Plants

Sage Guide: How to Grow & Care for “Salvia Officinalis”

Read our guide to Common Sage for everything you’ll ever need to know! Tips for planting & caring for “Salvia Officinalis”

Are you ready to add a plant full of drama and mystery to your collection? Salvia officinalis a.k.a. Sage is probably one of the most interesting ornamentals you can have around. Besides its natural charm, this plant will also bring you lots of benefits from growing it.

Salvia officinalis is a species of flowering subshrubs in the mint family Lamiaceae. This stunning flower is native to several countries of the Mediterranean region, but it has become naturalized in numerous areas worldwide. In cultivation, it goes by different common names including Common sage, Culinary sage, Sage, Garden sage, Dalmatian sage, True sage, or Golden sage.

Prized for its attractive foliage and gorgeous flowers, sage enjoys much popularity as an ornamental garden plant. Although the common type comes with many benefits, you’ll be happy to learn that there are many irresistible cultivars to choose from. The most eye-catching specimens are ‘Alba’, ‘Aurea’, ‘Berggarten’, ‘Extrakta’, ‘Icterina’, ‘Lavandulaefolia’, ‘Purpurascens’, and ‘Tricolor’.

About Sage

  • Both S. officinalis ‘Icterina’ and S. officinalis ‘Purpurascens’ varieties have gained the well-known Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society. While ‘Icterina’ has variegated yellow-green leaves, ‘Purpurascens’ comes with a nice-looking mix of purple and green on its foliage.
  • Sage has historical and cultural importance. Since ancient times, people have used it to ward off any form of evil. Likewise, the Romans referred to this plant as the “holy herb” and made it a key component of their religious rituals.
  • Salvia officinalis has always been an important part of traditional medicine. This herbaceous plant works as an excellent treatment for snakebites, fertility, seizure, gout, fever, inflammation, ulcers, asthma, dizziness, memory loss, depression, rheumatism, hyperglycemia, paralysis, and some digestive problems.
  • The leaves and flowers of Sage are edible both raw or cooked. Many folks use the strongly aromatic leaves as a slightly pepper-like flavouring in various culinary recipes. The flowers can add fragrance and colour to salads or sandwiches.
  • Fresh or dried sage leaves are very common ingredients to prepare herbal teas that some believe to improve digestion. Moreover, the leaves make for effective cleaning parts for teeth and gums.
  • The essential oil obtained from sage works as a great flavouring for sweets, ice cream, baked goods, and many other popular recipes. People also use this essential oil in hair shampoos, perfumery, toothpaste, or bio-activating cosmetics.
  • The Salvia officinalis species and its cultivars are wonderful outdoor additions to cottage gardens, city gardens, herb gardens, Mediterranean gardens, beds, and borders. Indoors, they will look absolutely fabulous potted in cute containers.
  • Sage can be a hypnotic companion plant to many other spectacular species, such as Agastache ‘Blue Boa’, Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’, Feathertop Grass, Iris ‘Dusky Challenger’, Penstemon ‘Garnet’, Rose Campion, and Rosemary.
Common sage
Common sage

Sage Features: An Overview

  • Sage is a herbaceous perennial subshrub. Depending on the variety, this plant can reach from 1 to 2 feet (30-61 cm) in height and 2 to 3 feet (61-91 cm) in width.
  • The evergreen foliage of this plant can vary in size and colour from one cultivar to another. The leaves are oblong with rugosities on the upper side and nearly white-tinted underneath from their numerous short, soft hairs.
  • The members of the Sage species typically has grey-green leaves. Newer cultivars, however, can exhibit various shades of cream, yellow, rose, or purple in many colour patterns or variegations.
  • Sage blooms from late spring through summer. During this period, it produces upright spikes of flowers that emerge in whorls. They are usually lavender-tinted, but some cultivars can also appear with white, pink, or purple petals.

Growing Sage

Without a doubt, sage is as easy to grow and care for as it is beautiful. This buddy will need some extra attention during its first year of growth. But, once established, it will start to perform well with little to no effort on your part. However, no matter the age your Sage will be, you will still have to give importance to a few mandatory, but basic demands.

One of the most essential growing conditions for your sage to be healthy and happy is lighting. This flower will thrive in a location where it can receive at least six hours of full sunlight each day. Yet, the preferred conditions may change if you live in a region with very hot summer months. Make sure you provide your plants with some shade, especially during the harsh afternoon sunlight.

