Sage (Salvia) is a Mediterranean herb with seasoning and healing properties. And some species also look great in a shrub bed. Here’s the proper way to plant, care for, and harvest the various species of sage.
The plant genus Sage (Salvia) belongs to the Lamiaceae family. Sage has been one of the most important healing plants for thousands of years, as the name ‘salvia’ (from the Latin “salvare”, to heal) suggests. In Medieval cloister gardens the plants were one of the herbs with multiple and essential uses - and sage was also presented in this way in “Hortulus”, abbot Walafried Strabo’s book of herbs. The genus Sage is extremely extensive - around 900 different species are known. Among them there are annual and perennial herby species. Certain species and varieties are exclusively used as decorative plants.
Appearance and Growth
There are annual, biennial, and perennial herby plants in the sage genus, sub-shrubs and shrubs. Sage is clump-forming with numerous upright shoots and grows 11.81 to 19.69 inches tall. The quadratic stems are woody at the bottom and branched. The leaves are long-stemmed, narrow to lanceolate, up to 3.15 inches long and 0.79 inches wide. They are dull green and densely covered in felty, gray hair. When their leaves are rubbed they give off a camphor-like fragrance. Purple flower clusters appear on loose spikes in apparent whorls between May and September, depending on the species and variety. However, among the many varieties there are also those with pink or white colored flowers.
Location and Soil
Sage generally likes warm, sunny places with permeable, low-nitrogen soil. The plants also thrive in flowerpots and window boxes with a humus-rich substrate.
The methods and period for planting vary depending on the species and variety: Common sage (Salvia officinalis) is sown in cold frames in April or outdoors in May. The young plants should be separated out later at 11.81 to 15.75 inches apart. Alternatively, you can also buy young plants in the spring and separate these for propagation. Clary sage (Salvia sclarea) can be sown outdoors in July. As with most shrubs, woodland sage and its varieties can be planted from spring to fall.
In Common Sage, a sub-shrub, the older shoots become woody with age. You should therefore prune back Common Sage every year in the spring so that it doesn’t over-aged, stays compact, and grows strong, new shoots. The best time for this is when the frosts have finished, ideally after mid-March. Make sure to only prune the leafy plant areas.
The woodland sage, a pretty shrub for flowerbeds, should only be pruned back to a third of the shoot length after the first main flowering in late summer, and then given plenty of water and a little Blaukorn. If you prune Woodland Sage it is then highly likely to form new flowers again until early fall. Specialists call this ability “repeating”. It is pruned again in early spring, before the plant grows new shoots. If you separate the plants every three years, this will keep the shrubs energetic and rich-flowering.
Clary Sage grows lots of shoots in the spring and does not need to be pruned back. You should only fertilize the plants sparingly in the spring using a low-nitrogen flowering plant fertilizer.
Overwintering or Winter Protection
The evergreen Common Sage can be heavily damaged by winter frosts in harsh environments. The root area should therefore be heavily mulched with foliage in cold winters and the crowns covered with a light plastic fleece. A leaner, highly permeable soil is beneficial for winter-hardiness, as with most Mediterranean herbs.
Non winter-hardy sage species should be dug up before the first frost and the flower shoots pruned back. Place the plants in containers with a substrate which contains soil and overwinter them in a greenhouse.
Where to plant
Flowering sage is a jewel in any vegetable or herb garden and is perfect for shrub and steppe beds. Perfect partners include yarrow, half-height grasses, and also roses. The flowers are popular as bee meadows and they are also interesting to other insects. The warmth-loving common sage is mainly used in herb gardens and is also happy in a herb spiral. However, there are also ornamental leaf varieties, such as ‘Purpurascens’, ‘Icterina’, and ‘Tricolor’ that can be very easily integrated into sunny shrub beds, rock gardens, and prairie gardens. with numerous ailments.
Important Species and Varieties
(photo above) is a perennial semi-shrub with aromatic leaves and is one of the most important plants for healing and seasoning. You can conserve the aroma of the leaves after by drying them. Alternatively, it’s also possible to freeze Sage. The variety ‘Purpurascens’, also known as Purple Sage, is characterized by dark purple leaves and a green shimmer. Silver Sage (Salvia argentea), with its ovate, silvery-haired, fleshy leaves and white inflorescences, has similar growth to Salvia officinalis. It is originally at home in the western Mediterranean area and north Africa.
