Growing Sage | How to Grow Sage + 5 Harvest Tips

sage herb box

Growing sage is one of the easiest and best options for herb gardening. Sage is the piney, velvety member of the mint family with grayish-green leaves and a gorgeous aroma. It tastes divine alongside meats of all kinds — pork, lamb, chicken, etc. — and it makes a gorgeous grapefruit and sage cocktail.

There are many varieties of sage, but the variety most people think of is common sage or salvia officinalis. This is the culinary sage variety used most commonly in the kitchen.

Growing sage is particularly easy. It’s a hardy, drought-resistant plant that produces huge harvests and stunning leaves. Eventually, a garden sage plant will produce spring flowers in blue, purple, white, and pink. Growing sage indoors is even easier.

growing sage

Here’s our complete guide to growing sage and 5 sage harvesting tips to make your grow easier.

When to Grow

Sage should be planted in either spring or fall. Sage isn’t a huge fan of the heat and humidity, so it won’t establish itself well in the summer. Plant about 1-2 weeks before the last spring frost (spring garden) or up to two weeks before the first frost date (fall garden).

Whatever time of year you choose to begin your sage garden, plant when the soil temperatures are between 60° and 70° F. Once your sage has adapted to its home, it can tolerate temperatures as low as 30° F. However, it’s important to begin growing when temperatures are a bit more moderate.

Where to Grow

In zones 5-8, sage grows as a hardy perennial (it grows back for multiple seasons). In zones 9 and south, sage is an annual (it only lasts one season).

Heat and humidity intimidates sage a little. If you live in humid climates, consider planting in a container where it’s easier to control the moisture and temperature of the soil. Plant alongside basil and rosemary for an aromatic herb garden perfect for your kitchen and cocktail needs.

Alternatively, you can grow sage indoors. This works in any climate and is particularly effective if you’re growing for culinary use (your fresh harvests are only a few steps away!). Sage’s hardy and un-needy nature makes it a great candidate for indoor growing. Grow in an inbox of herbs for a successful harvest.

Planting Sage

Growing sage from seed is particularly difficult. It can take up to two years of growth for your sage to reach mature size. Avoid the long and tenuous beginning by planting from seedlings, clippings, or layerings.

Seedlings

Seedlings are pre-germinated plants that you simply replant. Source your seedlings from a reliable store you trust or grow with Gardenuity — our carefully curated farm partners are the best.

When you transition your seedlings to their new home, immediately water thoroughly and observe them carefully over the next two weeks. Replanting is a small trauma for the plant and sometimes requires a watchful gaze until the root systems are established in the garden or container.

Clippings

Growing from clippings or layerings requires that you already have a sage plant or a friendly gardening neighbor. To grow from clippings, clip a three-inch cutting from the very tip of an existing sage plant. Apply root hormone to the exposed stem and plant in sterile sand or vermiculite.

Once roots have grown (within about six weeks), transfer to a smaller pot until the root ball has formed. Then, transfer to your garden or a larger container.

Layerings

To grow by layerings, take a long stage stem of an existing plant and secure it along the soil with a wire — the stem must be directly touching the soil. Be sure to leave 4 inches of the tip free.

Within a month, new root systems will form along the stem. Cut away and transfer to a container or another part of your garden.

Regardless of which planting method you choose, space your sage plants about 18 to 36 inches apart. Sage grows into a round bush-like plant — only about 12 to 30 inches high and quite round — so you’ll be grateful for the space as your plant matures!

How to Care for Sage

Sage is hardy and easy to grow. It doesn’t require an overwhelming amount of care, but knowing the following few facts will make a successful sage harvest that much easier.

Soil

Sage prefers loamy, well-drained, and sandy soil with a pH between 6.5 and 7.0. When planting, the soil temperature should be between 60° and 70° F.

With sage, resist the temptation to over-fertilize. By fertilizing, you may get a faster harvest, but you will actually lose some of the flavor. The flavor of sage is already delicate enough!

Water

Sage is drought-resistant. In other words, sage doesn’t like too much water. In the beginning of growing, water sage once or twice a week, keeping the soil at the moisture level of a wrung-out sponge.

After your plant has developed a good root system, water sparingly — about once a week or once every two weeks. It’s better to err on the side of too little water than too much water.

Sunlight

Sage likes medium to full sun exposure. Plants indoors still need sunlight! Place by a window to optimize growth.

Pests/Disease

Sage doesn’t have too many problems with pests — especially if planted in fall, in containers, or indoors. However, there are a few pests you need to watch out for, including aphids, spider mites, and whiteflies.

Prevent pests by weeding and removing garden debris from the plot and surrounding area. Spot treat with neem oil and organic pesticides. If the plant is fully infested, remove by securely bagging and putting it in the trash.

Sage’s love for dryer climates means that the disease most common to it is mildew and stem rot. To avoid these diseases, do not overwater. Soil should almost completely dry out between waterings. Additionally, avoid overhead watering and properly space plants to improve air circulation.

How to Harvest

Harvesting is a very exciting time in the growing journey — it’s the time to reap your fresh reward. Follow these harvesting tips to create a successful harvest that simultaneously cares for the longevity of your plant.

  1. To harvest sage, pinch off sage leaves just above the spot where two leaves meet. Alternatively, snip off small sprigs from the plant.
  2. Rather than taking big bounties from your plant in one go, harvest what you’ll use that day! Sage tastes best fresh and doesn’t store particularly well.
  3. If you’re growing in the ground and are in zones 5-8 (growing a perennial), harvest lightly your first year. Your plant will appreciate the extra energy and will reward you with an abundant harvest for the next few years.
  4. To get the richest concentration of oils in your harvest (ideal for cooking or aromatic purposes), harvest in the morning just after the dew has dried.
  5. Throughout the growing season (if growing in the ground), take two larger harvests to encourage a prolific plant. Cut the stems back at the end of the season, harvesting no more than half of the plant.

Storing Sage

Sage tastes best fresh — that’s why we suggest harvesting as you go. However, you can store sage by freezing or drying the leaves.

To dry sage, hang sprigs in a shady, dry room with stems towards the ceiling. Once they’re crumbly in texture, store in a tightly lidded jar.

To freeze sage, place individual leaves on a tray and place in the freezer. Once frozen, move into a container.

Grow Sage Today