The Ultimate Guide to Growing Sage Like a Pro

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Growing Sage: A Comprehensive Guide for Beginners

Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or just starting out, growing sage is a rewarding experience. Here’s a simple, easy to follow guide to help you cultivate this wonderful herb.

culinary sage, close up of common sage leaves in the garden

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Common Sage (Salvia officinalis) is a popular perennial herb known for its aromatic leaves and medicinal properties. It’s a versatile herb garden plant that can be used in cooking, teas, and even for decorative purposes in your garden.

It is also known as garden sage or culinary sage. There are different types of sage, but more on that later. 

Why Grow Sage?

Before we dive into the how-to, let’s look at why you might want to grow sage:

1. Culinary Uses: Sage adds a delightful flavor to a variety of dishes, especially meats and stuffings.

2. Medicinal Benefits: It has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

3. Aromatic Qualities: Sage leaves have a pleasant aroma that can freshen up your home.

4. Attractive Plant: Sage has beautiful grey-green leaves and lovely purple flowers. (there are other cultivars as well, like Golden Sage which sport chartreuse leaves)

Plant a kitchen herb garden in a crate and place at your back door,
DIY Kitchen Herb Garden

To see how to create your own DIY Kitchen Herb Garden just press here!

Step-by-Step Guide to Growing Sage

Where to Plant Sage

Sage thrives in full sun, so pick a sunny location in your garden that gets at least 6-8 hours of sunlight each day. If you’re growing sage indoors, place it near a sunny window or under a grow light.

Soil Preparation

Sage prefers well-drained soil with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0. I don’t fuss much with ph levels so don’t worry about it unless yours is extreme one way or the other.

If you do have extreme levels either way then plant a cover crop of buckwheat to help the soil, believe it or not, it has been shown to help neutralize ph in garden beds.

Poor soil? You can improve soil drainage by adding organic matter like compost or aged manure to create a more loamy soil. Sage doesn’t like waterlogged soil, so ensure your garden bed or container has good drainage. 

When I say add organic matter that is to the overall garden and not the planting hole…see why here!

All the best garden tips

Just Stop Adding to the Planting Hole!

Gardening is an art filled with age-old wisdom, traditions, and, yes, even a few myths. One of the most common and enduring myths in gardening is about amending soil when planting.

If trying to grow indoors it’s a good idea to use clay pots, it is easier not to overwater and make sure any pot you use has plenty of drainage holes. 

How to Grow Sage

From Seeds:

Start sage seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost date. Plant seeds 1/4 inch deep in seed-starting mix and keep the soil moist. Once sage seedlings have a couple of sets of leaves, you can transplant the new plants outside.

Related: Easy Seed Starting Indoors

From Stem Cuttings:

Take a 4-6 inch cutting from a healthy sage plant. Remove the lower leaves and place the cutting in water or directly into moist soil. Roots will develop in a few weeks, and you can transplant the cutting once it has a strong root system and shows healthy new growth.

From Transplants:

You can buy sage plants from a nursery and transplant them into your garden. Space the plants about 18-24 inches apart to allow for proper air circulation.

Watering Sage

Water sage deeply but infrequently. Young plants will need consistent moisture but once established, sage is quite drought-tolerant.

The first year you should pay closer attention to moisture levels. Overwatering can lead to root rot, so let the soil dry out between waterings. This is less of a problem if you have well-draining soil.

Mulching and Feeding

Mulch around the sage plants with organic mulch like straw or wood chips to retain moisture and suppress weeds. Sage doesn’t need much fertilizer, but a light feeding of compost in the spring can help boost growth.

great garden tips and tricks

Create Compost Easily, no turning necessary.

Pruning and Harvesting


Regularly pinch back or prune sage during the growing season to encourage bushy growth and prevent the plant from becoming leggy. Trim back the top third of the plant in early spring.


You can start harvesting the fresh leaves once the plant is well-established. Pick the individual leaves in the morning after the dew has dried for the best flavor. Don’t take more than a third of the plant at a time to avoid stressing it.

You can also dry sage for later use and it will keep well if stored in an airtight container. 

common sage bundle wrapped with twine with clippers on a blue wood background.

Pests and Diseases

Like most Mediterranean herbs sage is relatively pest-resistant, but you might occasionally encounter aphids, spider mites, or whiteflies. Treat infestations with insecticidal soap or neem oil. Ensure good air circulation around your plants to prevent fungal diseases like powdery mildew.

Overwintering Sage

In colder climates, sage needs some protection during the winter, usually. You can mulch heavily around the base of the plant or grow sage in containers and bring them indoors during the cold months.

I take cuttings from my plants in summer and bring them in to overwinter rather like I do my Sweet Potato vines.

Tips for Using Sage

Culinary Use:

Fresh or dried sage can be used in stuffing, sausage, soups, and stews. It pairs well with poultry, pork, and lamb.

Medicinal Uses:

Important note: this is not medical advice, always consult your doctor.

Sage tea can soothe a sore throat, and its essential oil is often used in aromatherapy.

Decorative Uses:

Sage’s attractive foliage makes it a great addition to ornamental gardens. Its flowers attract bees and butterflies, which are beneficial for pollination.

Sage vs Salvias

While culinary sage and salvias belong to the same botanical family, they serve different purposes in the garden and kitchen. Culinary sage is valued for its flavor and health benefits, while salvias are prized for their decorative appeal and ability to attract pollinators.

salvia seed packet from botanical interests seed company and a photo of blue salvia growing in the garden

Understanding these differences can help you choose the right plant for your needs, whether to enhance your cooking or beautify your garden.

Now that you know how to grow sage, get out there and start on your herb garden but remember, it can also be used for primarily ornamental purposes too!

Happy gardening!

Hi, I’m Pamela

I am a 40-year master gardening enthusiast who loves to share the simple tips, tricks, and inspiration I have learned from personal experience.
My goal is to cultivate the love of gardening and help make your gardening life more enjoyable!
a Garden Friend!

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