Ultimate Guide: How to Grow Sage From Seed

Culinary megastar sage is a pretty, low shrub with pale, velvety greyish-green leaves. Many people might not know this, but sage is a member of the mint family. It is very easy to cultivate and grows well in the ground, indoors, and in containers. If you are looking to add a new herb to your current herb mix, then read on to learn everything about growing sage from seed in this ultimate guide of this versatile and hardy plant.

What is Sage?

how to grow sage from seed?
sage plant

Sage is widely used in both the culinary world as well as for medicinal purposes. It is generally known as a showstopper of fall dishes, complementing poultry and pork, pairs excellently with lamb, and is usually used in Thanksgiving stuffing. Sage also gives tantalizing flavor to fall and winter risottos and squash dishes.

It’s both flavorful and aromatic and can be cultivated with Mediterranean herbs like basil or rosemary. Many people believe that sage’s medicinal properties are effective for helping relieve stomach ailments and improving memory. Moreover, apart from using sage in cooking and as a medicine, there are various varieties of this herb that are purely ornamental.

10 Common Types of Sage

There are approximately 900 species of salvia, the biggest genus of the mint family’s plant. But some of the more popular types of sage that are commonly used are:

Garden Sage – It’s one of the most common varieties of sage and is also generally referred to as ‘common sage.’ It is hardy and can easily resist harsh winters while bouncing back each spring. Soft, silvery-green leaves with blue and purplish flowers make this herb an excellent part of any herb garden. But know that after three to four years, it turns woody and might need to be replaced.  

Grape Scented Sage – It’s one of the most extensive growing types of sage that grows up to eight feet in height and six feet in width. Some people might assume that it smells or tastes like grapes due to its name, but in reality, it doesn’t. Instead, it has a sweet smell of freesia that attracts hummingbirds and can be used to make tea.

Golden Sage – It’s a creeping plant that has golden and green variegated leaves. Golden sage is a beautiful herb to have in a garden as it’s color accentuates whatever is planted around it.

Mealycup Sage – The most popular version of mealycup sage is known as blue salvia. It grows about two to three feet in height and is generally an annual plant. It has lovely white, blue, or purple flower spikes with numerous varieties such as ‘victoria blue’ and ’empire purple.’

Mexican Bush Sage – It is a drought-tolerant sage and grows around three to four feet in height. Despite withstanding drought conditions, Mexican bush sage is a lovely accent plant that is a tender perennial with purple and white spikes.

Pineapple Sage – This type of sage is generally grown as an ornamental plant but is widely known to have medicinal properties. Pineapple sage, a perennial, grows tubular red flowers to attract butterflies and hummingbirds.

Purple Sage – These have purplish leave when they’re young. They are also used in cooking, but unlike common sage, they do not bloom often.

White Sage – It is also known as bee sage. White sage is a slow-growing, evergreen perennial shrub that can approximately three years mature and grows two to three feet in height. It is mostly used in cooking.

Tricolor Garden Sage – It is similar to purple sage in appearance but has white, uneven accented leaves, giving it a façade of being tricolored.

Scarlet Sage – It’s an annual herb that thrives in full sun but can also survive in partial shade as long it is planted in well-drained soil. It possesses striking scarlet blooms that grow in late spring and throughout the first frost of the year.

Why Grow Sage?

Apart from its lovely foliage and aromatic taste, what makes sage so special? Read on to learn why growing sage in your garden can give your numerous benefits:

  1. Drought Tolerant

Sage is a drought-tolerant plant and grows best in well-drained soil. This herb does not like to have wet feet, making it an excellent plant for xeriscaping and container gardening.

  • Antimicrobial Properties

Sage’s disinfecting properties make it an excellent natural mouthwash that is believed to prevent dental cavities and plaque. Sage mouthwash can also help treat many other oral complaints like infected gum, mouth ulcers, and throat infections.

  • Prolific Grower

Once cultivated, sage grows extremely fast. The plan can easily be propagated by cuttings or layering stems. Remember, the more you harvest from your sage plant, the bigger it is going to get.  