Woodland Sage is the best known species for garden beds. It is originally native to central Europe and South-West Asia and a grateful garden shrub with a long flowering period. There is a wealth of varieties of Woodland Sage: The classics are the blue flowering variety ‘Blauhügel’, the purple-blue ‘Ostfriesland’, the pink colored breed ‘Amethyst’, and the white flowering variety ‘Schneehügel’. All grow to around 19.69 inches tall. The variety ‘Berggarten’ is conspicuous due to its compact growth and wide leaves. While ‘Alba’ forms white flowers, ‘Rosea’ captivates with pink-colored blossoms.
Meadow sage (Salvia pratensis) is native to Germany, the Whorled Clary (Salvia verticilliata) is on the rise from eastern Europe. Both grow on dry lawns and the edges of fields. They like calciferous, low-nutrient soils and are also suitable for garden cultivation. Sticky sage (Salvia glutinosa) also grows in light shade where it self-sows readily.
The imposing Clary Sage is biennial. In the first year it only forms a basal leaf rosette with large, stemmed, gray-haired leaves; in the second year it grows an inflorescence around 3.23 feet tall. The numerous pink-white lipped flowers on tall, panicle-like inflorescences appear in July/August. The plant likes to self-sow in a suitable location and gives off a slightly intrusive fragrance. ‘Piemont’ is an old clary sage variety with purple bracts.
The plant’s ethereal oils have a similar effect to those of common sage. The Sage species is suitable for fragrant bouquets, herbal bags, and for adding aroma to wine, marmalade, and fruity desserts.
Pineapple Sage (Salbia elegans ‘Scarlet pineapple’) is a non winter-hardy, smalls shrub that grows up to 35.43 inches tall and 23.62 inches wide. It is characterized by conspicuous, elongated, tube-shaped, red flowers that appear in high summer. The pointed oval, green leaves have red-brown graduated margins and give of a pineapple fragrance when rubbed.
Annual Clary (Salvia viridis) is annual. Its main ornamentation are not actually flowers, but long-lasting, pink or purple colored spathaceous bracts on the inflorescences.
Blackcurrant Sage (Salvia microphylla var. Microphylla) is a winter-hardy, evergreen bush. It grows up to 47.24 inches tall and wide. Its pretty, raspberry-red flowers appear from late summer to early fall. The oval, medium-green leaves smell like blackcurrants when they are rubbed. The equally non winter-hardy Mealy Blue Sage (Salvia farinacea) captivates with month-long, permanent flowers in bright blue.
The long-growing Woodland Sage can be propagated in the spring through cuttings or by dividing the plants. Even common sage can be easily propagated through cuttings. The annual and biennial species can be propagated through seed sowing in April. They are also often self-sowing - such as the Clary Sage.
Diseases and Pests
Decorative sage is robust and hardly attacked by pests. Woodland sage sometimes suffers from powdery mildew – in particular if it is too close to other plants in the bed. Clary and silver sage are popular with snails . The plants should therefore be protected, in particular in spring when they grow shoots.
Frequently Asked Questions
When can Sage be planted?
In principle, Sage can be planted from spring until fall. Spring planting is generally preferable.
How often should sage be watered?
Common Sage only requires moderate watering, so that the water does not collect. Woodland Sage, which prefers fresh soil, should be given plenty of water during droughts in particular.
When can Sage be harvested?
Common Sage leaves can be harvested all year round.
When does Sage require pruning?
Pruning times vary depending on the species. Common Sage is pruned every year in the spring - as soon as the frosts have finished. Woodland Sage shoots are only pruned back by a third after the main flowering in late summer.
What is Sage good for?
Sage is an excellent healing plant for any herb and vegetable garden and a real eye-catcher in steppe or shrub beds. Common Sage has proven especially soothing for sore throats and gastro-intestinal complaints in particular. The flowers are a popular source of nutrition for many insects, such as bees.
Can Sage still be harvested when it is flowering?
Yes, Common Sage can also be harvested when it is flowering! Even the flowers are edible.