Sage leaves

Sage – Grow Guide

Find out how to grow, harvest and store sage in our practical guide.

Overview

One garden herb that ticks all the right boxes is sage. It looks good and tastes good, too. Silvery evergreen leaves and pretty flowers – from intense blue to magenta or – make it an attractive garden plant. And with literally hundreds of different types of sage to choose from, there’s one to suit every situation.
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Spread: 60cm

Height: 60cm

Avg yield: Pick leaves as required

Growing sage from seed

Sowing and planting

Annual and biennial sages are easy to grow from seed in spring. Start them off indoors ready to plant out after the last frost has passed.

Seed-sown perennial sage is slow to get going but you can cut corners and buy young plants instead. You can also take ‘soft tip’ cuttings (the tip of a young shoot just below a leaf joint), which are quick to root in pots of damp sharp sand on a sunny windowsill.

Sage isn’t fussy about soil type – just choose a location that’s free-draining. Cold, wet soil in winter will kill it so, when planting, make sure you dig in plenty of grit. A spot in full sun will bring out the flavour in the leaves.

Given good drainage and a soil-based compost, sage will do well in a large pot.

Tending the crop

After flowering, give plants a gentle prune to stop them getting woody. Don’t prune into old wood because it won’t develop regrowth.

Some sages need frost protection, others will survive outside as long as their roots don’t become waterlogged.

At the start and end of summer, sprinkle a couple of handfuls of bonemeal around the sage plants, gently working it into the soil.

Perennial sage runs out of puff after about three or four years, so be ready to take cuttings in late spring or try the layering method.

Harvesting sage

Perennial sages are evergreen so you can pick fresh leaves all year round. For the best flavour, pick them before the flowers appear, and wait until late morning or early evening when the aromatic oils are concentrated in the leaves.

Storing sage

Use sage fresh when you can. It also dries well but develops a musty flavour if stored for too long.

Preparation and uses

To bring out the flavour from the leaves in winter, place them in a sieve and pour boiling water over them to stimulate the volatile oils.

Troubleshooting

Sage is usually trouble free, although it can suffer from red spider mite and leafhoppers, which can discolour the leaves. Spray with a soap-based organic insecticide.
Bee

Attract bees and get bigger crops

Sage flowers are rich in nectar and attract bees and butterflies. Blue-flowered sages attract more pollinators than red or white. So plant sage near fruiting crops and you should get bigger harvests.

Sage varieties to try

  • Salvia officinalis – hardy evergreen with aromatic, grey-green leaves and pale-blue flowers
  • Salvia lavandulifolia – neat, very aromatic and frost-hardy with mauve flowers
  • Salvia microphylla var. microphylla (blackcurrant sage) – frost-hardy perennial with cerise flowers and blackcurrant-scented leaves
  • Salvia viridis var. comata – a half-hardy annual with red, blue and pink flowers that are great in salads
  • ‘Tangerine’ – frost-hardy perennial with red flowers. Its tangerine-scented leaves make a great addition to fruit salads

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