  • High Nutrients 

One teaspoon of dried sage as 10 percent of the RDI (reference daily intake) of Vitamin K and 1 percent RDI of each of the following: Calcium, Iron, Manganese, and Vitamin B6. All these nutrients in only 0.4 carbs and two calories. 

sage plant in cooking
use of sage in cooking
  • Long Growing Season 

Sage grows well in a wide range of planting zones (4-11) and temperature. It usually has a long growing season to the extent that in certain areas, sage remains evergreen. It easily endures a few freezes and frosts before calling quits.

  • Medicinal Benefits

For centuries, sage has been widely used for its medicinal properties. It works great as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant herb. It works effectively to soothe sore throats, coughs, aid with fertility and menstrual issues, relieve bad stomach, and help with mental disorders. 

Key Consideration for Growing Sage 

Best Time to Plant Sage

The best time to plant sage is one to two weeks before the last frost of the year or when the ground temperature reaches 65°F.

Best Soil for Growing Sage

Sage requires a loamy, sandy, and well-drained soil to thrive. The pH level of the soil for optimal growth should be between 6.0 and 7.0. Remember, never over-fertilize the soil if you are growing sage for culinary purposes; whilst you may achieve faster growth, the flavor intensity would be lost. Moreover, if you’re planting sage in clay soil, mix it with sand and organic matter to allow better drainage.

Ideal Temperature and Area

Sage thrives in medium to full sun and grows well indoors and containers; just ensure that it receives six to eight direct sunlight every day for optimal growth. Additionally, sage will be a hardy perennial if you plant it in zones 5 to 8. On the other hand, if you belong to the humid zones nine or anywhere south, it’ll most likely be an annual.

Watering Frequency

Sage is a relatively drought-tolerant herb. Even if it starts to wilt, it’ll typically perk up with water. Never over-water sage as it doesn’t like to have wet feet; instead, wait until the soil dries entirely and only then water it.

Sage Plant Spacing

Mostly, sage plants grow in a round bush, so ensure you do not plant them very closely and provide them enough space to mature properly. Ideally, sage should be planted approximately 24 inches apart.

Growing Sage from Seed: Step by Step Process

The process of growing sage from seed is not very hard. From where to plant it and how to achieve the best results, just follow our step by step guide and enjoy for years through your homegrown sage. 

growing sage plant from seeds
growing sage from seed: step-by-step process

Growing Stage 

Step 1: Buy Sage Seeds 

You can start growing sage by using varying methods. If you have had never planted sage before, you can either plant sage seeds (remember they can be temperamental) or obtain a small sage plant from a garden center and transfer it into a clay pot or a garden bed. Moreover, if you already have a well-grown sage plant in your garden, you can easily use a layering technique or cuttings to grow a new plant. 

Step 2: Prepare the Soil 

Sage thrives well in a rich, loamy, clay soil that drains well and is also high in nitrogen. It favors soil with a pH level of 6 – 6.5.

  • If you decide to use clay soil, try mixing in some organic matter and sand as this lightens the soil and significantly helps with drainage.
  • Sage thrives most when planted with other perennial herbs like oregano, thyme, parsley, and marjoram.

Step 3: Sage Planting

Once the soil is prepped, you can either plant the seeds in the ground or pots.  

  • Ensure that the seeds are planted in late spring in a container or a garden bed about 1/8-inch-deep and twenty-four to thirty inches apart.
  • Sage seeds require almost 10 to 21 days to germinate.

Step 4: Watering

When the sage plant is young, you should only mist them with water sprays to keep the soil moist.

  • Once they reach maturity, only water the plant when the surrounding soil surrounding is dry to touch.
  • In few climates, you would not need to water the sage plant at all as they would get the necessary moisture from rainfall.
  • Sage is a very drought-tolerant and tough little plant.

Step 5: Provide Sufficient Sunlight

Ideally, sage grows well in full sunlight, but they can also survive in the partial shade of hotter areas.

  • Remember, if the sage plant is exposed to a lot of shade, it’ll turn leggy and flop over. Therefore, if you’re growing your plant in an indoor area with limited sunlight, you can utilize fluorescent lights in its place. Place standard fluorescent lamps two to four inches above the sage plant.
  • However, compact fluorescent, high output fluorescent, or high-intensity discharge growing lights work great if placed two to four feet above the plants.

Maintaining Stage

caring for sage plant
sage plant types

Step 1: Pruning

Once the threat of freezing ends, but before new sage growth begins, prune the woodier, older, sage stems in early spring. Each branch should be pruned about a third.

