Salvia officinalis (sage, also called garden sage, or common sage) is a perennial, evergreen subshrub, with woody stems, grayish leaves, and blue to purplish flowers. It is a member of the family Lamiaceae and is native to the Mediterranean region, though it has naturalized in many places throughout the world. It has a long history of medicinal and culinary use, and in modern times as an ornamental garden plant. The common name “sage” is also used for a number of related and unrelated species.
HOW TO GROW
- Buy sage seeds or a sage plant.You can begin growing sage using several methods. If you’ve never had sage before, you can either plant fresh sage seeds(which can be temperamental) or purchase a small plant from the garden center and transplant it into your garden or a clay pot.
- If you decide to plant seeds, they should be planted in late spring (in a bed or in a container) about 1/8 inch deep and 24 to 30 inches apart. They will take 10 to 21 days to germinate.
- However, ff you already have an established sage plant, you can use cuttings or layering techniques to grow a new plant.
- Prepare the soil.Sage grows well in rich clay loam that drains well and is rich in nitrogen. It prefers soil with a pH of 6.0 to 6.5.
- If you’re using clay soil, try mixing in some some sand and organic matter. This lightens the soil and helps with drainage.
- Sage grows best amongst other perennial herbs which favor grittier soil, such as thyme, oregano, marjoram and parsley.
- Go easy with watering.When the sage plants are small, you should mist them with water in order to keep the soil moist.
- But when they reach maturity, you should only water sage when the soil surrounding the plant is dry to the touch.
- In fact, in some climates you won’t need to water your sage at all – they’ll get all the moisture they need from rainfall.
- Sage is a tough little plant and is very drought-tolerant.
- Provide adequate sunlight.Ideally, sage plants should grow in full sun, but they will also survive in light shade in hotter areas.
- If sage is exposed to too much shade, it will grow leggy and flop over. So if you keep your sage plant in an indoor area without much sunlight, you can use fluorescent lights instead. Standard fluorescent lamps should be 2 – 4 inches above the plants.
- However, high output fluorescent, compact fluorescent, or high intensity discharge (metal halide or high pressure sodium) plant growing lights work better and, if used, should be placed 2–4 feet (0.6–1.2 m) about the plants.
- Prune the sage in early spring.Prune the older, woodier stems in early spring, after the danger of freezing is past but before new growth has really begun. Prune each stem by about a third.
- Prevent mildew.Mildew is one of the only problems sage-growers have to deal with. You can avoid it by watching the plants carefully during hot, humid weather and by thinning the plants regularly to increase air circulation.
- You can also try mulching the earth around the plant with pebbles, as this helps any moisture to evaporate more quickly.
- If mildew does develop on you plant, try spritzing it with a horticultural oil or sulfur spray.
- Control pests.Sage is usually not a target for pests, but sometimes it will be affected by spider mites, thrips, and Spittlebugs. If you notice any pests, try using an organic pesticide (like pyrethrum) or an insecticidal soap to keep them under control.
- Replace the plant every three to five years.After about three to five years, the sage plant will become woody and straggly and will need to be replaced. You can either start again with a new plant or seed, or use the old plant for cuttings or layering.
- To layer the plant, bend a branch of the existing sage towards the soil. Use some wire to pin the branch to the ground, about 4 inches from the tip. After about four weeks, roots will begin to form. Then you can cut the branch and transplant the newly formed sage plant to another location.
- To use cuttings, cut the top 3 inches from the branch of an existing sage plant. Strip the lower leaves from the stem, or use a scissors to cut them off. Dip the ends in rooting hormone, then place in sterile sand. Wait 4 to 6 weeks for roots to form, then move to a pot and later the garden.
- Harvest the sage.Harvest the sage lightly during the first year, picking off leaves as you need them.
- In subsequent years, you can harvest the sage year round by cutting entire stems from the plant. Sage is considered to be at its best just before the flowers bloom, usually in mid-summer.
- Do your last full harvest approximately two months before the first major frost of the year. This gives any newly formed foliage enough time to mature before winter sets in.
- Be sure to water the young plants regularly until they are fully grown so that they don’t dry out.
- Prune the heavier, woody stems every spring.
- It’s best to replace the plants every 4 to 5 years to ensure the best quality.
- Powdery mildew
- Stem rot
- Fungal leaf spots
- Spider mites
- Sage is known for its natural antiseptic, preservative and bacteria-killing abilities in meat. Volatile oils (distilled from the blossoms) contain the phenolic flavonoids apigenin, diosmetin, and luteolin, plus volatile oils such as rosmarinic acid, which can be easily absorbed into the body.
- Medicinally used for muscle aches, rheumatism, and aromatherapy, these oils also contain ketones, including A- and B-thujone, which enhance mental clarity and upgrade memory, as evidenced by clinical tests comparing tests scores with and without the use of sage.
- This knowledge has been extremely useful in treating cognitive decline and patients suffering from Alzheimer’s.
- It’s interesting that this herb has been prized for that purpose for over 1,000 years.
- In fact, sage, made into a drink from the leaves, has been called the “thinker’s tea” and even helps ease depression.
- Three-lobed sage contains the flavone salvigenin which may help prevent cardiovascular disease. Between the flavonoids, phenolic acids, and the enzymes superoxide dismutase and peroxidase, sage contains powerful antioxidant powers for neutralizing harmful free radicals, as well as compounds that fight inflammation, bronchial asthma, and atherosclerosis (a.k.a. hardening of the arteries)
- A gram of sage as seen in the nutritional profile indicates the health benefits even a small amount provides. Vitamin K is the most prominent, with 43% of the daily recommended serving in the more practical serving of one tablespoon. Sage is also an excellent source of fiber, vitamin A, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, and B vitamins such as folic acid, thiamin, pyridoxine, and riboflavin in much higher doses than the recommended daily requirements, plus healthy amounts of vitamin C, vitamin E, thiamin, and copper.