Growing sage is fairly easy, even for the novice gardener. Sage (Salvia officinalis) is one of my favorite herbs for the garden. Not only does it have a lovely smell and taste, it’s also a plant that tolerates sun, drought, poor soils – you name it. Here’s how to grow sage as a culinary herb and a garden plant for your perennial beds and borders.
All About Growing Salvia Officinalis or Culinary Sage
Sage is one of my favorite herbs. It’s beautiful. It smells lovely. The flowers attract bees and butterflies. Heck, even the leaves are soft and pleasant to the touch. And the taste reminds me of sausage. Sausage, I tell you. How can you NOT love such a plant?
Seriously, sage is a great plant to add to your garden. You do need an area with full sun, or six or more hours of bright, full sunshine each day. Other than that? Don’t worry about it.
What about soil? Fertilizer? Compost? Bugs?
No worries. Sage doesn’t care.
Sage grows in dry, poor soils. As far as I can tell, it resists nearly every pest, every disease or problem ym garden can throw at it. I have transplanted sage in my garden several times, and each time, it looks like it’s going to die but it doesn’t. It’s like a Lazarus plant – it comes back from the dead.
Now you know why I love it so much.
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How to Grow Sage
Sage grows best from plants, although you can start it indoors from seeds about 10 to 12 weeks before the first frost date for your region. Plant it in full sun and keep it well-watered until it establishes its roots. After that, you just need to pinch the tips back to encourage the nice, bushy form that a mature sage plant has in the garden.
I have several salvia officinalis, or common culinary sage, growing throughout my garden. The picture above shows it in the perennial garden. I plant mine as a border plant, and included it in the butterfly and hummingbird garden. Because it is so drought tolerant, I don’t worry about growing sage in the hot sun. It seems to like it.
The flowers are small but offer a lovely purple color in the garden:
The leaves are used fresh or dried for cooking, teas, and throat gargles. A mixture of warm water and an infusion of sage leaves, used as a gargle, is said to be good for a sore throat. Sage teas are very popular. You can make your own sage tea very simply by harvesting fresh leaves or using dried leaves.
Fresh Sage Leaf Tea
- Snip off about 2 teaspoon of fresh sage leaves
- Place inside a tea ball (silver gadget with holes for water flow) to steep the tea.
- Pour hot (not boiling) water over the leaves.
- Let the tea steep for 10 minutes. Remove leaves and sip.
For dried sage leaf tea, simply substitute 1 teaspoon of dried sage leaves for the fresh.
Sage can be dried using the heat of the sun. Choose clean leaves, and snip them off. Place in a pan and leave it in the sun for a day or two, bringing it indoors at night. You can also hang the herbs in bunches off of a rack or clothesline in a warm, dry place to allow herbs to dry. Slip a paper bag over the herbs to keep the dust from them.
This is my system for drying herbs. The herbs on the rack below are catnip, not sage, but the process works the same way. I began drying my spring herbs this past weekend.
Health Benefits of Sage
There are many reported health benefits of sage. Medical News Today cites two studies on sage for use in treating Alzheimer’s and another for treating high blood glucose and cholesterol levels. These studies are still preliminary, but show promising results. In the future, scientists may be able to extra specific chemicals from sage to offer hope for both Alzheimer’s patients and people with metabolic syndrome, characterized by high blood sugar and cholesterol (among other things).
Culinary Uses for Sage
A little sage goes a long way. It has a strong flavor that’s unlike most other herbs. I mentioned how it reminds me of sausage, and that’s because sage is often used to flavor sausage meat. It pairs well with pork of all kinds, as well as autumn vegetables like winter squash, pumpkins, and acorn squash.
I hope you enjoyed this week’s #WellnessWednesday! Each Wednesday, I profile an herb, plant or health benefit of gardening. I love sharing my knowledge of herbs with others and hope you will add some sage to your garden this year. It’s a beautiful, as well as a useful, plant.
Happy gardening. Keep GROWING!