Sage has a long history of medicinal and culinary use and is also used nowadays as an ornamental plant for the garden, with bluish to purplish flowers, or more rarely white or pink flowers. Sage is often listed as an essential cooking herb. It has a savoury flavour with a hint of pepper and is used in a number of recipes.

Sage is delicious, for example in the classic stuffing along with onions. For its culinary uses it should earn its place in the herb garden. Extracts from sage have been scientifically shown to have beneficial medicinal uses and it has a place in traditional medicine.

Growing sage

Sage can be grown from seed although is is easier to get more reliable and high quality plants by growing sage from cuttings or plants bought from a garden centre or plant nursery and this is what most people will do. Once established, sage can grow well, but it does need the right conditions.

There are many different varieties of sage with a range of different foliage and differing flower colour. Choose the cultivar that delivers whatever it is that you would like. Some are better for culinary use, others more decorative, others still are known for their striking fragrances.

If you do want to grow sage from seed then you should know that they can be temperamental. But plant them in late spring about 1/8 of an inch deep and 24 to 30 inches apart. Seeds should take between 10-21 days to germinate.

Sage sunshine and drainage

Sage likes to be in full sunshine and good drainage is essential so, especially when planting in pots, add grit to make sure that it does not become waterlogged. Sage likes a soil of average fertility but will actually tolerate a pretty poor soil as long as it is not too wet and gets enough sun.

Leave plenty of space between sage plants and make sure they have good ventilation as they can be prone to mildews if the conditions get too humid.

Growing sage from cuttings

Sage will usually go a bit woody after 4-5 years, but propagation is easy. You can get new sage plants either from cuttings, or by layering (rooting a stem while it is still attached to the parent plant).

To propagate sage from a cutting, simply cut a stem off a healthy parent plant. Remove the leaves from the bottom couple of inches of the stem and place in a jar of water to let roots develop. This should take a few weeks, although you can use liquid growth feed to help it develop healthier/quicker. Once you can see a few little roots on the stem, you can plant it out in a small pot of potting soil. Once it seems the plant has taken well to its new home (you'll notice new little leaves) you can plant it outside or in to a bigger pot.

Sage loves warm, humid conditions, so a greenhouse is its ideal home... otherwise indoors in a nice warm area would work too. Of course if you live in a warm, humid area then you can grow it outside in the garden!

It is best to grow sage with other perennial herbs which like the same conditions of full sun and good drainage. To avoid the sage plants from becoming too overgrown and straggly, it is best to prune them back by a third or so every spring.

Sage companion planting

Sage is beneficial as a companion plant to rosemary and marjoram. It is also helpful to many vegetables. It attracts the cabbage white butterfly, keeping them away from brassicas, and repels or distracts many other pests and parasites such as the carrot fly, cabbage flies, black flea beetle and many bean parasites. The flowers of sage plants attract a host of beneficial insects.

Quick Facts

Latin Name
Salvia officinalis