Step 2: Prevent Mildew

Mildew is the only issue sage-growers have to deal with. This can be prevented by carefully watching your sage plant during humid, hot weather and thinning them regularly to intensify air circulation.

  • You can also mulch the soil around your sage plant with pebbles to allow any excess moisture to evaporate quickly.
  • If mildew does occur on your sage plant, try spritzing it with a sulfur spray or horticultural oil.

Step 3: Pest Control

Sage plant is generally not a victim of pests, but sometimes it can be disturbed by spittlebugs, spider mites, and thrips. If there are any signs of pests, try using insecticidal soap or organic pesticides to keep them under control.

Step 4: Replace the Sage in Every 3 to 5 Years

After about 3 to 5 years, the sage will turn woody and straggly and will require to be replaced. You have the option to either start again with seeds or a new plant or use the old plant for layering and cutting.

For Layering:

  • Bend a branch of the current sage towards the soil.
  • Use a wire to pin the stem to the ground.
  • It should be around four inches from the tip.
  • In four weeks’ time, new roots will begin to form.
  • Cut the branch and transplant the newly born sage plant to another spot.

To Use Cutting:

  • Cut the top three inches from the stem of the existing sage plant.
  • Use a scissor to cut it off or strip the lower leaves from the branch
  • Dip the trimmings in rooting hormone and place in sterile sand.
  • In four to six weeks, new roots will form. Transplant into a pot for a few weeks before putting them in the ground.
  • Ideally, take a cutting in early spring when you notice new growth.

Harvesting Stage

Step 1: Sage Harvesting

Harvest your sage plant slightly during the first year by picking off leaves when you need them.

  • You can harvest the sage plant all year round by cutting complete stems from the plant in the following years. When the flowers are about to bloom in mid-summer, sage is considered to be in its most optimal state.
  • Conduct your last major harvest around two months before the first significant frost of the year. Doing this will provide newly formed foliage sufficient time to mature before the winter season sets in.

Step 2: Drying the Sage

Sage is one of the uncommon herbs that acquires a stronger flavor when dried. However, it should be dried quickly to prevent the development of a musty taste.

  • To dry sage successfully, tie a bunch of sage twigs together and hang them upside down in a well-ventilated, warm spot that is away from direct sunlight.
  • Once they’re dry, store the leaves, crumbled or whole, in an airtight container.
growing sage from seed
dried sage plant in a bowl

Step 3: Sage Uses

Apart from being used as an aromatic herb in culinary needs, it can also be used in soaps and potpourri. Here are a few things that you can do with sage

  • Make sage and oatmeal soap
  • Make sage and parmesan cookies
  • Make sage cold sore cream
  • Make ginger and sage tea

4 Frequently Asked Questions About Growing Sage

Can Sage Survive Cold Weather?

Can Sage Survive Cold Weather? Sage is a cold-hardy herb plant. Mostly regions lying in the planting zones 5 to 8, most sage varieties would simply turn dormant during winters, but they almost always come back in spring.

Why is My Sage Plant Withering?

Why is My Sage Plant Withering? The most common reason for a withered sage plant is insufficient or overwatering. Ensure your plant’s soil is dry before watering to avoid mildew and brown or yellow spots. 

How Long Does Sage Last?

How Long Does Sage Last? As long as you are properly caring, harvesting, and pruning your sage plant every season, it can easily last for several years. Some people have discovered that their plants turn more and more woody as years go by, and approximately after three, the sage is no longer as flavorful or productive as before. Nevertheless, many other people have noted that by cutting woody stems by the end of each growing season, many additional years can be acquired of this herb.

Is Sage Perennial or Annual?

Is Sage Perennial or Annual? It is both. If you’re living in the planting zones 5 to 8, your sage plant would be a perennial and grow back year after year during spring. On the other hand, if you live in zone 9 or further south, if you’re in zones nine and further south, the sage plant would most likely be a one-year or annual plant.

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Parting Note

Sage is a wonderful and versatile herb that can quickly be grown outdoors or indoors. We hope this ultimate guide of how to grow sage from seed allows you to enjoy its flavor, aroma, health benefits, or the aesthetic appeal which it provides. If you’re a nature enthusiast, adding sage to your homegrown herb mix would be an excellent idea to attract bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies.