Sage Plants: How To Grow, Harvest & Use Them

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Sage plants are renowned for their delicious earthy flavor, but they’re also one of the easiest herbs to grow in the garden. From planting to harvesting and even ways to use your sage plants, here’s everything you need to know about growing sage!

Fresh bunch of bright green sage plant leaves.

When I think of sage, I immediately think about roasted turkey and the dressing that I grew up eating. Sage may be a very tasty culinary herb, but it’s also much more than that!

Those beautiful light green leaves look beautiful in the garden, in cut flower arrangements, and make a powerful cleansing spray for your home. There are many different types of sage you can grow in your garden from culinary to ornamental that all look beautiful growing under the summer sun.

I’ve been on a roll sharing plant care guides on some of my favorite herbs, such as oregano, bay leaf, and rosemary plants. You could say I’ve been inspired!

Today, I’m sharing everything you need to know about growing sage. 

Sage Plant: A Brief History

Sage is an evergreen perennial shrub herb in the very large Lamiaceae family. This same family is also home to many other well-known herbs, including mint, basil, oregano, and thyme. There’s just something special about this botanical family. All the herbs are fragrant, delicious, and very easy to grow!

Native to the Mediterranean and Asia Minor regions, sage has been prized for its multitude of benefits for hundreds of years. Explorers and traders brought sage to Europe in the Middle Ages, and ancient Romans used sage for many medicinal purposes, including to help heal ulcers, soothe sore throats, and help wounds stop bleeding. The ancient Greeks used it to treat snake bites.

The ancient Chinese were so enamored with sage that they would trade Chinese tea for French sage tea. The Chinese used this herb to treat typhoid fever, joint pain, kidney, and liver problems, and alleviate colds.

Let’s go over multiple ways to use this herb as well as how to grow it, harvest it, and preserve it!

A bunch of fresh grown sage leaves wrapped with red and white butchers twine resting on a rustic wooden background.

Benefits Of Sage

Sage leaves pack powerful amounts of various vitamins and nutrients. Check out these non-culinary benefits that sage plants provide.

It contains huge amounts of vitamin K as well as fiber, folic acid, vitamins A & C, calcium, folate, magnesium, and iron. In addition, sage is:

  • Naturally an antiseptic
  • Reduces symptoms of depression
  • Improves hot flashes for menopausal women
  • Soothes digestion
  • Stabilizes blood sugar in diabetics
  • Can help soothe sore throats and canker sores 
  • Treats gum disease
  • Beneficial for hair skin and nails

A small amber bottle filled with sage oil against a bright white table top.

Sage Plants: Fun Facts

Here are a few fun facts about sage plants.

  • Even as the sage plant’s leaves grow bigger, the flavor continues to intensify.
  • You can use fresh whole sage leaves or chop them up.
  • Sage plants are a natural food preservative that kill the bacteria that cause food to spoil.
  • Unlike many herbs, the flavor is best both before AND after the herb blooms.
  • Since sage is a hardy perennial evergreen, you can even harvest leaves throughout the winter.

Growing Sage Plants: Everything You Need To Know For Success

Fresh sage straight from the garden tastes incredible – so much fresher and better than dried sage. Bonus: it’s a very undemanding plant to grow! Here’s what you need to know about growing sage.

Growing Needs Of Sage Plants

  • Scientific name: Salvia officinalis
  • When to plant: Plant your seeds or transplants outside up to 2 weeks before your last expected frost. Sage can be difficult to grow from seeds but grows well from plant cuttings.
  • Light: Full sun (a little afternoon shade in zones 8+ is tolerated). 
  • Soil: Well-draining, loamy soil with a pH of 6.0-7.0.
  • Fertilizing: Not usually helpful; can add a little organic matter to the soil in the spring.
  • Watering: This drought-tolerant herb really only needs a drink when the soil dries out.
  • Flowers: Purple or blue flowers in mid-summer.
  • Hardiness Zones: 4-11

Ideal Locations For Growing Sage

Sage does not love very hot weather. So, if you live in a particularly hot climate, try to give it a little shade in the afternoon. Here are a few places that sage grows well:

A sprig of sage on burlap.

Keeping Your Sage Plants Healthy

Keep these things to keep in mind when growing sage plants, so they stay healthy and happy.

Pruning Sage 

I recommend pruning your sage plants in the spring or after they flower so that they don’t get spindly. Avoid heavy pruning in the fall so that you don’t damage any new growth. And, don’t prune the plant down to the ground, or you may kill it.

Harmful Pests

When it comes to pests, sage can fall prey to:

  • Spider mites
  • Aphids
  • Whiteflies

Fungal Diseases

When it comes to potential fungal diseases that can affect your sage plants, keep an eye out for:

  • Rust
  • Fungal leaf spots
  • Powdery mildew
  • Stem rot

Provide good air circulation to help reduce the risk of fungal disease. If you see evidence of these fungal diseases, remove infected plants and avoid watering the leaves of the plants.

Harvesting Sage Plants

Avoid harvesting sage in its first year to give it time to get firmly established. After that, harvest as you need. The leaves will be most flavorful around blooming (before and after). You can cut off sprigs as needed in your cooking.

Storing And Preserving Sage

In my opinion, sage (like all herbs!) tastes best when harvested fresh from the garden. However, it can also be dried or frozen.

To dry your sage leaves, hang springs upside down until the leaves crumble easily. Then, store them in jars that are kept in a cool dark place.

Note: it will lose some flavor when you preserve it this way.

Freezing sage helps it stay more flavorful. Spread the leaves out on a baking sheet and let them freeze. Then, transfer them to a freezer-safe air-tight container.

A bundle of fresh sage leaves being tied for drying.

Ways To Use Sage Plants

This herb is now used in recipes around the world, as a meat preservative, in teas, and as a delicious herb. Here are some ideas of ways that you can use sage!

In Cooking

Using sage in culinary recipes is one of the most common uses for this flavorful herb. Add sage to:

  • Sauces
  • Spice seasonings
  • Grilled meat
  • Poultry
  • Potatoes
  • Herbal butter
  • Soups 
  • Stews
  • And more!
Sage tea  in flass mug and sage leaves on wooden table,  selective focus with shallow depth of field.

DIY Bath And Beauty Products

Sage possesses powerful antiseptic and antibacterial properties, making it great for the skin. Try adding it to these DIY body care products:

  • Astringent
  • Facial toner
  • Body lotion

Other Uses

  • Leaves can be used in wreaths.
  • Bunches of dried sage leaves tied together (called smudge sticks) can be burned to purify the air (a Native American practice).

I hope you learned some helpful things about this amazingly tasty and fuss-free herb. I hope that it inspires you to grow sage plants in your garden and use them in new delicious ways!  

Two sage smudge sticks wrapped in white string.

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