How to Grow and Harvest Sage
While sage may be the classic Thanksgiving herb, it can
add fresh flavor to many other dishes, too. Here’s how to grow it.
If you enjoy cooking, sage is a must-have for the herb garden. While there are many types of culinary sage, the most popular are ‘Tricolor’, with lavender, green, and cream colored variegated leaves; ‘Purpurea’, with purple leaves; and ‘Berggarten’, which has wide, silvery leaves. All types of culinary sage make delicious additions to soups, roasts, poultry seasonings, and dry rubs. Sage grows as a perennial in zones 5 to 9 (meaning it will come back year after year), and as an annual (only lasting for a single season) in other regions.
Where to Plant Sage
Sage grows best in full sun and in soil with excellent drainage. It will rot if grown in soggy ground. The amount of space you’ll need to leave between plants depends on the variety you’re growing, but will usually range between 12 and 24 inches. (Check the plant tag for specifics.)
How to Plant Sage
Plant sage in the springtime. Prepare the soil first by mixing in aged compost-enriched Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics™ All Purpose In-Ground Soil, which is a great way to break up heavy clay soils or add organic matter to sandy soils. Mix 3 inches of garden soil in with the top 6 inches of native soil. If planting sage in a raised bed, fill the bed with 100 percent organic Miracle-Gro® Raised Bed Soil, which provides just the right growing environment. The easiest way to grow sage is to begin with vigorous young plants like those from Bonnie Plants®, which can be purchased at your local garden or home improvement center. When planting, make sure that the top of the root ball is be level with the surrounding soil.
If drainage is an issue, grow sage plants in containers so that you can provide optimum soil conditions. If you’re growing sage by itself, use a container that is 10 inches in diameter. If you plan to plant a couple of other herbs (such as thyme and parsley) with the sage for a mini herb garden, use an 18-inch pot. Fill 1/3 of the container with Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics™ All Purpose Container Mix, set the plant on top of the mix so that the top of the root ball is ½ to 1 inch below the rim of the pot, then fill in around the plant with more potting mix. Water well.
How to Water Sage
For the first few weeks, you’ll probably need to water sage once or twice per week. The soil should be kept about as moist as a wrung-out sponge. Once the plant has developed a good root system, you can decrease watering to every week or two. Be careful not to overwater!
How to Feed Sage
You'll get the best growth by fertilizing sage regularly in addition to starting with nutritious soil. Feed sage starting one month after planting with Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics™ All Purpose Plant Nutrition Granules. This food contains natural ingredients to feed microbes in the soil, as well as vital micronutrients to grow stronger, vibrant and more productive plants (vs. unfed plants). It continuously releases nutrition for up to 6 weeks. Be sure to follow the instructions on the label.
How to Grow Sage Indoors
You can grow sage indoors year-round, either in pots on a sunny windowsill away from drafts or in a hydroponic system like the sleek, modern Miracle-Gro® Twelve™ Indoor Growing System. Instead of growing in soil, plants grow directly in water that circulates around the roots, delivering moisture, nutrition, and air. The unit's grow light gives sage and other plants plenty of light, too, so this is a truly easy and effective way to grow. Bonus: Plants will be just a few steps away—perfect for when you're cooking and need some fresh herbs.
How to Prune Sage
Where they grow as perennials, sage plants can become woody over time, and, as a result, produce less flavorful leaves. In the spring when you see plants beginning to sprout new growth, prune plants down to 1 to 2 inches above the ground. The new leaves will be much tastier than leaves left on the plant from the previous season or produced on older, woody growth. Water well after pruning.
You can also trim sage into a low-growing hedge as a garden border. Prune every few weeks throughout the summer to encourage a tidy appearance, then stop pruning once you see growth slowing in the fall.
How to Harvest Sage
You’ll get the most flavorful leaves from plants if you harvest before the plants flower. Snip off leaves in the morning to use fresh. If you’d like to dry sage for later use in cooking, cut 6- to 8-inch lengths of stems and tie in bundles. Hang upside-down in a cool, dry location, then store in an air-tight container.
How to Grow Sage: Recap
- Plant sage in full sun in the springtime.
- Prepare the soil by adding Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics™ All Purpose In-Ground Soil, or fill a raised bed with Miracle-Gro® Raised Bed Soil.
- Grow sage plants in Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics™ All Purpose Container Mix in containers if your garden soil has poor drainage.
- Plant so that the root ball is level with the surrounding soil.
- Water plants thoroughly at planting, then keep soil moist until roots are established.
- Feed plants with Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics™ All Purpose Plant Nutrition Granules.
- Prune plants in the spring after new growth appears.
- Harvest sage leaves in the morning, and before plants start to bloom.
Ready to start growing sage? Click on any of the product links above for more information, to purchase the product online, or to find a retailer near you.