Age-Old Wisdom meets Modern Tools
Planting, Growing, and Harvesting Sage
Garden sage is easy to grow—and a wonderful culinary herb that flavors meat and bean dishes (including that Thanksgiving stuffing). See how to plant, grow, and harvest sage.
Sage is a hardy perennial with pretty, grayish green leaves that like as good in a perennial border as they do in a vegetable garden. It grows spikes of spring flowers in different colors, including purple, blue, white, and pink.
Not all sage varieties are culinary; the most popular kitchen sage is called Salvia officinalis.
How to Plant Sage
- Plant sage in full sun.
- Sage should be planted in well-draining soil; it won’t tolerate sitting in wet soil.
- The easiest and best way to start sage is from a small plant. Set the plants 2 feet apart.
- You can also sow seeds up to two weeks before the last frost date. (See local frost dates.) Plant the seeds/cuttings in well-drained soil 1 to 2 weeks before the last spring frost.
- For best growth, the soil should be between 60º and 70ºF.
- Plants should grow to be between 12 and 30 inches in height.
- In the garden, plant near rosemary, cabbage, and carrots, but keep sage away from cucumbers.
How to Grow Sage
- Be sure to water the young plants regularly until they are fully grown so that they don’t dry out. They’ll need a consistent moisture supply until they start growing quickly.
- Prune the heavier, woody stems every spring.
- It’s best to replace the plants every few years so they remain productive.
How to Harvest Sage
- Pinch off leaves or snip off small sprigs from the plant.
- During the first year, harvest lightly to ensure that the plant grows fully.
- After the first year, be sure to leave a few stalks so that the plant can rejuvenate in the future.
- If fully established, one plant can be harvested up to three times in one season.
- Stop harvesting in the fall so the plant can prepare for winter.
How to Store Sage
- Sage’s flavor is best when fresh, but it can be stored frozen or dried.
- To dry, hang sprigs in a shady, well-ventilated area and allow them to air dry, waiting until the leaves crumble easily to store in tightly lidded jars.
- Sage keeps its flavor better if stored in the freezer. Freeze leaves or stalks on a tray, then move the leaves into a zippered bag or container. Some cooks blend the leaves with oil, pack the ground mixture into ice cube trays to freeze, and then transfer the cubes to a container.
- See our full article on preserving herbs.
- ‘Tricolor’ sage, for a bit of color in the garden (yellow, mauve, and sage green)
Wit & Wisdom
- Anyone who has sage planted in their garden is reputed to do well in business.
- For other greens to use in your cuisine, see the Leafy Greens: Health Benefits page.