Learn how to develop sage for cooking

There are tons of types of sage, and we covered these in our article on types of sage. But maybe you just want to know how to grow sage that is simple and easy to cook: the most common sage there is.

We can help!

When you grow sage at home, you get an infinite amount of these lovely sage leaves to flavor. Small, fresh leaves can be fried to add a crispy taste to a dish. Best of all, most varieties of Salvia officinalis, the common sage, can make very nice additions to your garden.

Ready to learn more about the plant sage and how to start your sage garden? Let's get started!

Good products for growing sage:

Brief instructions for care

Once you know how to grow sage, you no longer need to buy it! Source: Marc St.

Common Name (s) Sage, garden sage, culinary sage
Scientific name Salvia officinalis
Days to harvest 75 days after the semen
light Full sun
Water: When the soil starts to dry out
ground Well permeable
fertilizer Not necessary, compost is fine
Pests Very pest resistant, no common pests
Diseases Mint rust, root rot

Everything about Salvia Officinalis

Sage leavesSage leaves are thick and dense, as well as aromatic. Source: Tgrauros

There are many types of salvia, such as the white sage, so common among tribal groups, or the sonoma sage, which produces such beautiful flowers. In fact, there are nearly a thousand plants in the Salvia genus. We have a guide that covers a wide variety of species of sage too!

But the garden sage, also known as sage or culinary sage, is by and large the most popular in most chef's gardens. Sage originally comes from the Mediterranean region and now grows in almost every country. Sage (Salvia officinalis) is one of the most popular culinary herbs and has many different varieties.

Most of the culinary sage grown has gray-green leaves. This easy-to-grow plant rarely gets taller than 24 inches and is best for sandy or well-drained soils. But there are sages who have purple, dark green, gold or even variegated leaves that can be as eye-catching as they are to the tongue!

Both the flowers themselves and the leaves are edible. Flowers are used as a nice edible side dish or as a bit of color in a salad. The leaves are used more often than fresh in cooking because their herbal tone can add flavor to a meal. Occasionally, whole leaves are fried and used to top dishes as a crispy blast of extra zest.

If this is your first time learning how to harvest sage, care should be taken, especially if your plant is less than a year old. Young plants take at least a year before they are regularly harvested, but they produce some very tasty leaves so this can be a real test. Once your plant is established, this easy-to-grow perennial will provide you with a rich source of fresh flavor for years to come.

Plant sage

Planting sage is usually done at the beginning of the year, usually when all frost concerns have passed. If desired, the seeds can be started earlier indoors so you can plant out a live plant. Otherwise, sow directly as soon as the soil has warmed to a constant 60 degrees.

Choose a location for your sage herb garden that has plenty of sunlight. Once you've chosen your location and sages, plant at the same depth that they were in their previous container. Place the plants, leaving at least 9 inches of space for the best growth.

Culinary sage care

Two-tone sageA bi-colored variety of Salvia officinalis with cream-colored edges. Source: Rigid

If you are just starting out with the sage plants, you need to provide them with a great environment to thrive in. Once established, maintaining them is a lot easier than you think!

Sun and temperature

Full sun is best for your sage plants. If you can't provide full sun or live in a very hot environment, they can tolerate partial shade if necessary. The afternoon shade is best as it is in the hottest part of the day.

In terms of temperature, sage can be harvested year round in a Mediterranean climate, although it can slow leaf growth in winter. But it can also be grown in colder climates. Sage will grow perennial in USDA Zones 4 through 11.

In zones 4-8, sage should have some protection from prolonged cold spells below freezing. However, if it's well mulched and in a sheltered location, the plant can survive. Frost damage can cause leaves to wither and brown, and damage younger shoots. The woodier growth tends to do better in the cold. Make sure your plants have full sun in winter to add another layer of protective heat. A cold frame can help you get harvests even in the cooler months.

Water and moisture

While your sage plants can tolerate periods of drought, they will grow better and produce more green leaves if they are evenly watered. You can use a waterer hose at the base of your sage plant to make watering easier. Younger plants need more watering in order for them to establish themselves.

The humidity has little influence on a healthy sage plant. The exception is when it is extremely hot and extremely humid at the same time. Most plants wither a little when it's hot and sticky, but so do we. Nobody likes to be hot and sticky!


Well-drained soil is an absolute necessity for your sage plant. Sage gardens are usually combined with other herbs. Therefore, choose accompanying herbs that also like well-drained soil.

This plant yearns for a sandy soil type, but can be used in most other soils as well, as long as that additional drainage is available. For stickier soil types, the soil can be machined with perlite or sand can be added to improve drainage.

Soil pH is less important to this plant. Aim for a neutral range of around 6 to 7 pH if possible, but slightly acidic or slightly alkaline soil shouldn't be a problem.


Sage flowerA close-up of a sage flower. Source: Christophe Losberger

If you are growing sage, fertilizing seems like a good idea, but in most cases it simply isn't necessary. If you're using fairly rich soil to begin with, that's fine. Sage plants are among the most tolerant of nutrient deficiencies among herbs.

Even so, applying compost annually can help keep your sage extremely happy. Even the decomposition of leaf mulch ensures green leaves and a good future harvest.


No pruning is required in the first year. Your sage plants will need this time to establish themselves. Let your garden sage develop for the first year and only prune if absolutely necessary.

In the following years, your harvests may be much higher, but we'll talk about harvesting sage a little later. However, if you're not harvesting, you can prune your sage to keep it clean and tidy as desired. Try pruning just above a pair of leaves to encourage bushier growth. Use sterilized pruning shears to ensure the cut is clean.


Propagation of sage is usually done by one of three methods.

Plant sage seeds indoors for young plants early in the year. You can sow directly, but usually after the threat of frost has passed. The soil must be between 60 and 70 degrees for the best chance of germination.

Another option is to take cuttings from an already growing sage plant. Find healthy, strong stems and remove 3 to 4 inches in length from the top. Dip the cut end in water, then in a powdered root hormone and plant it in prepared potting soil. Keep the cut moist and it should take root within six weeks.

Sage also responds well to layers of air. To do this, choose a long and leggy sage stem and secure part of the stem to the ground with a couple of ground pins. Use a little more soil to cover this part of the stem. It will take root from the trunk in about six weeks. Once the roots are well established, you can free this plant from its parent and move it around if necessary.

Harvesting and storing

Tricolor sageA tri-colored culinary sage with purple and white spots amid the green. Source: passa.sr

Harvest for culinary use differs from a simple cut, but not many times. Let's discuss how to harvest your herbs and save them for later use!


Harvest sparingly in the first year of growth. It takes time for your plant to take root and establish itself. This year it doesn't hurt to pinch off a leaf or two occasionally.

In the following years, you can harvest sage leaves much more thoroughly. In early spring, cut back any damaged leaves and take care of the plant's footprint. As it grows year round, harvest by cutting just above a joint where two leaves meet. The pair of leaves can form new cuttings at these points, making the plant bushier.

Try to harvest before the plants begin to bloom unless you specifically plan to use the flowers as well. The sage leaves have a different taste temporarily while the plant is in bloom, and many prefer the taste of the leaves when they are not in bloom.

But what about harvesting sage when all you need is a few leaves? The easiest method is to simply pinch off a leaf near the stem. Try taking leaves from different stems.

Never harvest more than half the plant, regardless of the method.


Fresh sage leaves, if left on the stem, can be placed in a glass of water in the refrigerator for a few hours to a day. However, beyond this period they no longer keep fresh. They tend to wither pretty quickly after harvest.

Fortunately, there are other ways to save sage for later use. You can use a dehydrator to dry the leaves as long as they are not overheated. Heat tends to cause some of the essential oils to oxidize, causing loss of taste.

If your dehydrator is providing too much heat, consider using clean air filters attached to a box fan. Place your sage leaves between the air filters and attach them to the fan with bungee cables. This provides room air to dry your sage perfectly without losing its taste.

Once dry, you can hold them whole or crumble or powder them as you wish. These can be stored in a dry, dark place for up to a year. It is best to store herbs in jars that are as completely airtight as possible.


Container of grown sageGarden sage grows well in containers. Source: cristina.sanvito

What if you have trouble growing sage? Do not worry. We have some recommendations to help keep your sage plant happy and healthy.

Growing problems

While most garden sage won't grow too big, an older and well-established plant can grow a little larger. Longer Stems can tip over instead of having an upright habit. These upside down stems can be trimmed to shorten them, or they can be supported if you prefer. However, they cannot just fall on the floor.


Most pests are not attracted to Salvia officinalis. Your garden sage should be relative pest free!

Sage is also resistant to deer or Hare nibble and is an excellent one Pollinators Attract plant.


Problems can arise if water collects where your sage grows Root rot sage on your garden. As a rule, the plants wither or their green leaves begin to turn yellow. Providing a well-drained soil should reduce the risk of developing fungal root rot such as Pythium.

As a relative of mint, your sage can also be prone to Mint rust. It's quite rare, but it does cause yellow, brown, or orange pustules to appear on the underside of the leaves. This fungal rust can cause leaf segments to turn yellow and cause the plant to drop leaves completely. Remove affected parts of the plant and treat with a liquid copper fungicide. Clean any fallen leaves around the plant to prevent further spread.

frequently asked Questions

Q: is sage a perennial?

A: In most areas, Salvia officinalis is a hardy perennial. In zones 9 to 11, it not only acts as a hardy perennial, but should produce fresh leaves all year round, although it slows a little in winter.

Q: is sage easy to grow?

A: Yes! It is very resistant to pests and most diseases. As long as you remember to water it occasionally, it will essentially grow on its own.

Q: Can I grow sage indoors?

A: Usually the greatest difficulty in growing sage indoors is the love of light. Sage really needs a lot of light to thrive. If you can give your plant a grow light or at least eight hours of sun indoors, it should work as well indoors as it does outdoors.

Q: Should I kill sage?

A: If you want the plant to focus primarily on leaf production, it is best to kill it as soon as the flowers start to fade. You can also harvest the flowers fresh for culinary use and cut off the stems.

The green fingers behind this article:
Lorin Nielsen
Lifelong gardener

Leave a comment