Sage (Salvia officinalis) is the popular breakfast sausage and turkey stuffing herb.
Since ancient times, sage (a member of the mint family) has been used to ward off evil, improve fertility, combat the Plague, sooth bug bites, cure snake bite, and calm nervous conditions. Whether it actually does any of these things is beside the point, once the smell of sage emerges from your kitchen.
Sage is a perennial culinary herb that can be grown outdoors in any area with a Mediterranean climate (and indoors everywhere else). It grows very well in containers. Sage is a rugged, forgiving plant. It has a long growing season and, being an evergreen, can withstand colder temperatures than more delicate herbs, such as basil. Unlike many herbs, sage leaves retain their flavor even after the plant flowers.
There are several varieties of sage. Some can grow as large as 2 feet in all directions, while other cultivars are more compact. Some varieties have a more spreading character, making them a fragrant ground cover. You can even plant pineapple sage, which really does smell like pineapple! Sage leaves are normally grayish-green, but they can also be yellow, purple, rose, or cream colored. Leaves are somewhat crinkled (rugose) on top. The underside of the leaves is nearly white and fuzzy. Sage flowers can range in color from purple and blue to white or pink. These edible flowers make nice additions to salads and they can be candied as cake decorations.
How to grow sage
Sage can be grown from seeds, cuttings or layering. Growing sage from seed is a slow process. It can take up to two years to reach full size. It’s a pretty plant, if you are not in a rush. Seeds should be planted 1/8” deep and the soil kept moist until sprouting begins. Allow the soil to dry out between waterings once the true leaves appear. Sage can also be propagated with cuttings or layering. Layering simply means tipping an established stem downward until it touched the soil. Instead of growing new leaves, roots should begin to appear at each of the buds.
Like most herbs, sage prefers a sunny location with excellent drainage. Too much water is really the only threat to sage plants, as most insects find sage’s aromatic flavor distasteful. Sage prefers a pH of 6.0 to 7.0.
Mature plants should be spaced 2 to 3 feet apart. Planting sage near carrots and cabbage can be beneficial by deterring cabbage loopers and cabbage worms. Also, the flowers attract pollinators and the plants themselves make lovely additions to the landscape, whether you enjoy the flavor or not.
You can grow a surprising amount of food in your own yard. Ask me how!