toxic or have hallucinogenic effects. I don’t know about Salvia nemorosa ‘Burgandy Candles’ specifically, but the family from which it comes is usually ornamental only. You are safe to use Salvia officinalis (common sage, including many specific varieties), Salvia elegans (Pineapple sage), and perhaps Salvia fruticosa (Greek sage). There are nearly a thousand varieties of sage or salvias in the plant world, though most are loved for their ornamental properties. Even if it’s “safe” to eat these, the flavor and taste of the common sage will be better for your culinary needs, I think. Hope that helps! Happy growing, Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

ariel

I own a sage plant and after the first year it became a bush. I harvest regularly, but i find that when i put fresh leaves inside a container they get moldy just when i need them most ( over the winter ). How can I preserve fresh sage leaves over the winter without loosing their great flavor?

Kelly Smith Trimble

Hi Ariel,

Yes, you need to dry or dehydrate your sage in order to preserve it. My favorite method is dehydrating it. I use a food dehydrator. (You can find a fairly inexpensive one at Walmart or online.) We also give instructions on how to dry sage in the Harvest & Storage tab on our Growing Sage page. Hang bunches of stems upside-down in a cool, dry place. When dry, strip the dry leaves from the stems and store them in an airtight container. I hope this helps! Be sure to also check out our sage recipes in our In the Kitchen section.

Kelly, Bonnie Plants

Ariel

I tried the drying technique on your Growing Sage page and it worked!!! I’m so happy! The sage leaves have not gone bad yet and I harvested a bunch just last week! I can’t wait to check out your In the Kitchen page and see all the cool recipes :)

Seph

Try putting the sage in an ice cube tray, filling it with water, and freezing them.

When needed, just thaw them out. just as good as fresh, in my opinion. I prefer this over dried.

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