Grow Your Own Sage Plant
This beautiful herb with its velvety gray-green leaves is surprisingly easy to grow in the garden.
Sage is a super cooperative plant that can hold up under lots of different conditions, including full sun or partial shade and both hot and cooler temperatures. When temperatures get higher, this herb will produce the prettiest light pink or purple sage flowers that attract pollinators and contain hidden treasure once they dry: more and more seeds!
Is sage a perennial?
This is a perennial herb, so you can let sage die back during the winter for a return in the spring, or you can bring sage indoors before a cold spell. Here's how to overwinter your herbs indoors. For those with milder winters, sage can continue to thrive in the kitchen garden throughout the season.
How to source your sage herb
You have three options to bring sage into your herb garden. You can start stage from seed, purchase a starter plant, or root a cutting from a mature sage plant.
How to start sage from seed
Unlike some of the other seeds in the Lamiaceae, or herb family, sage seeds are a little bigger, which makes them easy to separate and plant out—plus, they seem to germinate (or sprout) quite quickly.
You can start sage seeds indoors under grow lights, or you can plant seeds directly in the garden if the conditions are optimal. The best time to plant sage is during the cooler days of spring (you can even start a couple of weeks prior to your final frost date) or fall. (Learn more about indoor seed starting, including the best trays, LED lights, and seed starting soil mix to use.)
Cover your sage seeds lightly with soil. Sage grows wide like a small shrub, so be sure to give your herb a little bit of room to spread out.
When buying sage seeds, be sure you're buying from a source that's serving up organic, non-GMO seeds. Most of my favorite herb seeds come from Baker Creek, Botanical Interests, Southern Exposure, High Mowing, and Johnny's Selected Seeds.
Just one packet is plenty to fill your herb garden with loads and loads of fresh sage.
Explore four other herbs you can start easily from seed.
How to buy the best sage plant
If you're already experiencing cool or warm weather in your area, you can maximize the time you'll be able to enjoy sage in your garden by purchasing a plant from a local nursery or grower. Your transplant will already be grown to a healthy size in a container and have a strong start.
Avoid buying herbs from big box stores. Most of them will have traveled quite a distance before reaching the store and been treated with fungicide or synthetic fertilizers so they look great when you see them at the store. If you don't continue to feed them the same fertilizers or fungicides when you get them home, chances are, they'll either sit there and not grow or just give up being green entirely. In my experience, the more local the nursery you buy your herb plants from, the better.
How to root sage from a cutting
Sage can be grown through propagation, meaning you can take a cutting from a mature sage herb and encourage that cutting to grow roots to become its own plant. Ask friends, family members, or even friendly neighbors if you can take a small cutting from their sage plant to make a new plant. Most gardeners are more than happy to share. You can also try propagating sage from organic, freshly cut herbs from the grocery store—though you're less likely to find success this way.
Perennial herbs like sage will produce roots fairly quickly when placed in water or sand. (If propagating from tender green stems, you can grow roots in water, but if growing from woody, mature stems, it’s often better to propagate in coarse sand.) Once you see the first roots forming, allow four to six weeks before the cuttings are rooted enough to be ready to plant. Then, factor in another four to six weeks before the rooted sage herb has grown enough to be ready to harvest.
Propagating plants is one of the most magical things you can do in the garden and also one of the best ways to get free plants!
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How to grow sage for maximum production
To maximize your leaf production from sage, make sure to give it its preferred sunlight, water, and drainage levels.
Give sage at least 4 hours of sunlight
Sage prefers plenty of sunlight, which makes sense when you consider it originated in the Mediterranean. However, your sage will continue to grow even if it receives less than six hours of direct sunlight per day—your leaves just might not be as flavorful. In extremely hot weather, sage prefers a bit of afternoon shade.
Avoid overwatering your sage herb
Only water sage plants once the top inch of soil has become dry. Sage is drought tolerant but does best in slightly moist soil. As always, avoiding getting water on the leaves of your plants if you're watering by hand.
Ensure your sage plant has good drainage
Sage doesn't like to sit in water for long. Raised beds filled with sandy/loamy soil rich in organic matter provide ideal drainage for happy sage roots.
Sage also does well in containers that are at least six inches deep and have good drainage holes. Just make sure to give sage at least half a square foot to grow to its fullest potential.
You can grow sage alongside rosemary, basil, oregano, and thyme—just avoid mint as an herb companion since its roots tend to take over. Read more about how to grow herbs in a small space.
Even with the best of care and consistent pruning (or harvesting, in other words), sage can become woody after growing in your garden for a couple of years. When it no longer produces the volume of leaves you desire, dig it up and start fresh with a new plant.
How to harvest sage
Sage has only a modest growth rate. If you start from seed, you're looking at around 75 days in the garden before sage leaves are ready to be harvested. You'll know your plant is ready once it has produced five to ten main stems.
Use your fingers to pick individual leaves or a clean pair of scissors or pruners to trim sprigs from the outside of the plant. As a general rule of thumb, never harvest or prune more than a third of the plant at one time.
Leaves can be used fresh or hung upside down to dry. To dry sage, cut the stems just above a leaf node, strip the stem of the bottom few leaves, and tie several stems together with twine to hang upside down in a cool, dry, somewhat dark place for two to three weeks. Remove dried leaves from their stems and stores in a jar until you're ready to use them.
Expect to cut from your sage plant weekly. The more you cut, the more you encourage your plant to produce delicious leaves for you.
Bonus: Sage is easy to propagate if you end up with more sprigs than you can enjoy. Follow these simple steps to propagate your herbs.
Learn more about growing your own herbs
Master the art of growing your own organic (and delicious) herb garden and grow enough for a year-round supply.
Become that person who passes right by all the expensive and packaged herbs at the grocery store and learn to grow your own instead. You'll learn every step of the process, from creating your own herb garden planter to troubleshooting issues, inside this ebook.
Time to harvest your own fresh sage leaves!
Sage is a beautiful and fragrant herb to grow in your kitchen or herb garden. We always recommend starting with herbs if you're just getting into gardening, and sage is a wonderful plant to begin with. By following these tips, you'll be able to harvest enough leaves to use half fresh immediately and save half for non-growing seasons. That way, you'll never have to buy sage from the grocery store again! You'll have your own supply of delicious leaves year round.
Here's to many velvety leaf harvests in your future!
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