Sage

This tough Mediterranean plant is so versatile in the kitchen.

Culinary Use

Sage flower plants are multipurpose powerhouses with attractive foliage and pretty blooms in summer. Generally, these plants are grown for their edible foliage, and many gardeners choose to pinch off the flowers. This encourages plants to use their energy to produce tender leaves instead of seeds. If you let your plants bloom, cut back below the start of the bloom stalks once they fade to encourage new growth. The sage flowers can also be used in salads and other dishes the same way as sage leaves while also adding a refreshing splash of color.

In the kitchen, add fresh or dried sage to traditional poultry dishes and stuffing, use it to rub meats before grilling, or fold it into egg or cheese dishes. Sage accents fruit-based vinegars, creating mixtures with delicate aromas and flavors. However, be careful to use dried sage sparingly in cooking; too much can yield a musty taste.

Sage Care Must-Knows

The sage plant is a tough Mediterranean perennial as long as it has well-drained soil because too much moisture will cause it to rot. Sage is very tolerant of droughts once established. However, supplemental watering prevents foliage from becoming too tough and bitter if you plan to harvest sage flowers or leaves to eat. It is also best to keep sage plants in full sun. Anything less will cause plants to sprawl, and flavor will be lost.

Sage Overview

Description From medicinal to culinary use, sage has long been an herb garden staple. This plant is most commonly grown for its flavor, but it also makes a tough, pretty perennial plant in the garden. Sage's light blue flowers and gray-green foliage help it combine well with other plants in a flower border or container.
Genus Name Salvia officinalis
Common Name Sage
Plant Type Herb, Perennial
Light Part Sun, Sun
Height 1 to 3 feet
Width 2 to 3 feet
Flower Color Blue, Pink, Purple, White
Foliage Color Blue/Green
Season Features Summer Bloom
Special Features Fragrance, Good for Containers, Low Maintenance
Zones 10, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
Propagation Seed, Stem Cuttings
Problem Solvers Deer Resistant, Drought Tolerant

As sage plants get older, they can get woody and tough. When plants grow very woody, overall growth may slow down and become sparse. Generally, replacing sage plants every 3 to 4 years or so is a good idea if you plan to use them for culinary purposes because plants become less productive later on.

Harvesting Sage

It's best to pick sage throughout the growing season, removing individual leaves rather than plucking stems. If you plan to harvest stems for drying, wash plants the night before with a spray of water. Cut stems the following morning after the dew has dried. Harvest the top 6 to 8 inches of growth on the plants. Then, bundle three to four stems together and hang upside down in a dark, dry place with good air circulation.

Another drying method is to spread individual stems horizontally on a screen. When leaves are fully dry, crumble them and store them in an airtight container. The flavor will generally keep for 3 to 4 months. Note that drying intensifies the flavor; use dried sage sparingly.

More Varieties for Sage

'Berggarten' sage

'Berggarten' sage
Andy Lyons

Salvia officinalis 'Berggarten' produces large, round, gray-green leaves that are more flavorful than common sage. It grows 2 feet tall and wide. Zones 5-8

Golden sage

Golden sage
Marty Baldwin

Salvia officinalis 'Icterina' is a colorful alternative to common sage and can be grown in an herb garden, a flower border, or a container. It grows 2 feet tall and wide. Zones 7-8

Tricolor sage

Tricolor sage in planter
Andreas Trauttmansdorff

Salvia officinalis 'Tricolor' has foliage splashed with green, cream, and purple. In sunniest locations, the cream deepens to pink. Zones 6-11

Purple sage

Purple sage plant
Marty Baldwin

Salvia officinalis 'Purpurea' offers aromatic, purple-toned leaves. Plants reach 18 inches tall and are hardy in Zones 6-9.

Garden Plans For Sage

Classic Herb Garden Plan

Classic Herb Garden Plan
Illustration by Gary Palmer

Ensure your kitchen is always stocked with fresh herbs with this classic herb garden plan, where ten kinds of hers surround a decorative sundial in a 6-foot-diameter bed.

Download this garden plan!

Colorful Herb Garden Plan

Colorful Herb Garden Plan
Illustration by Gary Palmer

Get an herb garden that dazzles with this colorful plan, where a 3x8-foot border features foliage with purple, green, and golden hues—including variegated leaves.

Click here to get this plan.

Planting Plans Inspired by the White House Kitchen Garden

Cool Season Kitchen Garden illustration
Illustration by Michael Burns

Grow a 4x12-foot version of the White House Kitchen Garden (designed by Better Homes and Gardens garden editors) on your own south (or east or west) lawn. All you need is a spot that gets six or more hours of sunshine each day.

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