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Growing Sage Plants: Care, Tips, & More

Sage plants are vigorous and full perennial herbs with woody stems and aromatic leaves that can be harvested and used in bread, soups, stuffings, and to season meats, vegetables, and legumes.  Their leaves are unique and oblong in shape and can be variegated or solid in color while producing white, purple, or red flowers. Sage is a reasonably self-sufficient plant to grow and requires very little overall maintenance when it is planted correctly. Check out our detailed list of all that you need to know for successfully growing sage plants: care, tips, & more, so you will have a continual crop of aromatic sage treasures year after year.

Leaves of a sage plant

Soil Preparation and pH for Sage Plants

When growing sage plants, provide them with average, well-draining soil that is sandy or loamy. Soil PH for sage plants should measure 6.5 to 7.0. If you are not sure of your soil’s pH level, you can obtain a simple and inexpensive soil test kit from your local garden center

Water and Nutrients for Growing Sage

Water new transplants fairly frequently until they get established. However, as they grow, care should be taken when watering sage plants because oversaturation can result in diseased roots.

  • Always test the soil with your finger and allow the soil to dry between watering.
  • Once mature, it is best to water these prolific growers thoroughly but on a less frequent basis.

Sage is a reasonably self-sufficient herbal plant, and it does not need much more than the soil that it is planted in to thrive. If planted in containers or when they are in their perennial years, you may amend the soil with some well-decomposed compost or quality potting mix to give plants an extra boost.

Spacing for Growing Sage

When growing sage plants, it is best to space plants 24 inches apart so that they have room to spread. Sage plants can reach heights of anywhere between 12-36 inches, depending on the variety.

Light and Temperature for Growing Sage

When growing sage plants: care, tips & more like ours, we recommend that you consider light and temperature when planting. The ideal soil temperature for planting sage outdoors is 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Plant sage in an area of the garden that receives full sunlight, providing partial shade in hotter climates.
While sage is traditionally a cold-hardy perennial, they risk the chance of not surviving a harsh winter in colder climates. Consider protecting plants from frost with row covers or cold frames and adding extra mulch around the base of the plants for added protection. If you shelter them, you’ll have the best chance at healthy plants returning in the spring after a winter’s dormancy period.

growing sage in outdoor herb garden

How to Plant Sage

Sage plants can be directly sown from seed, propagated from cuttings, or transplanted into the garden bed or container. When growing sage plants from seeds, you can start them indoors six weeks before the last frost date in your grow zone, or you can directly sow seeds outdoors after the threat of frost has passed. Follow these simple steps for propagating sage seeds successfully.

  • Seeds should be planted ¼ inch deep.
  • Sprinkle soil over the seeds and tap the soil to firm in.
  • Water sage seeds in well.
  • Maintain consistently moist soil throughout the germination period of 10-21 days and until plants get established.
  • Thin seedlings to 12 inches apart in rows that are spaced 18-24 inches.

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All Natural Potting Mix

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Where and When to Plant Sage

Plant sage plants in the spring after all threat of frost has passed. Sage can be grown in containers, raised garden beds, and in-ground backyard gardens.

  • Containers: Sage plants can be grown successfully in containers. Be sure that you have a nice large pot or growing container with a well-draining potting mix and water intermittently. Growing in pots and grow buckets offers gardeners the flexibility of moving plants to different locations as needed. It also allows you to have fresh herbs right outside on your porch or patio.
  • Raised Bed: Growing sage in raised beds takes much of the guesswork out of supplying a nutrient-rich and well-draining soil for plants. You can control your garden’s soil quality in a raised garden bed, and plants and seeds will stay warmer earlier in the season than if they are planted in the ground.
  • Backyard Garden: Sage plants can be quickly and easily grown in a backyard garden as long as the soil is well tilled and drains well. Mulching can help with moisture regulation, reduce soil erosion, regulate soil temperature and prevent pesky weeds from propagating in your garden

Pruning

Sage plants require very little routine maintenance, but they can benefit from a bit of pruning at times. They should be pinched off minimally in the first year of growth, so they have time to strengthen. After the first year, trim back lightly right after the last frost of the season in early spring and more readily when the plant is more veteran. Sage plant stems can get woody over time; trim back thick woody stems when sage plants make their return in spring. Pinch back the plant’s sprigs to encourage new shoots, thereby producing a bushier plant.

Harvesting Sage Plants

While plants are establishing themselves in their first year of growth, harvest small sprigs sparingly. Harvest sage leaves by pinching or snipping a branch just above a leaf node, using care not to cut back more than one-third of the offshoot at a time.
Continue to pinch off branch tips and leaves from stems to boost new branch and leaf production. Leave stems intact as you move into the fall months so the plant can prepare for winter.
For best tasting leaves, harvest sage in the morning, when the essential oil content is highest. Use the leaves fresh, freeze them in an airtight container, or dry them for future use.

Recommended Sage Varieties

There are many different varieties of sage plants that vary in height, leaf and flower color, scent, and flavor. When selecting a sage plant, try rubbing the leaves of the plant to test its fragrance for desirability. The more intense the smell of the leaves are, the more flavor they will have. Here are some of our favorite selections when growing sage plants.

  • ‘Pineapple Sage’ is a tall-growing variety with gorgeous red blossoms that attract beneficial pollinators to the garden.
  • ‘Golden Variegated Sage’ produces leaves with a deep aroma on grayish-green mixed leaves.
  • ‘White Sage’ A robustly scented herbaceous plant with fan-like leaves with a silvery hue.

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