How to Grow Sage Like an Expert

Updated on June 28, 2020
Jana Louise Smit profile image

Jana likes to grow stuff, exercise, snack, and explore creative projects as a means to relax and grow.

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Who Wants to Learn How to Grow Sage?

Sage is grown by herbalists, cooks, and anyone who adores the appearance of this velvety plant. Besides its beautiful grey-green leaves, sage is a flowery treat. The blooms range from pink, white, blue to purple - although regrettably not on the same bush.

What is Sage Used For?

While gardeners marvel at the flowers and the fuzziness, cooks apply sage as a herb to give meat and bean dishes a savory edge. The leaves are also a valuable ingredient in stuffing. For the sake of those who want a good-looking herb with culinary perks, this article will focus on the cultivation of kitchen sage (Salvia officinalis), as not all species can be utilized as a herb. Sad face.

Don’t forget to read the precautions at the end of this article. Ingesting sage or using its essential oil is not safe for individuals with certain medical conditions.

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Can I Grow Sage From Cuttings?

Yes, you can grow sage from cuttings. But to grow your own fuzzy herbs, you need a healthy adult bush. You’re a lucky duck if you already have one available. Otherwise, a trip to the local nursery might be in order. Here’s how to find the best sage for the job.

  • Look at the label to make sure it’s kitchen sage (Salvia officinalis).

  • The plant should be two or three years old. If there are only yearlings, don’t despair - just harvest lightly during the first season.

  • The sage bush should appear healthy.

  • Avoid drooping, browning, insect-infested plants.

How to Grow Sage From Cuttings

Growing sage from cuttings is the best way to go. It won't produce a hundred percent success rate every time but sage cuttings are less moody than seeds. We’ll eye the seeds shortly. Nevertheless, put on your positive hat, do the following, and you’re sure to spawn a few new baby sage plants.

  1. Wait until spring.

  2. Fill a pot with well-draining soil.

  3. Choose a healthy-looking branch.

  4. Take a cutting 7.6 cm (3 in) long.

  5. You can dip the cutting in rooting hormone but this is optional.

  6. Make a hole in the soil, place the cutting inside, and gently press the soil inward until the cutting is steady and standing on its own.

  7. Mist until the soil is moist.

  8. Place in a warm area but avoid direct sunlight.

  9. Give a little water whenever you notice that the soil is dry.

  10. You can expect to wait between 4 to 6 weeks for the cuttings to root and show new leaves to show.

How to Grow Sage Seeds

Growing sage seeds is more difficult - but not impossible. Here’s a tip that will make those finicky sage seeds easier to grow. Simply sow them indoors rather than outside.

  1. Wait until spring.

  2. Fill a seed tray with soil that drains easily.

  3. Plant one seed per division.

  4. Spritz the soil to moisten the seed.

  5. Place in a warm area with direct sunlight.

  6. Keep an eye on the soil - spritz when dry.

  7. You can look forward to your seedlings in 6 to 8 weeks.

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How to Take Care of Your Sage Plant

The Basics

Sage is a hardy plant but it needs a few things to survive - adequate sunlight, correct watering, and pruning. None of it boils down to rocket science, which makes this herb even more attractive to the busy gardener. Let’s have a look at the different situations your sage might find itself in.

How do You Care for Potted Sage?

You care for potted sage by providing direct sunlight and prudent watering. Freshly transplanted sage needs some me-time inside the house. Provide a sunny spot and don’t overwater. After a week or two, you can make it a permanent house plant or move it outside. If you add it to your outdoor pot collection, the same rules apply - a sunny area and offer water only when the soil seems dry.

Sage is drought-tolerant but don’t let things go too far. The plant might perish when the roots dry out. Another tip to keep your herb healthy is to prune in spring by removing the woody stems.

How do You Care for Sage Seedlings?

You care for sage seedlings by honouring the mantra of “sunny and dry.” The best is to keep them inside for a while to avoid the seedlings from being damaged by the wind, pests, or pets. You can eventually harden them off by letting the trays stand outside for an hour or two a day. As they grow bigger and tougher, you can transfer them to their own pots or a garden plot.

How do You Care for Garden Sage?

You care for garden sage by picking a warm area that won’t pool rainwater. Sage will also flourish in the shade if you live in a particularly hot region. However, choose a spot with light shade, like under a tree, perhaps, that allows the sun to filter through. Indeed, too much shade turns sage into a scraggly creature with long and floppy branches. Garden sage must also be pruned in the spring.

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Managing Sage-Loving Pests

The good news is that sage is not overly troubled by pests. However, mildew often shows up when sage lives in overcrowded or humid conditions. You can avoid this by spacing your plants a good distance apart and taking precautions against high humidity (like proper airflow). Bugs like thrips and spider mites might also move in but they can be controlled with an organic pesticide.

A more serious condition is mint rust. Caused by a fungus, the leaves develop bumps on the undersides of leaves, new shoots appear withered and too many leaves drop off. Such a plant must be removed from other sage bushes to prevent the infection from spreading. The prognosis is not good for the sick plant but it might help to remove the affected parts.

Precautions When Using Sage

Sage is toxic when used in large doses over a long period of time. Even if you’re in perfect health, sage is best taken in small doses and for a limited time. There are more serious complications for individuals with certain medical conditions. Sage is known to interfere with medication, blood pressure, and seizure disorders. Please avoid sage if any of the following applies to you.

  • Pregnancy.

  • Breast-feeding.

  • Diabetes.

  • Epilepsy.

  • High or low blood pressure.

  • Any hormone-sensitive conditions.

  • Upcoming or post-surgery patient.

  • Any condition that requires the use of sedatives.

A Quick Summary

With proper care, a sage plant can live up to 20 years. Herbalists use the plant only for the first five years when its savory flavour is most potent. Sage takes a while to propagate but is easy to care for. The plant’s needs are few and once established, can provide a good-looking pot or garden plant for years. Sage is coveted as a herb but while low doses are relatively safe, care must be taken by those who have medical conditions.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Jana Louise Smit

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    • Jana Louise Smit profile imageAUTHOR

      Jana Louise Smit 

      4 weeks ago from South Africa

      Hi Ivana. What a tasty herb. I just had to share my pointers in case anyone else would love to try their hand at growing their own sage. Thanks for reading it. :)

    • Ivana Divac profile image

      Ivana Divac 

      4 weeks ago from Serbia

      Great article. Thank you for sharing!

    • Jana Louise Smit profile imageAUTHOR

      Jana Louise Smit 

      5 weeks ago from South Africa

      Hi Linda. You're so lucky to have many sage bushes in your garden! They make lovely decorative plants no matter where you place them. :)

    • Jana Louise Smit profile imageAUTHOR

      Jana Louise Smit 

      5 weeks ago from South Africa

      That sounds really delicious! Thanks for sharing these tips. :)

    • lindacee profile image

      Linda Chechar 

      5 weeks ago from Arizona

      The sage flavor is really strong especially using dried leaves, Best to use them sparingly. Sage goes well with pork, lamb, beef and chicken recipes. Chop fresh sage with an earthy flavor with melted butter over butternut ravioli. Yum!

    • Lorna Lamon profile image

      Lorna Lamon 

      5 weeks ago

      My Aunt grows sage and gave me a few cuttings last year. I now have a lovely display of sage in the garden, close to the trees. Thank you for sharing your invaluable tips about this plant Jana. An enjoyable read.

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