200 Non-GMO Common Sage Seeds, From Amazon

In general, your beloved Sage will have the time of its life in a wide range of temperatures. This perennial plant can withstand both winter and summer conditions in the USDA zones 4 through 10. But! Keep in mind that the Sage species is typically a bit harder than most ornamental cultivars. If you are the happy owner of a Sage variety, you should grow it outdoors only in USDA areas 5 to 9.

Sage is virtually carefree when it comes to pest infestations and fungal diseases. In fact, some say that this plant is a great insect repellent. Still, some curious intruders like leafhoppers, slugs, or snails may bother your plant once in a while. If you notice any suspect presence on your Sage, remove the pests with bare hands if possible and apply neem oil on its foliage for severe situations.

In case you are one of those gardeners that grow their Sage to use their herby leaves, you should first wait for your plant to settle in their new home. Once established, typically after one year from planting, you can harvest your Sage whenever you want. However, we have a little secret for you! Their leaves will taste better if you harvest them before or right after the plant blooms.

Planting Sage

In terms of growing medium, common sage is not as picky as you might expect. This plant will tolerate any type of soil as long as it comes with excellent drainage. Likewise, the soil pH is not so important for this easy-going companion. If you want to enjoy your Sage in your cosy home, we recommend you plant it in a pot that has drainage holes at the bottom.

Sage is pretty independent and does not require fertilizers to show its magic. In fact, excessive fertilizing may affect the overall health of your plant and will eventually kill it. For optimal results, you should only apply some organic matter like mulch or compost into their soil once every year in spring.

When Sage reaches maturity, it tends to get somewhat leggy and will look very unattractive. But do not worry! You can prune it regularly to maintain a certain size or shape and also bring your plant back to life. In spring or once its blooming period has ended, make sure you remove any dead stems and flowers. By doing this yearly, you will always make room for new, healthy growth and flowering to emerge.

Watering Sage

The best feature of sage is its ability to tolerate dry conditions for long periods, but only after it has settled in its new environment. This plant does not appreciate sitting in wet soil and it is also susceptible to root rot. Make sure you always allow the soil to dry out between waterings to avoid over-watering your plant.

As a general rule, you should water your Sage without touching its foliage. If you allow its leaves to sit damp for too long, they may get powdery mildew. This disease usually spreads pretty fast and, in severe cases, it may be impossible to save your plant. The best way to avoid this from happening is to provide your Sage with drinks infrequently and also to protect its foliage in more humid areas.

Propagating Sage

As always, it is very difficult for us, gardeners, to part ways with our dearest plants. But, once you have a sage in your collection, you will always have a nice garden companion! That’s because you can easily propagate your sage through division, stem cuttings, and seeds. Maybe you will not manage to keep your mother plant alive, but at least you will have plenty of Sage specimens around as a replacement.

To propagate your Sage using division, you will first have to dig it out of its soil. After this, divide its roots into two or three parts, then replant each section into its permanent spot. Keep in mind that you should water your new, tiny Sage plants to help them settle in their new home.

Salvia officinalis
Salvia officinalis

Although the next method to propagate your Sage is more challenging, stem cuttings are also great propagation materials. Look for healthy branches and cut about 3 to 4 inches (7.5-10 cm) off them using a sharp, sterilized knife. In the next step, plant each cutting in a pot filled with fresh potting soil. If you provide the cuttings with warm temperatures, lots of light, and regular watering, they will develop a healthy root system in a few months or so.

If you want to start your Sage from seed, all you have to do is to collect the seeds from the mother plant, then sow them fresh in soil. Obviously, this is a very simple process but is not as reliable as the other two methods because the seeds will germinate super slow. Still, you have nothing to lose if you try it!

In Conclusion

We feel that a garden is incomplete without a Sage plant in it! This plant looks lovely and it is also very easy to grow, care for, and propagate. And when you have so many options to choose from, it will be almost impossible not to fall in love with at least one cultivar. Are you already growing Sage? Share your experience in the comment section!

Miruna is an experienced content writer with a passion for gardening. She is the proud owner of an outdoor rose garden and an indoor collection of tiny succulents. She bought her first succulent 10 years ago - an adorable Echeveria Setosa. Now she owns more than 100 succulents and cacti of different colors, shapes, and sizes. Miruna is a versatile writer and, as you might have guessed, her favorite topic is gardening. Contact miruna@gardenbeast.com

Write A Comment